I had to go into an NFL locker room to do a postgame interview once; athletes are very unselfconscious about their bodies.
You are the first female team trainer in a major professional sport. Do the players ever make girl-related comments about that?
They don't. When people are in pain, they just want to feel better. They're not thinking, “This is a girl, this is a guy.” They're just thinking, “I trust this person.”
From a professional athlete's standpoint, that's their job, and I can't imagine if I had an injury that prevented me from doing my job. They've been training their whole lives to be this athlete, and then they have this injury that affects that, their career, the way they provide for their family.
So they have to trust you a lot.
You never know what you're going to encounter as an athletic trainer dealing with a team. I've had a guy come in with chicken pox as an adult. The team look[s] to you for everything, like a dental issue. The trainer has to be able to get [them] to this or that physician. The trainer is the entry point for the athlete into the healthcare system.
You were born after Title IX welcomed women into sports; is it a big deal for you to be the first woman to be head athletic trainer in pro sports?
It's a huge deal to me, and hopefully that provides a lot of open doors for women in the future. Where gender doesn't become a big deal [is that] I want success for the guys. Athletic training is not gender specific.
Have you been hearing from girls saying, “I want to do this too”?
Whether it's emails or Facebook or Twitter messages, it's literally hundreds and hundreds. Girls in college in athletic training emailing and saying, “We talked about you in class today. You're such an inspiration. Do you have any advice?” It's been very humbling, all these people I've never met [who] reach out and say, “I just wanted to let you know I read that story and I'm excited for you.” It's pretty cool.
Do you think we'll see women and men playing on the same pro sports teams in our lifetimes?
I read about this little girl playing [middle school] football; that she sat out one game because the opponents refused to play [against] a girl. [Her team won 60-0.] She's paving the way too, playing football. Maybe we will [see women playing pro sports with men]. It starts at that level.
Do you have a favorite sports movie?
One of my favorite baseball movies is [HBO's] “61*." I loved that movie. It's about the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Is baseball your favorite sport?
It has become that. Being from Buffalo, you're required to be a Bills [football] fan and a Sabres [hockey] fan. It wasn't until I got to college that I thought, oh, there's a sport called baseball that's pretty cool too. That's when I started getting into the Red Sox, watching Red Sox baseball. [She later treated Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling].
Are you still a secret Red Sox fan?
I don't know if I'm allowed to answer that question!
This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. Interview archive: latimes.com/pattasks.