At camp, aspiring athletic trainers learn more about pursuit

At every practice and game, athletic trainers treating injured players are part of the action and part of the team.
Megan Baker wanted in.

"You pretty much know every athlete," said Baker, a 15-year-old who just finished her first year as a training aide at Westerville South High School.

"It's kind of cool when they come up to you and ask you how to stretch."

The job is demanding, too -- which aspiring trainers don't necessarily realize.

The professionals they see on television, after all, are hanging out with football stars -- not studying medicine, cleaning up blood or lugging ice to the playing field.

To introduce middle- and high-school students to the realities of the profession, an area of study that has seen steady growth in the past two decades, Nationwide Children's Hospital recently hosted its third annual training camp for potential trainers.

Baker, among 27 central Ohio students enrolled in the three-day workshop on the hospital's Westerville campus, had already learned a few lessons firsthand:

A football team with two-a-day practices requires the same of its trainers.

No matter how much time is spent trying the technique on a friend, a wrist or an ankle is easily taped incorrectly.

The body seems to have a million parts, with just as many ways to hurt them.

The camp gave her further instruction on injury prevention and rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of athletic-training equipment.

Participants also visited the training facilities -- complete with a cadaver -- at Otterbein College, a Westerville school that Baker is considering. To seek an athletic-training major at Otterbein, she would first have to take courses such as chemistry and anatomy.

Many of the 25 other accredited Ohio programs make similar demands of applicants.

"A lot of kids don't realize what athletic training is," said Bonnie Goodwin, director of the program at Capital University in Bexley. "There's such a science base. This is really like being a doctor."

At Ohio State University, about 155 students typically declare a pre-athletic-training major as incoming freshmen. More than half have changed their minds by spring.

"Not everybody has the dedication to be able to do that," said Mark Merrick, program director. "It's probably more of a time commitment than any other undergraduate program I could think of."

Of the evaporated pool of 70 applicants, 20 to 25 are accepted into the major after their freshman year.

The survivors find expanding opportunities in a field that the American Medical Association recognized as an allied health profession in 1990.

Since then, membership in the National Athletic Trainers Association has more than doubled -- from 14,598 members to 32,404 this year.

"People are more health-conscious, wellness- conscious," said Brian Robinson, chairman of the association's secondary-school committee. "The whole idea of injury prevention has become more of an issue."