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    August 22, 2013 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    In her first two years as head athletic trainer for Liberty University Club Sports, Angie Witt managed to make the most of limited resources.

    Last year, she and part-time assistant Cordell Hood attended to the immediate medical and ongoing rehabilitative needs of a program with more than 500 athletes.

    While the Flames' Division I Athletics Department has 10 certified athletic trainers on staff — roughly one for every two teams — and an additional six graduate assistants, utilizing six athletic training rooms, Witt and Hood had to shuttle between multiple sports teams, working out of overcrowded spaces.

    New Club Sports graduate assistant athletic trainer Kyle Swanson (left) helps promote the healing process in Luke Baumgarten's fractured patella with electric stimulation therapy.

    "I would equate our program to a Division III college where the athletic trainer has to cover lots of different sports," Witt said.

    As Liberty's Club Sports program continues to expand, with women's equestrian added as a 32nd sport this summer, and new facilities such as the Liberty Lacrosse Complex — where Witt has a small office — are built, more resources are being invested to better serve its athletes.

    This summer, a new athletic training room designated specifically for Club Sports athletes was outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, located in the same building as the new weight training room across the back parking lot from the LaHaye Ice Center. It is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    "Having a new facility will help open up the availability to see more athletes, either before or after practice," said Witt, whose time in the athletic training room near the education lab in Green Hall was limited to two hours per day. "This gives us a little better access and it's a great location for us. We're centered where we need to be, close enough to the ice arena," where a much smaller training room is available for use during hockey games.

    This year, Witt also has a full-time graduate assistant working with her, Kyle Swanson, who graduated from Liberty's Athletic Training Educational Program last fall and began pursuing his Master of Business Administration with a focus on health care management this week.

    As an undergraduate, Swanson completed athletic training practicums for NCAA sports such as baseball and football. He is getting his first experience working with Club Sports teams, and the transition has been smooth so far.

    "Extra hands mean extra coverage," said Witt, who was only able to staff ACHA Division I men's and women hockey, wrestling, and men's lacrosse contests in the past. "Now, we can spread the wealth a little bit. I'm grateful that Liberty's Athletic Training Education Program (a branch of the Sports Medicine Network) produces such high quality students that we can plug them right into the system."

    Cordell Hood (right) tapes the wrist of Club Sports graduate assistant Michael Zumpano, a long-stick middie on the Flames' lacrosse team last spring.

    Witt also works with current undergraduate students in the program, providing hands-on experience through Club Sports practicums. As an athletic training preceptor, she is assigned one senior to serve and train under her throughout the year, with sophomores and juniors filling in occasionally on a rotational basis.

    "We're allowed to use them to help us, training them to become athletic trainers," Witt said. "That helps us keep our skills up to date. We're always teaching students how to train athletes and teaching our athletes the best course of action to prevent injuries."

    Preventative measures go beyond taping ankles and knees.

    "For hockey, we do a lot of pre-game stretching and some electrotherapy for the muscles," Witt said, noting lacrosse players and wrestlers also require plenty of therapy prior to competition. "There's pre-game, during-game, and post-game (treatments) for a lot of our sports."

    In the past, Witt has attended to 10 to 12 athletes per night, but she expects with the increased availability, she and her assistants will serve even more.

    "As the program grows, we're going to be even busier," said Witt, who uses a referral system due to the sheer number of athletes she has to work with. "Because there's 500 athletes, I can't keep up with all of them, only if they're referred to me by their coach."

    Witt and her staff provide evaluation and rehabilitation, consultations and treatment for athletes who have experienced injuries during practice or competition.

    "We'll probably see about a third of them throughout the school year," Witt said, noting MRI or diagnostic testing must be done through Dr. Brad Haupricht, who also serves Liberty's Division I athletes, at Lynchburg General Hospital. "They have to come through me first before getting a doctor's recommendation." 

    On Thursday, Witt and her staff treated two hockey players in their new facility — junior forwards Luke Baumgarten, who broke his patella bone (kneecap) in practice last February, and Ryan Kerr, who suffered a deep thigh contusion after taking a knee to the thigh during Monday's tryouts. Both participated in Thursday's first full team practice and to be ready for the Sept. 6 opener against the Atlanta Junior "A" Knights.

    Since Club Sports seeks to encourage as much participation as possible, only its ACHA DI hockey players are required to have physicals prior to competition, as all NCAA Division I athletes are.

    Some sports are inherently more hazardous than others, resulting in more injuries.

    "Hockey definitely has our highest incidents, since we have five hockey teams, then wrestling and then lacrosse," Witt said. "Those are the three top injury sports there."

    Ski and snowboarding injuries at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre are less common, but tend to be more serious when they do occur.

    "You've got sports like equestrian and archery that probably aren't going to need as much treatment as contact sports such as hockey or lacrosse," Swanson said.

    First-year Club Sports strength and conditioning coach Joe Amberlock, who also has worked in conditioning Liberty's Division I athletes, said there are few sports more dangerous than football and hockey.

    "Every single sport is a contact sport, but football and hockey are collision sports," he said. "You can't prevent all injuries. A lot of injuries we had (last season in hockey) were catastrophic injuries, caused by guys flying at a player at an angle."

    What he and Witt can help prevent are injuries that occur over time, such as groin, hamstring, and hip flexor pulls.

    Among the methods Witt uses to treat injuries are cold therapy, heat therapy, and electric therapy. In the new facility, she has a bigger ice machine and will soon have two whirlpools, enabling the trainers to utilize contrast cooling and heating. There is also an ultrasound, which applies a deep form of heat therapy, breaking up scar tissue caused by an injury, as well as an electric stimulation therapy machine, for reducing pain and swelling. Witt also would like to add a laser light therapy machine to stimulate the healing process.

    Having the athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches working in adjacent rooms of the new Club Sports facility facilitates the rehabilitation process.

    It also makes it easier for Amberlock to stay in communication with Witt, Hood, and Swanson throughout the school year.

    "Angie and I and the coaching staffs are all on the same page, so we all know where the athlete is and if they're coming off an injury, we will restrict what they can do," Amberlock said.

    The Club Sports athletic training staff (from left), Kyle Swanson, Angie Witt, and Cordell Hood, pose by one of the tables in the new athletic training room.


    While her student assistants are always in the process of acquiring and implementing new skills, Witt must update her certification on a regular basis as well. Professional athletic trainers are required to complete 50 hours of continuing education every two years

    "We're not allowed to just get our degree and sit on it," she said. "We're constantly learning how we can do better for our athletes, change things, and improve things."


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer