This month, athletic trainers across America are being recognized for their commitment to helping people prevent injuries, stay healthy, and, most recently, lead essential conversations on how athletic departments can effectively adapt to COVID-19. As health care professionals, athletic trainers can be found working with active populations in high schools, colleges, professional sports, corporations, professional sports, military, performing arts, clinics, hospitals, and physician offices, impacting health care through action. At the University of Redlands, we are fortunate to have three full-time certified athletic trainers serving our National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) intercollegiate student-athletes: Janelle Kratz, M.S. (head athletic trainer), Nick Harvey, M.A., and Sarah Beene, M.S.
Since March is National Athletic Training Month, we took some time to speak with Kratz to get a look into what being a health care professional in athletics is like. Kratz, who joined Bulldog Athletics in January 2005 and was named head athletic trainer in July 2014, remains the second and longest-serving female head athletic trainer for the University of Redlands Athletic programs.
Bulldog Blog: What is the role of an athletic trainer in bettering the student-athlete experience?
Janelle Kratz: At the University of Redlands, the athletic trainers are here to provide healthcare services to the student-athletes, to ensure that they can participate to the best of their ability. We do this through preventative services, injury diagnosis and treatment, rehabilitation, and emergency care. While we tend to specialize in musculoskeletal injuries, we have built great relationships with the Student Health Center, U of R Counseling Center, and other healthcare professionals in our area in order to provide our student-athletes with the best whole-patient care. We are readily available throughout the day and during practices and games, so that student-athletes can have access to healthcare when needed—keeping them safe, healthy, and performing at their best.
BB: Professionals in healthcare and in athletics are known to “wear many hats” throughout the day. How do you typically fill your day?
Kratz: Our tasks vary day to day, and even hour to hour. At its core, patient care consists of injury evaluations and follow ups, prepping for practices or games, and making the best decisions founded on evidence-based practice. However, some days caring for our patients may involve making decisions for adverse weather or instructing someone through our return-to-play protocol after a concussion. Every day, we also make time for administrative work—communicating with student-athletes, coaches, and staff; guiding parents through the insurance process; documenting injuries; or facilitating referrals to physicians’ offices. In the past few years, our staff has also made an effort to collaborate with other departments across campus, helping serve not only our student-athletes, but the campus community as a whole.
BB: What is your favorite part of being an athletic trainer?
Kratz: Being able to work with a student-athlete through an entire injury is the most rewarding. From doing the initial evaluation, to treatment and rehabilitation, to being able to see them compete—it’s great to be able to be a part of the process and watch them achieve goals on and off the field.
BB: What are a couple little-known responsibilities of an athletic trainer?
Kratz: Not a lot of people know there is a huge component to preventative medicine that falls into our scope and responsibilities. We make an effort to educate our patients and the general population on different health conditions or situations, and how to best address a concern before it becomes severe. We try to teach student-athletes to understand what is happening in their bodies and give them the tools to help themselves, now and in the future.
Another way we aim to prevent harmful situations is by creating and updating policies for our Athletic Department. Whether that be emergency action plans, concussion guidelines, adverse weather protocols, infection disease considerations, or athlete-specific mental health policy, our department spearheads the creation and education of the response to different situations, providing guidance to help respond efficiently and avoid greater harm. With COVID-19, that aspect of our job has been amplified. Following the guidance of local, state, and national recommendations, we have created specific protocols that address the response and management of a COVID-19 infection and a safe return-to-play process, which complements the University’s COVID-19 protocol as well.
BB: Speaking of COVID-19, the pandemic has created a new world, especially in terms of group activity. How have your responsibilities changed during the pandemic?
Kratz: I am the initial contact for COVID concerns for student-athletes and Athletic Department staff, and our staff maintains the follow-up and return to activity for student-athletes. Spending countless hours researching policies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCAA, our Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the University, etc., I’ve been able to be a resource to others, both on and off-campus. Athletic trainers are required to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education units (CEUs), similar to a physician or nurse, to stay up-to-date on best practices and standards. Recently, most of the webinars I’ve attended are geared toward COVID-19 policy and understanding best practices for isolation, quarantine, and clearance post-illness. Like most people over the past year, I’ve had a lot of virtual meetings and a lot of remote learning so our staff could be properly prepared for athletics this semester and beyond.
BB: What accomplishments are you most proud of for you and/or the AT staff as a whole?
Kratz: No one has died under our watch—literally. We strive to maintain a high standard of care for our student-athletes. Nick and Sarah have both preformed life-saving CPR while working on campus, and all three of us have worked with Public Safety and local Emergency Medical Services for emergency situations during practices and games. Our abilities to recognize and respond responsibly and professionally to a potential emergency can help us manage a situation before it becomes life-threatening—but if it does get to that point, we are also ready. [See Bulldog Blog story “Director of Athletics: Preparing to Save Lives.”]
BB: You’ve worked here for 16 years, six years as the head AT, and you are the second female head athletic trainer in the history of this University. What is something you’ve learned through experience that wasn’t necessarily taught in your schooling?
Kratz: There are a few different aspects of our job that a textbook can’t portray. One example that sticks out is the ability of an athletic trainer to navigate a stressful working situation and all that entails. You can quite literally need to perform CPR, save a life, and continue to work for the next six hours. Another component to that is being able to effectively communicate with those around you—coaches, administration, student-athletes—during and after these situations, when you yourself are still processing an event. While these stories are usually told in school from clinical instructors or professors, knowing how you respond to these types of stressors is something you do not know until you experience them.