By: Robin Palmer | Wellsboro Gazette | September 7, 2006 | Photo courtesy Robin Palmer
When a student athlete is injured, the first question he or she asks is "When can I play again?" With the addition of an athletic trainer at Wellsboro Area School District, the answer is sooner than in the past.
Andrea "Andi" Lucas, ATC, a certified athletic trainer, was hired by Laurel Health System and began working as an athletic trainer with Wellsboro High School athletes and coaches on August 7. In addition, Laurel Health System set up the Wellsboro High School athletic training room with state-of-the-art equipment and supplies needed for a full year of operation.
It's been three months of sometimes 12-hour days as Andi attended all varsity football games and practices, all volleyball home games. She was also available to soccer, cross country, and tennis teams. She's been called on to assist with broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, sprains, and more.
"No athlete wants to sit out," said Andi. "I'll let the athlete play through as long as they're not risking further injury."
Because Andi is a member of the Laurel Health System sports medicine program, the continuum of sports injury care is rapid, complete, and convenient. Athletes can receive all necessary services locally, from medical and orthopedic diagnostics and surgery through rehabilitation. Sports Medicine providers Dr. Donald Shaw, Dr. Donald Golobek, Todd Rudy, and the physical therapy team work together to achieve the highest possible level of care.
As a certified athletic trainer, Andi is specially trained in the prevention and management of sports injuries and works with coaches and the district's athletic administrators to improve the safety of high school athletes and to enhance their athletic performance. According to two varsity coaches, that's just what happened during Andi's first three months on the job.
"An athletic trainer is something we've needed for a long time," said Chris Morral, head varsity football coach. "Having her on site has given us an immediate response to minor and major injuries. From a coaching perspective, that's been valuable because that helps get the players back in action as fast as they can."
"When I was working with Laurel Health System to get the sports medicine program rolling, there was a real push to have local access to medical services so people don't have to travel," he added. "It's been a big benefit to all the kids and especially to their parents to have an athletic trainer in school and a local connection to all the resources available from Laurel Health System."
Jodi Wieder, head varsity volleyball coach, concurs with Coach Morral's observations. "Before Andi's arrival, it was a lot of guesswork for us when there was an injury," said Jodi. "As a coach, you never wanted to push someone to go back in the game and find out it was a serious injury. And you didn't want to hold someone back from playing and find out it wasn't serious. Having someone with her background and knowledge of what to look for has been a relief for me."
One incident that remains in Coach Wieder's mind is an ankle sprain suffered by a player during the second week of practice. In the past, a sprain that serious would have kept the player out for an entire season. Because of Andi's assistance, the player was back in two weeks and providing valuable assistance on the court during competitions.
In addition, Andi also inspires and serves as a role model to the female athletes. "She's very interested in female fitness and lifting weights," added Coach Wieder. "That's something I've been trying to get the girls to buy into and, with Andi, they have bought into it more because they're seeing direct results from their weight lifting."
"Andi is an example of a healthy lifestyle and that has had a positive affect on the girls," she continued. "As a role model, she's leading them into a more active, healthy lifestyle. I hope we keep her for years."
Andi hopes to start a sports medicine club at the school. Student members would learn basic athletic training and, hopefully, some would develop an interest in a career as an athletic trainer.
Andi is certified by the National Athletic Trainers' Association and is a member of that organization, as well as of the Eastern Athletic Trainers' Association and the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers' Society. This has been a good beginning for the Laurel Health System sports medicine program. The school district, Laurel Health System, and all those involved are looking forward to working together to benefit athletes across Tioga County.