With the theme “We’ve Got Your Back,” the National Athletic Trainer’s Association is celebrating March as National Athletic Training Month. At Thomas University, athletic trainers play an important role in taking care of about 250 student athletes.

“Athletic training at TU includes prevention of injuries, evaluation of an injury, treatment and rehabilitation of that injury,” said Brandee Zambrano, Thomas University’s Head Athletic Trainer. “We also provide emergency care or refer student athletes to physicians when needed.”

A common misconception with athletic trainers is that they are the same as personal trainers or strength and conditioning trainers.

For the past eight years, Zambrano has served as TU’s Head Athletic Trainer. For the first four years, she was also the only trainer. As TU’s Athletics programs have grown, so has her department. Two years ago the Athletic Training department grew to include an Assistant Athletic Trainer as well as two graduate assistants, who each serve for two-year stints.

Previously the Athletic Training Department was housed in a small building adjacent to the soccer field on TU’s Main Campus. In October 2012, it moved into its own facility inside the Student Life Center on TU’s West Campus, located on Magnolia Street. The treatment area encompasses 1,600 square feet in addition to the adjacent hydrotherapy room.

“Now we have plenty of room for treatments and rehabilitation exercises,” Zambrano said. “This facility has really made a huge difference. It’s a great size for the number of athletes that we treat. Because we’re located right across the hall from the weight room, we can also utilize that facility when needed.”

In addition to helping student athletes recover physically from injuries, athletic trainers also help provide encouragement and moral support along the way.

“Athletic trainers provide a great deal of emotional support for student athletes who sustain a trauma or even a season-ending injury,” said Ricky Zambrano, TU’s Associate Athletic Director and Men’s Soccer Coach. 

“In these instances that athletic trainer becomes the most important person for that student athlete. Having a positive mental state while recovering from an injury goes a long way in also helping the student athlete be successful academically. That athletic trainers play a huge role in keeping a student athlete positive and knowing that he or she can return to form.”

In the fall of 2013, TU began a collaboration with Valdosta State University. Students in VSU’s athletic training undergraduate program can now complete clinical rotations at TU. Two VSU students participated in the first semester of the collaboration. This spring there are four students participating.

“It’s a very nice arrangement that helps us because VSU has a very strong athletic training program,” Zambrano said. “We provide a different and unique clinical setting that allows the VSU students to be more interactive.  While they are here to assist and learn, we can also learn from them as well.  This process gives back to the profession and helps build future professionals.”

When it comes to helping a student athlete recover from an injury, TU collaborates with physicians at the Hughston Clinic as well as Thomasville Family Medicine. Athletic trainers work with physicians to ensure student athletes receive the best care possible.

“Our goal is to help provide top health care to our student athletes,” Zambrano said. “You’ve got to have a healthy team in order to have a successful team.”

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