It is the first 65 degree day Ithaca has had in a while. It’s sunny and warm, as the men’s lacrosse team practices on the grass. The women are quickly preparing for their last home game of the season. Although a majority of the day’s sporting activities will take place on the fields of the East Hill, some of the most important people in Cornell athletics can be found down the stairs and to the right — inside Schoellkopf Hall.
A little after 3 p.m. the rush ends, and women’s lacrosse trainer Allison Sampson takes a breather. After earning her B.S. in sports medicine from Merrimack, Sampson officially joined the University full-time in the summer of 2000. Previously, she worked on the Cornell athletics staff part-time while finishing as a graduate student at Ithaca College. She is affectionately referred to as “Sampsonite” by the members of the women’s lacrosse team.
“I liked the athletes, sports, medicine and injuries,” replies Sampson when asked about her career choice.
With just an hour to go before the game and the team in a meeting, the training room is now almost completely empty.
A day earlier, it was in an uproar. Athletes strolled in and out of the room, most of them looking for tape. In the thick of it all were Matt Nuesell and Megan Rogers. Both currently students, Nuesell is a graduate student at Ithaca, while Rogers is a junior at Cortland. Just having finished with junior Ryan McClay, Nuesell began to tape up junior Frank Sands. It is here in the training room and on the field that the trainer’s rapport with the team members becomes evident.
“Matt does a good job,” commented Sands, as Nuesell finished up the job.
The light-hearted banter continued to be noticeable as Sands slid over and Nuesell began work on the next player. Rogers operated in a similar fashion, joking with the players about trivial items as she taped up ankles and cushioned bruises.
Back in the training room just an hour before game time, Sampson was busy examining an athlete. Surprisingly though, Sampson was not working on a member of the women’s lacrosse team, nor would she as the next three athletes attended to were members of varsity cheerleading, volleyball, and crew. Besides women’s lacrosse, Sampson noted that she also works directly with field hockey, and often sees members of the crew, polo, and squash teams. She added that squash injuries could be particularly brutal.
“Anything you can think of, they can come up with,” Sampson said.
Over the course of the next 15 minutes, Sampson easily demonstrated that the best athletic trainers know not only their own team, but also anyone else that should need their help. Working on an ankle injury, Sampson chatted with the athlete as she soaked in the whirlpool. Interspersed tactfully between the general weather and “how’s life” comments were questions directed at finding the source of injury. Talking about the previous week’s events, the athlete soon revealed that the latest aggravation was most likely caused by a weekend run.
With 45 minutes to go, Sampson watched from the door of the training room as the women took the field for warm-ups. After meeting with the sports trainer for Delaware, she and a student assistant began to haul water coolers out to the players’ benches.
“Normally we have a gator,” said Sampson, referring to the green golf carts often seen at events, “but someone seems to have stolen it.”
Halfway to the bench with the last cooler, the gator pulled into the stadium.
The next 15 minutes before the game was a hodgepodge of stretching, taping, and check-ups by the trainers. Sampson would often ask the women if they were feeling ok, or needed help. One particular problem that Sampson attended to was a developing case of shin splints. She later noted that this can be a problem for the freshmen, who are often not used to the intensity of a collegiate workout schedule. As the game began, the trainers took their places on the sideline, ready for anything that might happen.
With a brutal collision in the first half, junior Rachel Friedman hit the turf sending Sampson running onto the field. Helping her back to the sidelines, Sampson begins to examine the injury, applying ice to the shoulder area.
“You have to be careful with parents around,” Sampson said. “You don’t want to say the wrong things.”
Sampson continued to check Friedman throughout the rest of the game. Often, she would ask questions to determine the exact nature of the injury; “how” and “where did you fall” were reoccurring phrases in these conversations. To play it safely, Sampson eventually helped Friedman slip her left arm into a sling. After the game, Friedman was to see Dr. Russ Zelko, one of Cornell’s sports medicine specialists.
Cornell athletics currently employs 12 certified trainers, most of whom work all twelve months of the year. Positions range from full-time to part-time, with some of the part time positions being filled by students from Ithaca College or Cortland. The amount of time spent with the program also varies; Jim Case, associate head-trainer has been with the department for 14 years.
“They keep me in there when I’m feeling down,” noted men’s lacrosse player senior Billy Fort, about the role of the athletic trainers.
Fort has played through collapsed arches and numerous sprained ankles this season, all with the help of the Cornell sports medicine staff.
“Throughout this whole process, the trainers have been incredible. I probably wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for them,” expressed Fort.
Archived article by Matt Janiga