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Kelly Rider (Athletic Trainer): Enjoys Following Athlete From Injury To Return To Play

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In 2012, in recognition of April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts to write a blog answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.  The blog project was a huge success.  This April we are reprising some of the blogs from two years ago and asking some of our new Twitter friends to join the party.

One of those we heard from two years ago was Kelly Rider, M.Ed., ATC, LAT, CSCS, an athetic trainer at the Dexter-Southfield School in Brookline, Massachusetts and head coach of a girl's ice hockey team at a Boston area high school.

By Kelly Rider, M.Ed., ATC, LAT, CSCS

How did I get into my field?

While I've always been passionate about hockey and teaching, and have always had an interest in learning about sports injuries, it wasn't until I was a freshman in high school that I realized I wanted to become an athletic trainer.  At a practice on the night before a game, a shot hit the inside portion of my glove on my thumb.  I began screaming in pain and the swelling began immediately. 

The next morning, I went to my orthopedic doctor to have x-rays taken.  He said my thumb may have been broken.  He continued talking, but once I heard my thumb was broken, I thought my season was over and I burst into tears.  He briefly stopped talking and then said, "You can play."  A cast was put on my thumb and molded to my hockey stick, so I could still play; it wasn't even painful. 

Every week or so I went back and got a new cast, which continued to get smaller and smaller, giving me more range of motion in my wrist but still protecting my thumb.  I thought it was so cool that my thumb was protected, but I could still play the sport I love. My orthopedic could tell how excited and intrigued I was and introduced me to ahletic training. Kelly Rider, ATC, treating a patient

The rest is history. It's not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I am both a hockey coach and athletic trainer. I love being able to assist other athletes safely return to play a sport they love and that can teach them so many life lessons. As an athletic trainer, I am in a unique position: I get to follow an athlete from the moment of injury, through the rehabilitation process, all the way to returning to play without restrictions.  Doctor's don't get to follow the athlete every day through the whole process, and often aren't present for the initial injury. Every injury and every patient is unique and every day is different, but what's the same is that I'm able to assist patients in returning to do something they love, which is the most rewarding.

How have I made a difference in a young athlete's life in the past year? 

Recently, I was treating a student-athlete who had suffered a Grade 2 A/C shoulder sprain during a hockey game. The injury was serious enough that he was not going to be playing hockey for a while.  He was devastated that he couldn't participate. We worked through the initial rehab and I continued to give him positive reinforcement.  I emphasized to him that, while he would not instantly be cleared to go back to games, he would get to a point where he could be cleared to skate. His eyes lit up. It was another step in his rehab, but without an athletic trainer or the facilities for rehab, it's a step that many athletes his age do not get and one that this athlete didn't know was possible.

He spent some rehab sessions on the ice by himself, and then with another recovering athlete, and you could tell how elated he was just to be back in the rink. He was dying to get back into action, but also expressed concern about not wanting to play unless he was 100%, because it would just frustrate and upset him. Eventually he returned to non-contact practice, but he already had his "hockey legs" underneath him and felt like his hands were up to speed. He wasn't returning to non-contact practice feeling like he hadn't done anything "hockey" in weeks. This speeded up his return to play and increased his confidence.

Soon enough he was cleared to play and I was able to be there for his first game back, in which he scored a goal. Seeing how happy he was in warm-ups (even pointing to me and a colleague at the scorer's table and giving us a thumbs up), and then how excited he was to score in first game back  (he so excited that he ended up falling over during the celebration) was rewarding for me, but I could also tell how appreciative he was for the help I was able to provide him.

He was obviously down when the injury happened, but by providing him small goals and, by being able to get him back on the ice, even if just to skate, as soon as safely possible, he was able to remain optimistic and positive. His positive attitude and confidence enabled him to have a good, not frustrating, experience when he re-joined his team. Since the injury he makes a point to say hello almost daily. He knows that, as an athletic trainer, I care about his safety, but I also understand his love for the game, and will do everything to ensure that he can continue to play, or, if he is injured, return to play the quickest but safest way possible.


Kelly Rider,  M.Ed., ATC, LAT, CSCS, played  Division I ice hockey while obtaining her BS in Athletic Training from Quinnipiac University.  After becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kelly attended Boston University, where she received her Masters in Education with a specialization in Coaching.  She is currently the Head Girls' Varsity Ice Hockey Coach at Canton (MA) High School and a full time certified athletic trainer (AT) at the Dexter-Southfield School in Brookline, Massachusetts.  Kelly is involved with USA Hockey in the Coach Education Program and is dedicated to lifelong learning and helping others. She can be followed on Twitter @ke11yrider.