Embrace the Suck: A US Olympian's Message to Athletes Going Through a Concussion

Two-time Olympic Medalist Katherine Adamek shares her journey, her concussion recovery, and the power of fixing your mindset

Katherine Adamek is a two-time medalist in the Winter Olympics as a short-track speed skater and the current owner of Fix Your Mindset. She uses her decades of experience as a world-class athlete to coach and mentor athletes to improve their mindset. Katherine shared her journey with us to the pinnacle of her sport and the fear and anxiety she faced when dealing with serious injuries. Learn how it led her to focus on the mental side of sports.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g83RNCkKH0Q

What attracted her to speed skating over other sports?

I remember my first day the coaches saying, “Oh, you don't look like you’re a speed skater, you look like a figure skater.” I remember feeling very determined!

KA: I started skating on roller skates as I was old enough or, I should say, big enough to even find skates that fit me. My mom and I went to the figure skating class at the University of Illinois Ice Arena. I liked to skate, but I didn't like the rest of what came along with figure skating like the outfit, the makeup, and the hair. Another parent from the Speed Skating Club noticed me at my figure skating practice and reached out to my parents and said, “you know she looks like she really loves to skate. Why don’t you bring her to a skating practice?” They did, and I remember my first day the coaches saying, “Oh, you don't look like you’re a speed skater, you look like a figure skater.” I remember feeling very determined! Even on day one, I had this “I'll show you” mentality of ‘I'm gonna fit in here! This is what I want to do!’ From a very young age and the very first time I tried it, it was my favorite thing. I just loved it.

How does the journey to the Olympics different compare to other sports?

It’s a couple weeks of racing, several months of training, and a couple weeks of racing

At an elite level, you don't compete very often. When you're a kid growing up in speed skating, there's always a little rink race, and they don't mean much. Still, they're just opportunities for families to come out and practice competition. When you get to a more elite level, you're traveling internationally, and there's six World Cups a year, and they happen in pairs of two. The first two will happen in North America, the second two in Asia, the third two in Europe and the World Championships always changes which continent it's on. With qualifying events, you’re probably never doing more than 10 races in a year, but they're kind of clumped together strategically, so it’s a couple weeks of racing, several months of training, and a couple weeks of racing.

How did she balance life in a sport that is so training intensive?

I would always be doing every single thing that it took to get better, and then I would rest hard and have enough fun to make all of that work worth it.

I didn't. I was a speed skater through and through. Every bit of how I identified with life was as a speed skater. You get six weeks completely off from the end of March to the beginning of May, and I would really try to squeeze as much fun as I could into those six weeks. That's what really got me through the ten and a half months of training, but I didn't have balance. I tried very hard to be the first one there and the last one to leave. I would always be doing every single thing that it took to get better, and then I would rest hard and have enough fun to make all of that work worth it. But I'd condense that fun down into six weeks and then just get right back to work.

When did the injuries start?

I had a fall at the qualifying event for the 2010 Olympic team, and I honestly can't even tell you what happened. I just know that my hips weren't the same anymore, and also the same methods my trainers and therapists had been using before weren't working.

I always had little aches and pains like some knee pain or some low back pain or hip pain or whatever but nothing significant until 2009. I had hip pain already, but I didn't have so much pain that it was worth getting imaging on. But then I had a fall at the qualifying event for the 2010 Olympic team, and I honestly can't even tell you what happened. I just know that my hips weren't the same anymore, and also the same methods my trainers and therapists had been using before weren't working. We were pretty close to the Olympic Games at that point, and I just kept skating and didn't get that imaging done until after the Games were over. I got an MRI and recognized that I needed surgery.

On the one hand, that really crept up, but now that I have hindsight, I can see what was happening.  I can even understand why those aches and pains were getting worse over time even though it was the fall that kind of pushed me over the edge. I still think there's a lot more that I could have done in terms of awareness and taking care of myself to be sure that I was avoiding the opportunity for injury.

Did her mindset towards injuries lead to early retirement?

I felt like I had to be better now. That stress and anxiety kept me from coming back as effectively as I could have, which led to more injuries, which led to early retirement.

