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Of all the parts of a sports team, from the star athletes to the cheering fans, some key players stay behind the scenes. Athletic trainers help rookies and MVPs thrive, both on and off the field.
"I love seeing someone overcome obstacles — from mental health issues to physical injuries — and get back to the game that they love. Being able to play a small role in helping them achieve their goals is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world," says Bill Sanders, AdventHealth Athletic Trainer for the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights.
Speaking from his experience with the UCF Knights, Sanders shares how athletic trainers support their teams in four ways that fans in the stands don’t see.
Athletic Trainers Actively Prevent Injuries to Keep Players in the Game
Athletic trainers like Sanders are known for helping athletes recover from hard tumbles and falls, but they also actively prepare athletes so that fewer injuries occur.
“To prevent injuries, we do preventive taping and bracing, and we’ll also do biomechanical screenings for the Knights,” Sanders explains. “These screenings show us movement patterns, and we can correct deficient ones through preventive rehab by introducing stretches and exercises that allow the body to move more efficiently.”
Another key part of keeping athletes healthy and preventing injury? Annual physicals. Students athletes are required to get an annual physical exam with the team’s physicians, Sanders explains.
Sports medicine aside, a big part of Sanders’ job focuses on simple principles of wellness. “Probably the most important thing we as athletic trainers do is educate our student-athletes in things like hydration, nutrition, sleep and the basics of a healthy lifestyle,” he says.
You don’t have to be an athlete or a Knight to keep up with your health and wellness, either. “With recovery, one thing that translates from athletic training to the average person is being proactive about your health and well-being, from seeing a physician regularly to educating yourself on the best practices for a healthy lifestyle,” Sanders says.
Athletic Trainers Take a Team Approach to Care for Players
Athletic trainers need to be intimately familiar with anatomy, nutrition, mental health, rehabilitation, clinical diagnosis and exercise physiology. It's a lot to account for, even for one athlete, but they don't do it alone.
Sanders knows that he can rely on other athletic trainers, and he knows when to leverage their support. “We have 14 athletic trainers on staff, which is beneficial for some injuries that may be difficult to treat and recover from,” he explains.
“We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, which allows us to collaborate when necessary and provide the best medical care to our student-athletes.”
Athletic Trainers Take a Whole-Person Approach to Care
Sanders knows that athletic training is about more than preventing and treating injuries. A team of multidisciplinary experts helps student-athletes thrive in body, mind and spirit.
“Here at UCF, we have a team of people to assist student-athletes both when they are healthy and injured,” he explains.
Some of these specialists include:
- Athletic trainers
- Equipment staff
- General medical physicians
- Massage therapists
- Mental health professionals
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Physical therapists
- Registered dieticians
- Strength and conditioning experts
For the Knights, Sanders coordinates with these specialists if a player needs specific care. “The athletic trainer is the first to tend to injuries. We’ll then communicate and facilitate care among the other health care professionals who may need to be involved in the player’s recovery.”
Athletic Trainers Are a Voice for the Players
Players are constantly under intense pressure to perform, but Sanders knows that the UCF Knights are also college students.
“Part of my job that I enjoy is developing relationships with them; I get the privilege of watching young student-athletes develop and grow as people over their four or five years here at UCF,” Sanders says.
When an athlete's health and wellness are at stake, an athletic trainer like Sanders can be their advocate. Athletic trainers tap the strong relationships they've formed, including with coaches, to make sure athletes are in the best physical and mental shape to score big on the field and keep winning in body, mind and spirit, too.
Helping You Feel Whole Is Our End Goal
AdventHealth offers compassionate rehab care programs, right here in Central Florida. Our team can help keep you in the game and, if you're hurt, get you back to doing what you love — like cheering on the UCF Knights for years to come.
See how our partnership with the UCF Knights supports student-athletes, fans and our Central Florida community in achieving life-long wellness.