Athletic Training Saves Lives

by Nathan Foster

The final day of Azusa Pacific University’s annual Bryan Clay Invitational was nearing an end when a moment changed everything. As the runners crossed the finish line, most stood hunched over out of breath, but one athlete suddenly collapsed. Immediately, APU graduate intern athletic trainer Bryce Gordon radioed to the medical tent for assistance and sprinted over to assess the situation. He found the athlete not breathing and without a pulse. Associate athletic trainer Jesse Cops arrived to assist while assistant athletic trainer Garrett Brooks called 911 and the crew began taking life saving measures. They initiated CPR and placed the automated external defibrillator (AED) pads on the athlete’s chest. Minutes later, the athlete began breathing again. By the time the paramedics arrived, the athlete was alert, but still in critical condition, and was transported to a local hospital where the patient was stabilized, made a full recovery, and returned home.

Head athletic trainer Benjamin Fuller received the call and arrived on scene at the same time the paramedics were taking over. “We hope these kinds of things never happen,” he said. “But we train for these situations, which enabled our staff to go in and do what was needed. The rehearsals paid off and saved a life.”

Multiple clinical experiences provide athletic training students with comprehensive practical experience. “Most of the injuries we prepare for aren’t life threatening like that one,” Fuller said. “We practice for concussions, sprained ankles, ACL/MCL tears, broken and fractured bones, lacerations, and internal organ wounds, among other injuries.” Much of this learning happens in the classroom, but athletic training students also work with APU athletes in the clinical setting to treat them when something happens during practice or a game. “This training is vital. You never know when these scenarios will occur, but you need to be prepared to treat them. If you’ve never practiced, little things can trip you up and cause delays.”

Treating injuries in the moment is just one part of an athletic trainer’s responsibilities. Much of what they do comes before or after, in preventative training and rehabilitation. “Many athletic trainers primarily help people recover from injuries,” Fuller said. “It’s similar to physical therapy, but athletic trainers are in settings where they can work with athletes on a regular basis and are ready to act when an injury occurs.”

The profession of athletic training began with treating athletes primarily at the professional and college level, but now the field has expanded to include high school sports, performing arts, military, and corporate business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the athletic training profession is projected to grow 23 percent in the next decade. This growth is much faster than normal, particularly in the booming fields of health care, fitness, and youth sports.

Fuller, who has served as an athletic trainer at APU for 11 years, has witnessed the profession and APU’s program go through many changes. Five years ago, APU transitioned from offering a bachelor’s degree in athletic training to solely a master’s program to better meet the requirements of the evolving profession. “Students who come through our program get jobs and succeed professionally both locally and throughout the country. Our program is well recognized as a leader within the profession,” he said. “At APU, our focus is more than the job at hand. Our intent is to be involved in these athletes’ lives. We get to mentor them and help them draw closer to Christ.”

Nathan is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a double major in journalism and public relations.