I remember after my first surgery that I needed another surgery. I was supposed to get it done on two sides, but the first surgery was such a bad experience that I didn’t get the other side done. After a season, I recognized that I really did need the surgery on both sides, but by then, time was running out before the next games. There was a lot of pressure with that. Nobody put that pressure on me. I just so heavily identified with speed skating and that to be successful, I couldn't waste time being injured. I felt like I had to be better now. That stress and anxiety kept me from coming back as effectively as I could have, which led to more injuries, which led to early retirement.

Was she afraid to take time off to heal her injuries?

I was afraid that if I took a year off, I was going to lose everything I had worked for. The reality is that from a physiological standpoint, once you spend a certain number of years getting in shape, your body knows what to do.

What I've learned as a coach now, that I wish someone had told me when I was an athlete, is that muscle memory never degrades. When learning a new skill, the neuromuscular system lays down what's called a myelin sheath. That sheath never disintegrates, and that's the reason why, when people get tired, old habits always come back. Eventually, you get so fatigued that your muscles will fire in any way available to them. And old patterns come back no matter how hard you’ve worked to create good ones.

I was afraid that if I took a year off, I was going to lose everything I had worked for. The reality is that from a physiological standpoint, once you spend a certain number of years getting in shape, your body knows what to do. Of course, it's going to hurt, and it's going to take time, but if you were athletic before getting injured, you're still going to be athletic when you get back. It's just a matter of getting back in shape and getting your feel back. I really wish I would have known that.

What type of mindset does she wish she had back then?

I wish that I could have seen that I was pushing so hard that I was about to break. I wish I had the confidence to listen to my body. Instead, I let others make decisions for me who had my best performance in mind, but not my best interests as a person.

If I had just accepted the fact that the next year was going to suck, but that, in the long run, I was going to be okay, I would have had a lot more success and less anxiety. Instead, I kept until eventually, my body broke. Then I was really in trouble and wasn’t able to come back at all.

I wish that I could have seen that I was pushing so hard that I was about to break. I wish I had the confidence to listen to my body. Instead, I let others make decisions for me who had my best performance in mind, but not my best interests as a person. Performance was their job, so I'm not really mad about it. I just wish I had done my job, which was taking care of myself.

Now that I'm a coach, I'm a lot more careful to keep an athletes' personal best interests in mind when they need to push through something vs. when it's time to rest.

What did she learn from the Olympic experience?

What I learned was that you have to have a holistic picture of what your life is outside of your sport. If all you have is your sport, then you're always tuned in to what you're going to have to do three or four days from now, not what it is that you’re doing now. That type of thinking plays into a pattern of anxiety, always worrying about the future instead of taking action for what you could be doing now.

In hindsight, I learned a lot there. I learned a lot about balance and how you can be the best athlete in the world, but can you be the best athlete at the games? I learned how to manage the stress of being in peak condition for 2-3 weeks while performing every 2-3 days during that timeframe. That was something that I was physically totally unprepared for and mentally unprepared for.

What I learned was that you have to have a holistic picture of what your life is outside of your sport. If all you have is your sport, then you're always tuned in to what you're going to have to do three or four days from now, not what it is that you’re doing now. That type of thinking plays into a pattern of anxiety, always worrying about the future instead of taking action for what you could be doing now.

All the mindset coaching that I've done has helped me look back and see how much of a fear-based thinking pattern I was in, how it was affecting my anxiety, and hurting my performance. If I'd understood how to press pause on the broken record of my negative thoughts, I could have actually relaxed and recovered.

It was a great experience. Coming out on the other side of it, I can really look back and see there's so much from a mental standpoint that I could have done to improve my recovery and improve my performance.

How does she get through to athletes who are resistant to mindset coaching?

One of my favorite strategies to use with athletes is gratitude because it's physiologically impossible to be both grateful and stressed at the same moment. When you're extremely stressed, you can stop it by choosing continual thoughts of gratitude.

I see a little bit of resistance from athletes for mental coaching. One of my favorite strategies to use with athletes is gratitude because it's physiologically impossible to be both grateful and stressed at the same moment. When you're extremely stressed, you can stop it by choosing continual thoughts of gratitude.

However, if you wait until the moment that you're under extreme stress to do that, I promise it won't work because unless you’ve prepared for that moment. It would be like wanting to compete at an elite level but never practicing the skill you want to compete in.

I'm teaching these strategies because you have to start small with simply being grateful that your body can do what you ask it to do. It can run a mile, it can digest your food, it can recover from the work you put it through. These things seem silly to be grateful for. Yet, the reality is that, especially if you're living in North America, you have so much to be grateful for that the majority of humans in the world don’t have.

