WHEATON — When Nick Antolik of Barlett landed awkwardly during football practice at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn last August, he knew something was wrong.
The team’s athletic trainer, Gretchen Daumen, recognized the signs of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. She performed some field tests then stabilized his left knee and took him to the hospital for X-rays.
It was just the beginning of a close association between the Bartlett High School graduate (who had never been injured during his high school football career) and the certified trainer (who holds a master’s degree in health and kinesiology).
Daumen sat in as an observer through Antolik’s two surgeries, and she has worked with him and consulted with his physical therapist throughout his rehabilitation. Watching the surgeon graft a piece of his hamstring onto his ACL gave her “a better sense of what we’re going into,” she said.
Because she saw firsthand what was repaired, Daumen said she was able to give Antolik’s physical therapist more specific advice. Having her with him from surgery through rehabilitation has aided in his recovery time, Antolik added.
This close association of athletic trainer to athlete is one benefit of working under the auspices of Athletico Physical Therapy at the Wheaton facility.
“The continuation of care for our athletes is awesome,” Daumen noted.
March is National Athletic Trainer Awareness Month, and Athletico Physical Therapy and the National Athletic Trainer Association want people to know that “Every Body Needs An Athletic Trainer,” according to a news release from Athletico. Certified athletic trainers can help anyone who is physically active — at work or play — prevent, recognize, treat and rehabilitate injuries, the release said.
Athletico’s facility manager, Matthew Erwin, explained that their trainers are encouraged to accompany the athlete to doctors' appointments to help them and their families understand what is going on.
“We think that’s an important resource for athletes and their families,” he said.
College and high school athletes are not the only ones who benefit from the services of athletic trainers. Erwin said they often will set up at area races to help runners stretch out before and after the race.
Giving lectures, helping with health fairs and providing ergonomic studies in the workplace are just a few of the ways athletic trainers can assist more than just the trained athlete. Athletico even offers a free injury screening for “weekend warriors,” as Daumen likes to call them.
It’s all part of the job of athletic trainer, Daumen said. She most enjoys the variety of the job at COD.
“I never know what I’m going to walk in on,” she said.
Antolik said he has certainly has benefited from her attention.
“Gretchen knows what I can do and how to push me, and makes it fun,” he explained.
While he still more rehab to look forward to, Antolik has made a lot of progress.
“It’s physical but more mental,” he said. “You can’t quit. If you have the right mentality, you’ll get there.”
Antolik plans to be on the field for football in the fall. But the game is only a means to an end for this student-athlete.
“I’m planning to study kinesiology and exercise science to help prevent injuries and help people rehab," Antolik said about his plans after COD.