“Kathlyn is going to do your hip-flexor work today, and then she’ll stretch you”
What I hear as I walk in the door to work on Tuesday.
“Are you good with that?” directed at me, with a smirk.
“Yeah uh, sure– but.. I’ve never done a hip massage before…” –Me, sounding super intelligent.
“Oh.. I know.” Walks away chuckling and leaves me in a room with a client.
And that is basically how SO many of my hours as an AT student are spent lately. Just yesterday at football a similar thing happened. Except with less details given and a little bit higher intensity.
In pre-game, pretty much as soon as we started taping we were over run by players wanting the perfect taping for their first play-off game- which meant Nikki was tied up with the QB and her form of dealing with the “swarm” is to shoot people off my direction. I normally cover ankles and thumbs, with the occasional wrist thrown in there. However today there was an elbow hyperextension that needed taping (a tape job I haven’t done since the very preliminary version they taught us a year ago in P&C- funny enough something they were reviewing in the part of class I left early from to make football), and NIkki asked if I knew how to do it. I kinda mumbled a sorta, I guess- and then promptly got thrown a roll of tape and was told to “go!”. The fun part about taping is that you can make a lot of stuff up on the fly, as long as it prevents what it’s supposed to prevent. What I came up with even got a compliment from Nikki when she saw it run by her on field later on.
Later on, a player had come off the field complaining of pain to the quad and iliotibial band just above the knee, and Nikki was running him through a quick assessment while I observed. His strength was good, and his movement was also fine- so we came the conclusion he just had a contusion (bruise) to the muscles in the area. She was just about to start compression wrapping and return to play functional testing when we hear “TRAINER, TRAINER!!!” from the field and see one our players rolling on the ground. All I got that time was Nikki throwing the elastic tape at me and yelling “compression!” as she ran onto the field. So, with an athlete anxious to get going standing infront of me I did my first on field quad contusion compression wrap (really not a big deal..) and ran my first athlete through functional return to play testing (bigger deal) and made the decision he was good to go back into play (and confirmed it of course). The boys ended up winning their quarter final game, and so we head off to semis next week! At least one more week of shivering for us!
Luckily, for me, I love learning this way. For one, it really prevents procrastination. When someone is throwing you into a situation, you can’t really put it off. Your brain is forced to recall information and put it to use, ASAP. Also, so far anyway, it has a way of giving a little boost of confidence- which is often needed. A lot of what we cover in class is often hard to grasp when all you have to practice on is your pretty healthy and functional lab partners. The amount of times I’ve walked into work and had the AT there say “have you ever done this before” or “when’s the last time you did this?” and my response is “um.. never..” (highly educated response, I know) is off the charts- but equal with the amount of times he throws me in there anyway. Of course giving a super quick demo that looks effortless and easy- only to be the opposite for my rookie hands. It only took a few weeks of doing some deep-tissue work on clients to get a feel for what was actually happening underneath my touch. It took me months to get my angles right in some tape jobs. But that’s what this kind of learning does to a person like me- it fuels that dedication to get it right- and I took it as a great compliment when Nikki referred to me as a perfectionist when helping me prep for my Taping practical.
Those “getting thrown into the deep end” lessons, although terrifying, are also really good for helping to teach how to put things into context. I shouldn’t say they are terrifying, they used to be.. but now they are pretty much expected. It’s kind of like, oh- I haven’t done that before- you’re going to make me do it, aren’t you… well, why not. Each client/athlete is so different, and you can’t throw a textbook assessment, tape job, or symptom at them and expect them to fit the mould (but you still have to have a more than solid appreciation for what those textbooks have inside them). I’m really seeing the value of getting a variety of different experiences under my belt- working with different therapists and athletes as much as possible. The AT at work always stresses how each therapist has their own style, and how it takes learning from a few different people to really get a feel for how you want to work.
It’s very true, just having seen the way a few therapists work so far. They all have different ways of being in whatever they are doing- and no way is more effective than another. When the basics are there, everything else falls into place. It’s the trial of an AT student to try and keep the basics floating around long enough that they actually become basic, instead of this huge mass of information that seems incomprehensible and overwhelming at first glance. “Use it or lose it” might be a good phrase. “Practice makes perfect” and “Try, try again” are also applicable.