You can choose to feel gratitude for being in a sport that you love, even if it's not going well today. Most people don't get the chance to do what they love.

When I'm teaching athletes these baby steps, it's hard to incorporate them because they feel too simple or abstract. Still, it's the same process of learning any new skill… you have to learn the basics first. If you skip through the foundational work, when push comes to shove, and you have to perform, your foundation isn't there.

However, if you can respect the subtlety behind managing your mental skills, then you’ll be ready to perform at the moment when you need to the most. Learning this skill is a long-term process.

Why are her favorite races ones she lost rather than won?

All my favorite races are ones that I have failed and had an incredible opportunity to learn through that failure.

All my favorite races are ones that I have failed and had an incredible opportunity to learn through that failure. There's one that sticks out where we were in Germany, which was my favorite place to race. It was a nine-lap race, and it was 8.7 laps of perfection. The other girl and I were fighting back and forth between first and second place for literally the entire race, and coming out of the last turn, we both fell down. We were at the point of complete exhaustion.

Coming out of the last corner she veered left, I veered right, we bumped into each other and fell down. It was a shame to lose that way, but the amount of pride in knowing we fought hard and pushed ourselves to that level of exhaustion was so fulfilling. It was an absurd amount of effort! To be in such a state of flow where you don’t even know that it hurts is the ideal state of mind for any athlete.

How did she sustain her concussion leading up to the 2018 Olympic Trials?

I was just skating… just following. We weren't even going fast. I stepped on a block, hit the pads, and bounced off at a weird angle. I couldn’t replicate it even if I tried.

It was a team practice, and I wasn't doing anything crazy. It happened on the second lap of the day. I was just skating… just following. We weren't even going fast. I stepped on a block, hit the pads, and bounced off at a weird angle. I couldn’t replicate it even if I tried.

I’d had two concussions before that I had recovered from within 24 hours. I expected this one to be the same. After 24 hours, my symptoms were gone, but the next time I trained (72 hours later), I was exhausted, confused, and headachey with blurry vision. It was amazing how late the symptoms hit.

What is concussion awareness like in speed skating?

They're always at varying levels of severity, and I wouldn't say that they're something that the speedskating community fully understands how to deal with.

When I was growing up, concussions really didn't happen very often. Partly because we learn so much every year about concussions that we never knew before. Maybe concussions happened all the time, and we just didn't know? What's nice about our sport is that we don't have a lot of small impacts, we have no impact at all unless you fall. Then you're going to hit the boards pretty hard. The only concussions that I know of happened after a hard fall. They're always at varying levels of severity, and I wouldn't say that they're something that the speedskating community fully understands how to deal with.

When did she get the concussion care did she needed?

Three months later that the USOC stepped in and said, I was at a point where I was considered to have post-concussion syndrome. They flew me to the University of Utah to see an expert.

Initially, I was under the impression that if you're symptomatic, you should take a couple of days off, don't exercise, and try to relax. Be nice to your body, let it recover. I did this for two weeks before I got frustrated to the point of going to see someone.

I started working with my chiropractor, who did the SCAT exam, and managed my case file. I worked with several physical therapists, I did acupuncture, I tried CBD oil, I floated, I did all kinds of things. Three months later that the USOC stepped in and said, I was at a point where I was considered to have post-concussion syndrome. They flew me to the University of Utah to see an expert.

My test results came back great. We couldn't figure out why I was still having such intense headaches. Eventually, we figured out that it had to do with the way my eyes were tracking.

To this day, I don't understand how or my eyes had lost their ability to stay focused, but that’s what I ended up going through.

What was the process of getting back on the ice?

I didn't get back up to a full return to play for four or five months.

I got my concussion in January, and I started skating again somewhat consistently in June. I started with some bike rides and built up my tolerance painfully slow. Once I was able to bike without pain, I started cross training. After a couple weeks of cross-training, I started skating consistently. I didn't get back up to a full return to play for four or five months.

How did she deal with recovering a concussion while facing a finite window as an Olympic athlete?

I remember being afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be me anymore. What made the anxiety unbearable was that it didn’t feel like a temporary injury. I had a fear that this is my new normal, and that was terrible.

That was the worst part for sure. With my first injuries back in 2010, the Olympics were over, and I could have taken two years off and still had two years to come back. In 2018, to be in for a year, then get hurt, be out for six months, and then only have been six months to prepare for Olympic trials was some of the worst anxiety that I've ever dealt with.

I would define "normal" anxiety as a fear of the future or like a really out of control habit of worrying. This felt like, “What if I'm never the same again?” I remember telling stories and losing my place. Not being able to remember what I had just said or not knowing if I had said something out loud or only thought it to myself. I could picture the places and things I was thinking of, but I couldn't remember the words.

I remember being afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be me anymore. What made the anxiety unbearable was that it didn’t feel like a temporary injury. I had a fear that this is my new normal, and that was terrible.

What were the differences between recovering from the concussion and her other injuries?

You have to continue and fully embrace your body until it's back to normal, and that's a long process.

Even now, it's been almost two and a half years since I had my concussion and we're still doing tests to see if my blood-brain barrier has completely recovered and it hasn't. We figured out that one reason for the severe relapses was damage to my blood-brain barrier. I don't know all the science behind that, but the way I understand it is that cells from the immune system were crossing the blood-brain barrier and attacking nervous tissue as if it were a foreign invader in my body.

I don't have any symptoms anymore. However, to still do our tests and to see that there's something there that we need to keep working on - you can't just stop recovery just because your symptoms are gone. You have to continue and fully embrace your body until it's back to normal, and that's a long process.

Was she hesitant to push herself when returning to racing?

I was afraid of how bad it would hurt, but I didn’t stop trying. It was something else that needed to be prepared for and deal with.

Consistently throughout my recovery, every time I pushed my heart rate to a new high, I would get dizzy, headachey, and my eyes would hurt. This made me hesitant to go all out during training, but during races, I wouldn't have any choice. I would go into races, knowing that I would be required to go so hard that my eyes would spin around in my head. That's what it felt like… like I had googly eyes. I was afraid of how bad it would hurt, but I didn’t stop trying. It was something else that needed to be prepared for and deal with.

How did it feel to come so close at the 2018 Olympic Trials?

Coming as close as I did, failing, and sharing that moment with the people in my corner was a humbling and powerful opportunity for growth. For so long, I had struggled with the fear of being innately not good enough. When you go through that level of failure, you realize that your family still loves you, your friends still want to talk, and your competitors still show you respect.

I was skating just as good as I ever had before, and then I got a concussion. It affected my ability to prepare, so I knew that making the team was going to be hard. I knew that it was going to be mind over matter and that physically, I just wasn't ready.

Coming as close as I did, failing, and sharing that moment with the people in my corner was a humbling and powerful opportunity for growth. For so long, I had struggled with the fear of being innately not good enough. When you go through that level of failure, you realize that your family still loves you, your friends still want to talk, and your competitors still show you respect. In fact, people still go out of their way to encourage me and tell me how much it meant to them I even tried.

You get to see the goodness in yourself when people share what your journey meant to them. My greatest moments as an athlete were not moments of success, but of failure.

What message does she have for athletes dealing with a concussion?

What I would say to an athlete going through a concussion is, “no one is trying to take away from you how bad this sucks. This is really hard, and you probably don't deserve to be going through it, but the fact is that this is how it is right now. The only way to be better is to embrace that. Accept where you're at and learn the tools that you need to move forward.”

There’s a concept that I teach a lot called Embrace the Suck. What I would say to an athlete going through a concussion is, “no one is trying to take away from you how bad this sucks. This is really hard, and you probably don't deserve to be going through it, but the fact is that this is how it is right now. The only way to be better is to embrace that. Accept where you're at and learn the tools that you need to move forward.”

The tools that have helped me the most are meditation, mindfulness, and CBD oil. I got a lot of relief from floating in a sensory deprivation pod and embracing a slower lifestyle.

It's hard to embrace a long-term process when you don't know where the finish line is. That sucks, but you have to embrace where you're at if you want to move forward. Resisting will only make it last longer.

How has she taken what she's learned into coaching and precisely mindset coaching?

So many people have what it takes physically to perform but get in their own way mentally. I'd like to help people recognize that the way you think can deeply impact the way you perform.

As a coach, I help athletes develop their mental toughness in the weight room and on the field of play. I do a lot of small group workshops for teams, corporate speaking events, and one on one coaching.

So many people have what it takes physically to perform but get in their own way mentally. I'd like to help people recognize that the way you think can deeply impact the way you perform.

