Injured Yankton Athlete Teams With Trainers to Return to Sports
The worst triple jump of Emily Oswald’s life took place about 18 months ago. The three-sport Yankton High School senior knew right away – the pain in her back and ankle screamed – but like many young athletes, she pressed on.
“I knew from the get-go it wasn’t minor. Something was definitely wrong,” she said. “I kept jumping, and there was pain, but one day I had shooting pain and while I was stretching, I was just stuck, bent over, from the injury,” Emily said. “It turned out I had a stress fracture in my L4 vertebrae. I was in a brace for eight weeks and out of sports altogether for two months.”
When she returned to her physician for a follow-up, the news was bad. She not only missed the rest of track, she missed the entire volleyball season and most of the basketball schedule, too, inactive for 60 days and out of sports altogether for nine months.
No surgical option for someone her age was a wise decision, so she kept working and found the help she needed with two trainers.
Yankton High School Head Athletic Trainer Trevor Woods and Avera Performance Coach Mark Roozen helped Emily, who’s now busy wrapping up her senior-year season in volleyball and looking forward to a winter on the hard wood playing hoops with the Gazelles.
“Coach Rozy (Roozen) was a huge part of my recovery – he and I had met when I was a freshman and we worked together one-on-one often, as I regained strength and range of motion,” she said. “I was really out of it, physically, but he was so awesome. He really helped me recover.”
The effort Roozen and Woods brought to this athlete’s situation demonstrates the many facets of orthopedic care along a continuum. Mark Roozen, M.Ed., used a metaphor when describing the roles that trainers like Woods, performance coaches like him, along with physicians, therapists, and others in sports medicine/orthopedics, each play.
“Each part of the team is a rung on the ladder for the injured athlete, and if we’re too far apart, it’ll be too hard for them to return to sports – that’s why we must communicate and share our insights, to help athletes like Emily get back to what they most want to do – compete,” Roozen said. “We start by helping them to clean up patterns of movement, but a primary focus that goes with the physical routine is the rebuilding of confidence.”
Daily Work - Mental and Physical
Trevor Woods, ATC, MA, serves as Yankton High School’s athletic trainer. The Avera Orthopedics and Sports Medicine trainer said working with Emily was rewarding to him, in part because she remained so upbeat and diligent through the challenging process.
“She was facing daily pain and realized her road to returning to sports would not be an easy one. Many folks may have said it was too much or decided to abandon sports because of the injury,” said Woods. “It was nice to see someone who listened so well and who worked hard – she really improved her approaches to volleyball and basketball, and her attitude made a tremendous impact.”
Woods said the collaboration between him and Roozen, along with Emily’s physicians, parents and coaches, was another key part of her success.
“Returning to sports is an important goal, but our real focus is on making them the best athlete they can be, along with being the best healthy version of themselves they can be,” he said. “Emily had her good days and her bad days, and it took a lot of work to recover and progress to where she is now.”
Emily’s mother, Sherri Oswald, works in health care and attests to the fact that Roozen and Woods were priceless contributors to her daughter’s health and performance.
"Emily truly would not be competing today without their help during the last 18 months, and the ongoing help daily,” said Sherri Oswald. “As a mom, it is very hard to see your kid in so much pain, and the fact that they care about her as a person and about her wellbeing is invaluable. It’s much more than a job for them. You can see that in how they have treated her and helped her.”
Through a process of experimentation, Emily said the entire team – including trainers and coaches – helped her manage the pain and devise new approaches.
“I think the fact they got to know me and that they cared about me and my recovery to not only sports but a normal life is what allowed me to make this comeback,” Emily said. "Rozy and Trevor were there for me from the start, and that was amazing. It's been a long ride, but they guided me and got me to where I am today. And we still work as a team together, every single day. They didn’t just help me recover. They keep me in check so I am able to continue to compete and face any flare-ups when they come along.”