Before entering her career, Julie Nickoley’s studies at Metro State required her to get clinical hours at different colleges and high schools across Colorado, where she worked with a professional to get on-the-job training. During these clinical …
Before entering her career, Julie Nickoley’s studies at Metro State required her to get clinical hours at different colleges and high schools across Colorado, where she worked with a professional to get on-the-job training. During these clinical hours, she diagnosed the first of three broken necks she has seen throughout her career as an athletic trainer.
The college football player was hit hard in the first quarter of the game, she said, but didn’t tell anyone about his neck pain. Then, he got hit again in the fourth quarter and finally pulled himself out of the game.
“He basically played the entire game with a broken neck,” said Nickoley, who is now the head athletic trainer for the Colorado Storm, a statewide youth soccer association.
This particular athlete — Nickoley wouldn’t identify him by name or which college he played for — was very lucky, she added. He wasn’t paralyzed and the spinal cord wasn’t damaged.
From bruises to broken bones, even the most experienced athletes are prone to injury. But there is some preventative advice out there.
First and foremost, it’s important to take care of your body, Nickoley said.
“The biggest thing I see with successful athletes is how they take care of their bodies,” she said. But “you don’t have to be a competitive athlete or have a background in sports to take care of your body.”
Nutrition and exercise are important for everyone’s health, Nickoley said. Whether it be taking a walk in your neighborhood or going to the local rec center for a swim, everyone should get their heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day.
Active people have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even some emotional problems such as depression and anxiety, said Heidi Christensen, medical director of Primary Care Sports Medicine for Centura Health. And for younger people, playing sports can help with self-esteem and socialization.
“Injuries can happen, but being active and playing sports outweigh the risks,” Christensen said. “As long as you don’t play or exercise beyond your personal capabilities, you can help safeguard against injuries.”
West Metro Fire Rescue’s EMTs and paramedics started a three-week training session on Aug. 18, during which about 280 people worked with emergency room doctors from St. Anthony Hospital to help prepare for responding to injuries commonly seen during football season.
The training focused on new procedures in preparing injured players for the emergency room and/or potential surgeries, and familiarizing themselves with the latest equipment and gear football players use.
“We’re finding that as the equipment changes, so must our practice,” said Mike Binney, the fire department’s EMS training lieutenant. “In the metro area, we want to be prepared for whatever we have to show up to.”
It might not always require a trip to the emergency room, Christensen said, it is always important to get a proper diagnosis from somebody who is professionally trained to do so that that treatment or rehab can start right away.
But “it’s not just about treating the injury to get the clear to return to the sport,” Christensen added. “It’s getting the proper tools to prevent a recurring injury.”
Too many people get right back into the sport as soon as the pain goes away, but this puts that person at a higher risk of reinjuring themselves, Christensen said.
People tend to sustain serious injuries because they pushed themselves above and beyond what they were conditioned for, Christensen said.
Whether you’re recovering from an injury, just becoming more active or beginning to train for a new sport, “it’s always a good rule of thumb to increase the level of activity gradually,” Christensen said.
But because athletes typically love their sport, they will often push the limits, Nickoley said.
“They love what they’re doing. They’ll do whatever they can to keep playing,” she said. “And the body can handle a lot. But especially when it comes to injuries, listen to your body.”