Want to learn more about Katherine and mindset coaching? Visit FixYourMindset.com


Canadian Olympian Kevin Hill on concussions in snowboarding

With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games fast approaching, athletes and audiences alike are gearing up for 2 weeks of action, competition, and national pride. South Korea and the city of PyeongChang is preparing to welcome the world. Athletes are gearing up, and there is plenty of snow in the forecast. It is a time for excitement, pride, culture, and competition. The 2018 Games also boast the greatest number of women's and men's mixed events in Olympic history.

One of these events is snowboard cross. As CBC sports research has found that 1 in 3 of Canada's Olympic hopefuls has suffered a concussion so continued discussion and investigation into athlete safety is especially relevant. HeadCheck Health had the opportunity to catch up with 2014 Olympian Kevin Hill. A native of Vernon, British Columbia, Kevin is projected to join Team Canada in PyeongChang this upcoming February.

 

 

Do you always wear a helmet? Was there ever pressure not to?

I started snowboarding when I was 9 back in 1995. At that time there wasn’t really snowboard or ski helmets yet in existence.

From what I can remember, Burton RED started making the first helmet I ever wore around 1997. I have been wearing one ever since. Throughout my career, there have been times where it has not always been "cool" to do so. I have always stuck with it, it is the right choice for my brain.

Have you ever had a concussion? 

I suffered my first and only concussion while snowboarding when I was 18. I was doing a 720 spin over a 50 ft table jump when I under-rotated my spin by 90 degrees. I landed backward and to the right and caught my heel edge. It sent me flying and I hit the back of my head on the ground. My helmet split open on impact. Oddly, I recall everything quite clearly until I was knocked out. I slide unconscious down the landing of the jump, about 30 feet. I recall being able to hear but not see or move. When I was able to move again I sat up and immediately felt dizzy. However, I was able to remember what had happened.

What is the procedure for rehab and recovery? 

It is difficult for me to answer this one as it was quite a while ago. I was not currently sponsored or part of a team. I didn't have anyone to tell me how long I needed to rest for or how I should rehabilitate. I remember I stopped snowboarding for at least a month; the only person I had was the doctor at the hospital telling me to take a few weeks off. I took an ambulance down from the mountain to the hospital and got very car sick in the process.

How do you feel about concussion safety in your sport?

I think they do their best for concussion safety in my sport. Each team has their own protocol that they follow. It is also difficult because the culture of my sport still places the focus of decision-making (about recovery) with the athlete. I have seen some kids have full knockouts for over 30 seconds and then I’ve seen the same kid racing a few weeks later. I’ve also seen guys have multiple concussions and been told they should retire and they have come back and raced within a very short time. Ultimately, regardless of the caliber of medical treatment or protocols available to you within your team, riders often make the final decision on when/if they go back and most just want to race.

I think by adding six riders to my sport instead of four it has increased the crash rate. This also increases the chances of head injury.

How do you feel about your own knowledge and understanding of concussion science?

I think the Canadian National Team has done a very good job of keeping everyone aware of concussion safety and science.

 

What is the culture around concussions among snowboarders? Do they try to hide them?

Like most athletes, I think that snowboarders are naturally inclined to downplay or hide the severity of a concussion or related symptoms. Personally, I have had some pretty bad luck by being taken out by other riders in the past few years, which has caused me to crash and hit my head. I feel I’ve been very lucky to not have any concussion symptoms from those crashes. Now I make sure to always monitor myself honestly after these events.

Do safety standards vary between competitions?

Safety standards are always the same at competitions as far as rules and regulations go. However, the problem usually occurs when a course isn’t properly built or tested for six riders. This causes lots of crashing during testing or training.

How would you like to see concussion safety improve in snowboarding?

This is difficult to answer as I believe that, in snowboarding, race directors and builders are always looking for riders to go bigger and faster. They build courses with the intention of making the competition exciting for the audience and TV viewers. As I mentioned, my sport was changed from 4 to 6 riders. This allows more athletes to qualify for finals and fewer people sitting on the sidelines. Although it is advertised as "safe", it has caused a sharp increase in crashes and injuries. This can cost athletes their careers, cognitive abilities, and even their lives for the sake of entertainment. I believe that this adjustment has negated the advancement of concussion and safety in my sport.


