J.J. Guedet has visions of playing Big Ten college football.
So getting an accidental kick to the knee in a practice two days before a regional basketball semifinal had the 6-foot-8 Washington junior more than a little concerned.
Enter athletic trainer Kyle Geirnaeirt.
Thanks to generous funding from the school, the 12th Man Booster Club and alumni organization, Geirnaeirt now works full-time for the Panthers through Midwest Orthopaedic.
Guedet toughed out the injury overnight before seeing Geirnaeirt the next day after school, in Washington’s high-tech, recently renovated athletic training facility.
By then, Guedet’s knee was swollen, sore and tender.
Geirnaeirt quickly eased the fears of the Panthers standout — ruling out any ACL or PCL tears or any other structural damage.
The traditional RICE treatment — rest, ice, compression (using a compression sleeve) and elevation — followed, along with E-stim, or an electrical stimulation procedure. E-stim is a therapeutic modality that helps to decrease pain, reduce swelling and increase blood flow to the injured area. It provided the optimal environment for Guedet’s injury to heal and ideally decreased the time loss to injury.
Guedet was able to play sparingly in Washington’s regional win against Limestone and played a key role in the Panthers’ three-overtime loss to Metamora in the title game.
“If I’m worried about it, I’m going to come see Kyle and if he tells me I’m good, I’m good, “ said Guedet, who now plans to pursue athletic training when he heads to the University of Minnesota. “I’m not going to see a doctor to have me sit out, even if it’s nothing.”
No doctor’s visit. No copays. No missed class time.
Guedet is one of thousands of Journal Star-area athletes benefiting from a boom of emphasis on safety and proper healthcare for high schoolers in Illinois.
March is National Athletic Training Month, with a 2018 slogan of “Compassionate care for all.”
A growth industry
Athletic trainers are health care professionals who work under the direction of a physician and have a range of skill sets that include the ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent injuries as well and provide nutrition and general medicine knowledge.
Washington is one of nine area schools to hire full-time athletic trainers, either through Midwest Orthopaedic, Athletico or OSF Orthopedic (in partnership with Great Plains). District 150 contracts Athletico, a physical therapy owned practice popular in the Chicagoland area, to supply AT’s for its three Peoria high schools.
“Five years ago, one or two schools had a full-time athletic trainer,” Geirnaeirt said. “In the last 3-4 years, almost everyone in the Mid-Illini has a full-time trainer.”
Julia Sheen in her ninth year as an athletic trainer and the full-time AT for Illinois Valley Central through OSF Ortho, has witnessed the growth.
“Each year, the area schools are recognizing the need for an athletic trainer on site more and more,” Sheen said. “Whether it stems from an injury happening where an athletic trainer present would have greatly benefited the situation or the national news coverage of sports injuries on the rise, many are realizing the benefits of an AT far outweigh the cost. I see this growth continuing to happen.”
Geirnaeirt, who also visits Peoria Heights, Roanoke-Benson and Lowpoint-Washburn once a week, worked at Washington only twice a week a year ago.
But the school upped its contract with Midwest Ortho and the 12th Man Club donated $10,000 to furnish taping and evaluation tables, as well as equipment and supplies. The school upgraded an old weight room into a more than 1,200 square foot athletic training room off Torry Gym. Washington also has designated space in the Panther Plex (adjacent to the football field) for athletic injuries.
Washington athletics director Herb Knoblauch estimates $25-30,000 has been raised/spent on facilities, supplies and equipment the last six years.
Geirnaeirt can do assessments and rehabilitation — among other treatments — with students after school, rather than the student having to make an office visit and lose class time.
Peace of mind
A rise in concussions and an emphasis on concussion protocols has fueled much of the emphasis on sports medicine upgrades.
“You could hardly read the paper or turn on ESPN without hearing something about concussions,” Knoblauch said. “That was the driving force, but what we get out of it is (Kyle’s) here for all the practices. He’s here for the freshmen and sophomore and varsity.”
The added care not only benefits the athletes and their families, but the coaching staffs as well.
“It’s taken more of the responsibility off the coaches,” Knoblauch said.
While Geirnaeirt deals with a variety of injuries, he has two primary objectives.
“I tell kids and parents all the time, my No. 1 job is to keep them safe and healthy,” he said. “My No. 2 job is to keep them on the field, on the court, keep them playing. That makes me feel good to keep them out there, as well as being safe.”
For next school year’s football season, Washington hopes to enlist student athletic trainers to work alongside Geirnaeirt, where they can learn the profession and get CPR and first-aid certified.
Garrett Kelson is the full-time athletic trainer for Peoria High, providing coverage to all sports.
Like Geirnaeirt, Kelson offers rehabilitation and treatment for athletic injuries and does pre-season assessments and baseline concussion testing. He has an office connected to a treatment area with various tables and rehabilitative implements such as exercise bands, balance apparatuses and resistance tool.
“I also utilize the weight facility at Peoria Central as a space to perform dynamic movement training and functional testing before returning student-athletes to play,” Kelson said. “If the injury requires surgery, post-operative physical therapy, or formal physical therapy for a non-operative injury, I work with local physicians, surgeons, and Athletico Physical Therapy clinics to provide the best possible treatment and rehabilitation outcomes for all of our patients.”
Serving small schools
Small schools like Illini Bluffs can only afford an assigned trainer once a week. So if an athlete has a minor issue but still needs attention it may be up to a week before he/she can be seen by trainer Keri Benning from Midwest Ortho.
“She does a great job for us and goes way above what I would expect,” said Illini Bluffs athletics director Stephan Schafer, who does have a trainer on hand if the Tigers host a tournament. “I can call (or parents/coach) and make arrangements to be seen in the office or sometimes if she is at an after school event at some other school she suggests they see her there.”
As with the other full-time trainers, Benning works to rehabilitate the athlete before making referrals for outside care.
Geirnaeirt expects even small schools will contract out full-time trainers in the future.
“Athletic training is a Top 10 profession in the next 10 years,” Geirnaeirt said. “There’s going to be clubs that will have athletic trainers, park districts that will have athletic trainers. You’re getting people taken care of and qualified people are doing it with medical backgrounds.”
Stan Morris can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs