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High schools tune in to trainers

Most of the Mount Hood Conference employs athletic trainers
by: David Ball, Centennial's athletic trainer Erin Russell tapes a football player's ankle before a session of daily doubles earlier this fall.

Spectators may only see these experts once or twice a season. Rushing onto the football field after a particularly vicious collision or helping a distance runner recover properly after a race.

But these athletic trainers are always around, taping ankles before practice, cruising around the fields each afternoon to check on players and staying late until the final game is finished.

'We have up to 300 kids out here all at the same time, and she (Erin Russell) is on top of it all,' Centennial Athletic Director Lonnie Beach said. 'She's here before anyone hits the field, and I'll turn the lights off and she's still here treating kids.'

Russell is the trainer at Centennial, setting up shop in a small space outside the locker room. A constant flow of athletes seek her out before heading off to practice. Some need their ankles taped, others complain of shoulder aches or back pain. Still, others just poke their head in for a quick hello or to share a laugh.

Most of the workload includes minor bumps and bruises, but proper care means the difference between full recovery in a matter of days or constantly struggling with the same injury throughout the season.

'A lot of what we do is preventative,' Centennial trainer Erin Russell said. 'If a kid rolls an ankle, we're able to treat it right away and get them back on the field sooner.'

It used to be that athletic trainers were only found on professional sidelines, but the recent trend has brought these health experts to the high school fields. More than half of the athletic departments in the Mount Hood Conference have a trainer on-site.

'The kids are always monitored safely, and injuries can be treated immediately,' Gresham Athletic Director Randy Williams said. 'More and more schools are seeing that need and finding the means to hire them.'

The Gresham-area schools worked out a plan with Gresham Sports Care. The trainers spend the mornings at the local clinic before heading off to the schools later in the day.

These trainers fill out comprehensive reports whenever they treat an injury, and can also recommend a doctor visit in more severe cases. Several years ago at Gresham High School, a freshman football player complained of a sideache. Williams, an assistant coach at the time, relied on his training background to realize that it might be something more serious. The athlete was taken to the hospital and underwent an appendectomy.

'There are so many little things that pop up that people might not recognize,' Williams said.

In addition, these trainers are able to get feedback from injured athletes each day. And coaches have solid advice to consider when deciding whether an athlete should be held out of action for a few days.

'I'd rather be bored with nothing to do, you never want to see a kid get injured, but it's a good feeling to help kids recover and get back out there,' Barlow trainer Dylan Borden said.