AT Stories: Joey Garland - Windsor Spitfires

Joey Garland is completing his eleventh season as Athletic Therapist of the 2017 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. The Memorial Cup is awarded annually to the champions of the Canadian Hockey League.

 

A native of Newfoundland, Joey became interested in Athletic Therapy at a young age. In recent years he has also found success at the international level, winning Gold with Team Canada at the World U-18 Championships in Russia and representing his country again in 2014 at the U-20 Championships.

 

Garland graduated with a B.Sc. (Kinesiology) from Dalhousie University in 2002 and also obtained his Sports Injury Management Diploma from Sheridan College in 2005. In the midst of the whirlwind of Windsor hosting the Memorial Cup tournament, Joey took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about his passion.

 

 

You have had some success on a global scale with Team Canada and are now entering your 11th season with the Spitfires, why did you choose Athletic Therapy? 

 

Joey: I guess I chose athletic therapy because I have loved sports from a young age. I was never really good at anything but I knew the culture was something that I wanted to stay involved in. I have also always enjoyed watching athletes perform on TV and hated when players got hurt. Even my mom recalls stories from before I can remember of me as a kid watching first responders run out to assist an injured athlete during a televised game, and I always said, “I wanna do that.” So uhh (laughs) I think it was just in me to do.

 

What is your favourite part about your job?

 

Joey: My favourite part of my job is just seeing the boys perform. At this level and when they advance. Our league is very much developmental. Namely, it is trying to produce elite athletes, professional hockey players, but even more than that just good people. I keep track as they move to other endeavours and from time to time I get an email from a former player looking to get into Athletic Therapy, Kinesiology, or strength and conditioning. They appreciated what I did for them, and are now also looking to move into the same role as professionals. It is a special feeling.

 

What are the top 3 most common injuries you handle on a day-to-day basis?

 

Joey: AC sprains, MCL sprains, and concussions

 

In your position with the Spitfires, how do you handle player concussions?

 

Joey: We have a league protocol. Additionally, the OHL has a neuropsych consultant that our team works with. We get a baseline done for each of the boys at the beginning of the season via impact testing. Starting next year we will also be using HeadCheck to help with data collection, storing, and sharing of protocols. Once an incident occurs athletes are re-tested and that along with their symptoms will be examined to determine whether they are cleared or initiate a return-to-play protocol.

 

 

How do you treat concussions on a personal level? Undoubtedly, it is a daunting injury for a young player. How do you provide both physiological and psychosocial support for your athletes?

 

Joey: In this regard there has actually been a bit of a swing since I joined the profession over a decade ago. Concussions have become slightly easier to treat due to players, parents, agents, and coaches being more informed about the realities of the injury. Particularly with the publicity surrounding players like Sidney Crosby, concussions have been given much more emphasis and legitimacy at the highest level. There is a greater understanding of the long-term ramifications that head injuries can have on one’s career and even quality of life as a human being. That being said, telling a kid that they are going to miss any length of time is really difficult. Nobody wants to sit out.

 

If you could hold your own workshop, what is your thing? What fuels your fire/what are you the BEST at?

 

Joey: I would say incorporating strength and conditioning with athletic therapy to minimize injury, and reduce the time missed. I am passionate about integrating strength and conditioning with the therapy aspect of training. I love the blend of “prehab” exercises with rehabilitation and still staying active with the team even if it is in a limited capacity. But when speaking of the strength and conditioning aspect of my job there is a lot of psychology that comes into play. Not every player reacts the same way to the same exercises or rehab protocols so it is important to consistently adapt to the individual. It can be challenging because players get advice from different people or have heard the “key to success” or the best way to make it to the NHL from agents, parents, and other athletes. What I want most is to get each of them performing at their full potential while explaining that there are many ways to find success in hockey. Buying into the system part of it is crucial, and is often the difference maker between good teams and champions.

 

What's the most challenging part of your job?

 

Joey: Well (laughs) probably pretty much the same thing. It is dealing with all of the outside sources and getting a player to buy in to what we’re doing and why what we are doing is going to be best for them. The information they are getting from other sources may not be wrong, but it is just not how we do it here.

 

 

Unfortunately, you guys were eliminated in the first round of playoffs, how did you help ensure that Windsor would be ready to host the Memorial Cup tournament?

