Stepping up: Why I have nothing but respect for the Athletic Therapist


In the wake of what was a pretty scary incident in Dallas tonight I will be holding off on my weekly wrestling tirade for the moment.  For those who didn’t see the video, here is a clip of Rich Peverley collapsing on the Stars bench due to what is being called a cardiac event.

“We treated (Peverley) for a cardiac event successfully,” said Dr. Gil Salazar of UT Southwestern Hospitals. “We provide oxygen for him. We started an IV. We did chest compressions on him and defibrillated him, provided some electricity to bring a rhythm back to his heart, and that was successful with one attempt, which is very reassuring. As soon as we treated him, he regained consciousness. He was able to tell me where he was.”

By all accounts it appears that thanks to immediate care by the doctor’s and therapists on the scene – Peverley is going to be alright and was conscious and in stable condition upon leaving the rink.  The game was postponed with neither team prepared to play following the incident.

“Dallas player Rich Peverley is doing well and is in stable condition,” the NHL said in a statement. “As a result of the emotional state of the players on both teams caused by the medical emergency, the game is being postponed. We apologize for any inconvenience and we thank the fans.”

As a person who has never been a parent I can’t necessarily speak as a person who watches my son or daughter play what always has a potential to be a dangerous game. But I can tell you from experience that when a player is injured and a “Hush” comes over the crowd like what was described in Dallas tonight – It’s a chilling experience.

I would say that it’s in a moment like that – that you turn to the experts and put your trust that they know exactly what they are doing.  It’s a cliché but a team’s Athletic Therapist and doctor are too often over-looked despite being one of the most important parts of any group.  

The job of an athletic therapist in junior hockey is never easy. Working daily with a group of 16-20 year-olds and keeping them healthy and on the ice is only a small part of the role.  I have seen players complain, confide in and even flat out argue with the Therapist. But there is a trust is built over time the same way that you trust your family doctor to always tell it to you straight.
I think that we all in some way don’t necessarily look at the game the same way a therapist does. We all stand back and marvel at the things a player can do and don’t realize that while the great moments often don’t involve the Therapist, the bad moments always do. And it in that moment when everyone else freezes and looks away because they “don’t know what to do” or they “can’t watch” that the Therapist is the first person to step up.

I was lucky to work with some of the best in the business – Trainers and therapists who have worked at all levels including the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence. The one thing I would say is that even though they are often seen as all business, the reason they do what they do is because they genuinely care. I have seen therapists from both teams literally jump the boards and race to a fallen player from the other team because they recognize the severity of the situation.  I have seen them stay with a player for hours in a hospital after a game just to make sure the player is comfortable. (Yes, hospitals can be scary places) And I have seen Therapists who are there, one on one, stride for stride with a player on long term rehab for an injury, just to keep their spirits up as they struggle to get back on the ice.

I am sure it is in those moments that we could marvel at all of that – but ask any therapist or trainer and they will tell you it was all in a day’s work. It is the same answer I am sure you would get if you talk to the doctors and therapists in Dallas tonight. That’s assuming you can get a hold of them because they are probably on the phone providing some much needed console and encouragement to the player’s family.  

Like I said, when the rest of us pause… they are the first to step up.

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6 Responses to Stepping up: Why I have nothing but respect for the Athletic Therapist

  1. Cait says:

    Hi Ryan, I am a Certified Athletic Therapist and although I didn’t watch these events, just reading your post makes my stomach churn! It is situations like these that we dread but train tirelessly for in order to get the best possible outcome – as you said, it’s all in a days work. I applaud you for highlighting a profession that is often overlooked and sometimes (not always!) undervalued. On behalf of our profession, thank you.

  2. Candace says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I too am a Certified Athletic Therapist, who has worked in the AJHL, and I want to thank you for this post. It is all in a day’s work, and it is because we genuinely care – we do what we love, and what we love is helping athletes become better – better at anything we can help them with.

    Thanks again!

  3. Ryan, I appreciate the blog this evening. As a Certified Athletic Trainer, I just wanted to make you aware that’s what we go by down here in the States. Canadians are Certified Athletic Therapists, but here we are Certified Athletic Trainers. Nonetheless, it’s a great tribute and really is appreciated. As an Athletic Trainer we never know what our day will bring. Many games we may do a lot of nothing and really we call that a great day at the office! 🙂 But know that when the unimaginable happens, we’re there because we truly do care.

    Mike Hopper, ATC

  4. Shaun says:

    Great article Mr. Ohashi! Definitely true in every sense.

    Shaun D.

  5. My sister is an athletic therapist and I’m glad that you have shown appreciation for her role. I’ve never seen anyone who cares that much and who is more fit for the job they do than she is.

  6. Pingback: It’s Too Late to Apologize | Ryan Ohashi: Aspiring Sports Media Mogul

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