In recognition of April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts in 2012 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.
Today, we hear again from Meredith Dotson, an athletic trainer in the Sports Medicine Clinics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
By Meredith L. Dotson, MEd, ATC, CES
How did I get into my field?
During high school, I had been thinking about pursuing athletic training in college. As a volleyball player and figure skater, I had had my share of injuries growing up. Three days before my senior volleyball season was to start, I suffered a severe ankle sprain during a scrimmage that kept me out of a significant portion of the season.
Working with my high school athletic trainer, I became fascinated with the healing process and how I was able to return to normal daily activities, and eventually, to physical activity. I began volunteering with my high school athletic trainer, and soon realized I had found the career I wanted to pursue. No two days were ever the same, and I was able to combine my love of helping people with my passion for how the human body works, as well as athletics. I enrolled at West Virginia University as a pre-athletic training major, and haven't looked back since!
How have I made a difference in an athlete's life?
A few years ago, I had three basketball athletes who suffered season-ending injuries within days of one another. Each injury was different, and each young lady had surgery to repair the injury, and each faced months of rehabilitation. I spent many hours in the athletic training room with them working to restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility, as well as lending an ear to allow them to vent frustrations, and sometimes serving as a shoulder to cry on.
To help ease frustrations and try to make the process less mundane, we celebrated small victories: full, pain-free range of motion, full knee extension, the first day of jogging, the first day each got to participate in team drills again. Each girl returned to basketball for the next season, helping the team advance to the conference championship, the NCAA tournament, and collecting individual conference honors.
Watching them progress through rehabilitation and safely return to basketball was extremely satisfying, but I just looked at it as part of my job. Helping them deal with the emotional and psychological side of injury was rewarding, but again, I looked at it as part of the job.
I didn't realize I had made an impact on their lives until long after their time in the athletic training room had ended. As these athletes continued to come into my office to chat about school, life, and basketball in general, it began to occur to me that I had really made a difference to them. That was the most satisfying feeling of all. These three young ladies taught me more about perseverance and hard work than I ever could have taught them. For me, the lessons I have learned from my athletes over the years are one of the best parts of my job.
Meredith Dotson, MEd, ATC, CES, is a physician extender in the Sports Medicine Clinics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She received her bachelor's degree in Athletic Training from West Virginia University in 2003, and her master's degree in Administration of Higher Education from Auburn University in 2005. Prior to joining Nationwide Children's Sports Medicine, Meredith spent five years as the athletic trainer for the women's basketball team at West Virginia University, where she also served as an approved clinical instructor in the Athletic Training Education Program.