 

Joey: The coaches and I sat down, looked at our calendar, and realized that we had 44 days to peak. We could have viewed this period as a long lay off where we could get rusty and slow, but instead we chose to see it as an advantage. We had a unique opportunity to get healthy and into excellent shape. In coordination with the RMT, I also brought in a yoga instructor and consulted with a few other strength coaches. We created a 6-week program to peak for May 19th. The guys bought in. All the credit goes to the players. They could have sat on their thumbs and waited or only given a half effort at the gym but they never once wavered. I think it showed with our results.

 

How do you communicate and coordinate with ATs and rehabilitation staff from other teams?

 

Joey: There was a generalized medical meeting at the beginning of the tournament. Basically an explanation of the protocols, relevant contacts, and resources teams can access while they are here. More personally, we all talk and communicate professionally. The relationships between support staff are very open and casual. We have our league meetings and that is really where we share. This is where we help each other to get better individually and as a group.

 

What is your favourite part about the hockey community?

 

Joey: My favourite part of the hockey community is…how do I explain this…it is a small world. I’ll be in a random airport and I will run into someone that played here 6 years ago. For example, one year at the World Junior tournament I was in Malmo, Sweden and I got a random knock on my hotel room door. It was a former Spitfires player that happened to be playing professionally there. It is a very interconnected community and you would be hard pressed to find more than two degrees of separation no matter where you go. I think it is pretty neat. I grew up and lived in Newfoundland for most of my life and we are pretty isolated (laughs). Elite trainers, NHL players, the best hockey brains in the world; I always looked up to them as a kid and now to be integrated into the same circles is such an exciting privilege for me.

 

What would you most like to see progress in hockey safety?

 

Joey: Well, this answer is something that I have become extremely focused on in the last couple of years. I will be finishing my masters this summer and much of my research has focused on early specialization in youth sports. Kids are playing hockey and only hockey at a very young age at the expense of trying other sports or activities. In my scope, this is where overuse injuries really come into play. Surgeries, sports hernias, labral tears, or conditions like FAI developing in 16 or 17 year-olds. In reality, these types of conditions or injuries should never occur so young. They are more commonly seen in the 25-30 year old athlete age range, if ever. Additionally, these kids do not have the same athleticism coming in and I find are more prone to even minor ailments. One of my goals in my job here and as an athlete therapist overall is to get the message out there to young talent to broaden their base. I think that all children under 12 should seek balance and compete in a variety of sports.

 


 

 

After being eliminated in the first round of the 2017 OHL playoffs, Windsor completed an intense 6-week training program led by Garland in order to prepare for the Memorial Cup tournament. The Spitfires opened strong, and swept the competition in round robin play - finishing with a 3-0 record. This was enough to clinch a spot in the final. Windsor faced the Erie Otters in a fast-paced and physical game, emerging as the 2017 Memorial Cup Champions with a 4-3 victory.

 

Joey Garland is yet another example of the integral role rehabilitation science plays in athletic success, individually and on a team level. Joey facilitates the harmony of strength training, sport psychology, and athletic therapy. This approach has helped him to excel in his field. Garland's message of balance incorporates encouraging young athletes to try lots of different types of activity, nutritional and physical education, and ensuring continuous psychological and performance-oriented support. Although he loves to win and see each of his players perform, Joey also aims to nurture healthy, intelligent, and hard-working human beings, prepared for all of life's future endeavours.

(Photo Credits: www.windsorspitfires.com)


Sarah Allison

BHK – Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student – Nursing (RN)


AT Stories: Kate Trippier, Head Athletic Therapist - SAIT Trojans

Athletic Therapy is a unique discipline that encompasses both clinical and field practice. It is one of the few rehabilitation professions wherein one is required to manage an athletic injury at both ends of the continuum: from initial trauma to return to play. ATs work cohesively and collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and must fulfill a broad spectrum of competencies on any given day. Athletic therapists are elite caregivers that provide on-site treatment in the management of sport-related injuries. In many cases, the profession requires one to adopt emergency care protocols for injured athletes using adaptations of existing medical and paramedical standards.

 

The Competencies in Athletic Therapy are divided into five domains:

  1. Prevention
  2. Assessment
  3. Intervention
  4. Practice Management
  5. Professional Responsibility

An Athletic Therapist is an extraordinarily valuable friend and colleague to have in any stage of life and athletics. Today we will gain insight on what makes the profession so special.

