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Athletic Trainers are not in the spotlight – until they are

Tonight Damar Hamlin awarded the Buffalo Bills Athletic Trainers and Medical Staff with an Espy. When the staff walked onto the stage they did not immediately step up to accept their award, instead they went straight to their athlete and embraced him. As an athletic trainer myself, my heart swelled as I watched their demonstration of care and love. The relationship between athletes and athletic trainers is like none other.

Just before this stage presentation, a film was shown, narrated by Damar Hamlin himself discussing how the athletic training and medical staff saved his life that fateful night in January 2023. The film was emotional and moving and there were many tears in the audience and on stage. As I viewed, the tears rolled down my face and I struggled to clear them fast enough so I could continue to watch.

As an athletic trainer, and head of medical staff, I too had an athlete diagnosed with commotio cordis, just like Damar Hamlin. In 2005, my freshman hockey player, Jaxon Logan, also dropped during a game. He too got immediate CPR and medical care. Tragically, our story is on the other side of the statistics of resuscitation and we did not come out victorious. We lost Jaxon that night and our lives have never been the same since.

As I watched those athletic trainers embrace Damar, my heart grew with joy for the relationship and success they have. My heart also broke again, for those of us that grieve on the other side of stories like these.

I second all that was spoken tonight regarding the need for Athletic Trainers and AEDs available for all athletes. Medical care saves lives. Athletic Trainers save lives. They won’t save them all, but they will save many.

The relationships between athletes and athletic trainers are like nothing else. We spend hours a day together, long talks during treatment, together during the tough times, and there for the overtime wins. We travel together, are stuck on long bus rides together, we eat hotel breakfasts and late night pizza runs side by side.

My heart is full with the memories of so many stories and relationships with my athletes from my 22 year career in athletic training. Many I am still close to, some who are neighbors, some now colleagues, many dear friends.

My heart also carries a small hollow with Jaxon’s name, longing for what could have been.

Athletic trainers are the support staff, rarely in the spotlight, and when they are in the spotlight it is usually because they are beside their athlete. Tonight on the Espy stage was no different. I watched a team of medical staff surround their athlete and support him during their award presentation. They used this time to praise others and educate, continually in a state of service and support.

I am honored to be an athletic trainer. I am humbled and grateful for all my athletes have taught me and what we have been through together. Let this be a reminder to us all to be prepared and ready for the worst scenario, to hopefully have the best outcome. Regardless, these relationships are what will get us through.

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You are awesome Sara. Thank you for tending to my bite wound victim up at Utah State, unfortunately no one checked either of us for rabies. I’m blaming the possible blood poisoning for my why it took 16 more years to decide to follow a little in your tracks. Got licensed as a Physical Therapist Assistant and working the outpatient clinic at a hospital in South Side Chicago now. I never knew I would find a career that I enjoy so much, and not even directly back into the athletic scene yet. Thanks again for helping make UVSC Wolverines Hockey possible, please say Hi to coach and the fam for me.

-Morgan Weiland “Wiley”


Well said and well written....

Heartbreaking and heart warming story.

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