Liz Koehling “checks on her ducklings” on a daily basis as the head athletic trainer at Century High School.
Her “ducklings” are the students who count on her to be the first person on the scene for emergency care, should an injury occur.
March is National Athletic Training Month and is held in order to spread awareness about the important work of athletic trainers, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association website. Athletic trainers, Koehling said, are the pivotal point of medical contact for continuing care as well.
Koehling is in her third year as a certified athletic trainer with Pivot Physical Therapy, and also serves as a regional coordinator, overseeing the athletic trainers at the other Carroll County high schools. Her responsibilities include building physician relationships and making new partnerships in the area.
She also facilitates site visits and monthly meetings with the staff, taking on more of an administrative side of tasks for the county.
“I Google searched athletic training one day and it combined all of my passions for healthcare,” Koehling said. “The human body, how it works, how it functions, and helping people in general, all of it. I love sports and I love the sidelines, I love a fast-paced environment. It was the perfect thing and I’ve run with it every since that day I Google searched it.”
Koehling received her bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from Lynchburg College in 2015. She earned her master’s in from California University of Pennsylvania, and served as a graduate assist for the Cal U football team while working toward her degree.
The Times recently followed Koehling at Century as she performed her typical duties during after school athletic activities.
March 28, 4:50 p.m. — Koehling stretches out Cody Warthen, a sophomore defensive tackle for Century’s varsity football team in the training room. Warthen is also Koehling’s intern and started working with her March 1.
Koehling asks Warthen if he has any shin pain and asks him to bend his knee for her, checking for any quad tightness.
4:55 p.m. — Wyatt Dickey, a member of the varsity lacrosse team, comes to see Koehling with a protective boot covering a fractured ankle. Koehling helps him remove the boot and asks him if he’s icing it still. She observes his bruising has gone down as well.
“Every day there is a lot of good in here,” Warthen said, “a lot of good.”
5:00 p.m. — Koehling moves around the corner and observes Andrew Porter, a sophomore pole vaulter, as he completes a series of wall walks with a blue band around his wrists. Koehling said Porter has scapula winging, caused by severe injury to the muscles that control the scapula or nerves that supply those muscles.
Porter’s bad back stability makes it difficult for him to firmly plant his pole as he’s vaulting, Koehling explains. She said a lot of track athletes overuse their muscles and the issues vary from chronic shin pain, hip weaknesses and foot injuries.
5:09 p.m. — Koehling receives a call from the Century baseball field where the JV team was playing Westminster. She wraps freshman pitcher Jake Naill’s left thumb and explains she wants to help alleviate any soreness in his hand.
“You’re a good sport, Jake,” Koehling tells him.
Freshman first baseman Austin Diehl comes off the field to get his right knee checked. It had been previously wrapped, but had started bleeding underneath the wrap. A scab has peeled, revealing a bare, fresh wound.
Diehl seems to be in slight pain, and winces as Koehling removes some of the scab with gauze.
Then, she uses black power flex wrap to wrap the wound after placing bacitracin and a band-aid on it. The wrap stretches and molds to an athlete’s body part so he or she can still bend and move whichever way they need to.
It’s used to prevent an injury, but not to inhibit the athlete’s form, helping them to play safely and effectively.
5:24 p.m. — Koehling remains at the baseball field watching over the athletes to make sure no one else gets hurt.
“If there’s one thing to know about this profession,” Koehling said, “it’s that you can’t be afraid to get dirty.”
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Koehling explains that athletic training is a combination of three things — a paramedic, an orthopedic, and a physical therapist. The position requires a master’s degree and involves a lot of general medicine, first aid and injury assessment.
5:45 p.m. — Koehling and Warthen check in at the JV softball game to make sure everything is running smoothly. She stays at the softball field until after 6 to wrap an athlete’s shoulder and heads back to the training room to stretch Dylan Wardle’s shoulder afterward.
Wardle, a junior, hurt his shoulder while making a tackle during one of Century’s football games last fall. He experienced sharp pain and a lack of mobility and started seeing Koehling for check-ups. He’s still rehabilitating the shoulder and continues to see Koehling to help gain full mobility back in the shoulder.
“You always know she’s going to be here for you if you get an injury,” Wardle said. “You don’t have to worry about going to the doctor because she’s readily here for you. She’s everywhere, running around to every sports field and tries to be here all the time, even during offseason football workouts.
“She technically doesn’t have to help us but she checks in because she really cares about all the athletes and how we’re feeling.”
Koehling said the most challenging part of her job is the work load. There’s only one of her and a large number of kids to care for. A school can host up to six athletic events on any given day, she said, and she hustles to each one to provide necessary care.
“The most rewarding thing is making the connections with so many people, you become a part of the community in this area,” Koehling said. “They embrace you as that one person seeing them. From the moment they get hurt to the day they get back on the field, it’s just unexplainable. We have good kids, good parents and I’ve never been more appreciated in my life, so it’s rewarding to give that effort to the kids for them to give that effort back.”