By Collin Bolebruch
Athletes get hurt. From hyper-physical sports like hockey to helmet-less sports like tennis, players are liable to get banged up. Both professional leaguers and Division III student-athletes hurt in the same ways, but the latter don’t have LeBron James’ recovery budget and have to attend class the next day. At Plattsburgh, sports medicine takes care of its Cardinals.
Jason Pachter has been with SUNY Plattsburgh sports medicine for 22 years, originally joining the school as head athletic trainer. Five years ago, Pachter stepped into his current role as director of sports medicine. He’s joined by Associate Head Athletic Trainer Lisa Vicencio and Assistant Athletic Trainers Jonathan Edwards and Stephanie Varin. Together, they oversee the health and wellness of approximately 400 Cardinal athletes.
Trainers are present at all NCAA-affiliated practices and sporting events on campus and will travel with a few select sports to away games. Pachter, Vicencio and Edwards are assigned to different sports and Varin serves to “float around” wherever she is needed.
A typical game day is an all-day affair for the sports medicine staff. Beginning with treatments and rehabilitations, the staff is in charge of putting together injury reports before the games start, determining who should and should not play. The trainers will then provide the proper braces and tape for players to wear during the game and set up medical equipment on the field.
During the game, the crew is at notice on the sideline for any stretching or injuries the players from either team may suffer. They get the final say as to whether or not athletes can return to the game after a visit to the sideline.
The trainers remain at the facility for more than an hour after the game for postgame treatments of injuries both new and old. Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals, not coaches or strength and conditioning staff. Athletes need to go through the treatment and recovery process to be ready for their next game.
The staff is joined by student assistants on the field. The students come from both Plattsburgh and other, partnered colleges. One of these students, Reyna Riesgo, attends Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but works in-person at Plattsburgh.
Riesgo takes on similar responsibilities as the full and part-time athletic trainers while also taking online classes. She’s found her experience at Plattsburgh “really cool,” especially because of the athletic department she’s been able to become a part of.
“I think just being able to see the athletes every single day [is rewarding],” Riesgo said. “And just being able to see an athlete grow from beginning of season to the end of season.”
Riesgo, Pachter, Edwards and Varin all do their jobs for the same reason — the student-athletes. Edwards appreciates that he can be the one to assist athletes through rough patches.
“They love playing sports, so when they get hurt, it’s typically a really hard time for them,” Edwards said. “So being able to help them through that tough part and get them back to the sport they love is definitely my favorite part and I think it’s the most rewarding part of my job.”
Varin pointed to being in on the action on the sideline and seeing hard work pay off.
“I always say I’m kind of spoiled,” Varin said. “It’s really rewarding to see your athletes, especially if it’s their first game back, whether they’ve been out for a few weeks or a few months. It’s really exciting to see their excitement up close and personal when they get their first big play coming back or just that first moment of getting back into the game and to be not only a part of getting them to that point, but just being able to celebrate that win with them.”
Pachter finds athletes’ growth as both a person and a player through sports medicine the most fulfilling.
“They put their health-care into my hands,” Pachter said. “The decisions we make to get them healthier and better and then back onto the field just as good, if not better than they were before they got hurt, is the most rewarding for me.”