(Photos courtesy of saittrojans.com)

Kate Trippier Interview

March is National Athletic Trainers Month so it is only fitting to begin with an extremely knowledgeable and insightful individual. Kate Trippier is the Head Athletic Therapist at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary. She completed her Kinesiology degree and AT certification through the partner program at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University. After graduation, Kate worked in a private clinic until she was hired to work with the Trojans in 2016.

 

Why did you decide to become an Athletic Therapist?

 

Kate: I was born and raised in a small town in northwestern Ontario without any qualified rehabilitation professionals. I played a handful of sports growing up, primarily hockey, and at one point I fractured a vertebrae in my neck. Getting access to care and a proper plan for recovery was really challenging. It was a lengthy and often frustrating process but the experience allowed me to do a lot of research. It sparked a passion to learn about the human body and musculoskeletal world in a hands-on way.

 

What is your favourite part about working with young, elite athletes; the most challenging aspect?

 

Kate: I love how entertaining they are. Every day at work I have a great time and it is hard to go even an hour without sharing some chuckles. Athletes are highly motivated and hard working people, but they are also intelligent and hilarious.

 

The most challenging part of my job is trying to foster the understanding that there is life after the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Many athletes struggle to understand or are frustrated by why they are being held out of games or practices when they feel they could play. As you grow older, you come to understand just how much of life there is to see, and how many important and exciting experiences are waiting beyond college athletics. It is my job to keep them healthy for life, not just the season.

 

What do you currently do when you suspect an athlete could have sustained a concussion?

 

Kate: SAIT is really fortunate to have access to practicum students who are assigned to each of our varsity teams. If an injury or suspected concussion occurs during training or competition, they are immediately assessed by whoever is on site. If the athlete reveals signs or symptoms of a concussion they are immediately removed from play. The next business day the athlete will check in with our clinic and myself for a comprehensive exam. We do a full SCAT 3 and compare their results to the baseline testing conducted on all athletes prior to the beginning of each season. Depending on the results, we follow protocols from here.

 

The athlete will continue to check in daily until asymptomatic, at this point we can proceed with the return to learn protocol. If every step of this is successfully completed, we move on to the return to play protocol. This process has become quite universal and much more streamlined in recent years. By scraping the old school grading system and implementing a specific 5-stage protocol, it allows us to be more consistent and thorough across the board.

 

 At SAIT, there are numerous varsity teams and over a hundred athletes representing the Trojans. What resources do you feel best equip you to do your job? 

 

Kate: In addition to what we have already mentioned with our practicum students and certain protocols, having access to the sports medicine clinic in Calgary is invaluable. We are able to get our athletes in with Sports Medicine as soon as next day if urgent. We are fortunate to have the option to get athletes in with Dr. Brian Benson at Winsport. He is one of the leaders in concussion research. He is able to have athletes complete further testing, such as robotics, to aid in the safe return to play of anyone referred.

 

Looking to the future, how would you like to see the field of concussion science develop?

 

Kate: I am glad you asked this. The technology is progressing at a fairly rapid pace which is great to see, however there is still a long way to go. It would be great if we could get onsite testing that is more in depth that what we currently have available through the basic SCAT3. There are some technologies available at this time, but athletes can still ‘’throw the testing’’ at baseline or become accustomed to the assessment allowing them to appear to be better than they are. It’s definitely a lot to ask to have something available at our finger tips that is in depth, accurate, and without loop holes and that’s likely why it isn’t available yet.

 

Hopefully, as technology continues to advance it won’t be long before this is available for all Athletic Therapists’ to utilize. From a return to play perspective, I would love to see a more psychological aspect be added to the current model. It is known that there are psychological effects associated with concussions from frustration due to inability to participate to feeling isolated from the team. Although athletes are always advised of options on where to seek help for this aspect of health it is often not sought out.

 

"Your neck is your head's safety belt. Keep your neck muscles strong to help reduce risk for concussion." - Kate Trippier

 


 

Athletes in every field are bigger, faster and stronger. There have been advances to equipment in several sports, and training, nutrition and preparation have never been better. Once lagging behind, the scientific and medical knowledge of brain trauma is now determined to keep pace. From elite athletes to the general public, our community is growing and there have been steady increases in curiosity and understanding of concussion science. At HeadCheck, we support professionals to provide concussion testing and management for their athletes.

 


Sarah Allison

BHK - Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student - Nursing (RN)