Unsung Heroes: Meet UD’s athletic trainers

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Not many might know that, tucked away off in the weight room of the Maher Athletic Center is the University of Dallas’s rehab team. Monica Heckman and Jordan Legendre are UD’s head athletic trainer and assistant athletic trainer — they take care of the school’s student athletes, providing everything from rehabilitation of injuries to nutrition advice. 

For the athletic trainers, a long day begins at 5:30 a.m. as they are on call for practices. Around 7:00 a.m., athletes begin coming in for rehab which lasts until about 3:00 in the afternoon. Thereafter, they are on call for afternoon practices, which can last until 9:30 p.m.

Legendre has been at UD for about two years and Heckman for six. In all this time they have worked beyond the job title, helping student athletes with the psychological parts of recovery.

“[This is] a place for people to vent,” said Heckman. “This is a safe space.” 

“Everyone’s baggage comes out in this room,” Legendre added.

A larger and more formal part of the job is helping athletes overcome injuries and make it back out onto the field or court. Legendre, however, said that it is hard to keep to the therapy and exercises necessary. Some athletes can get impatient when they do not see immediate results.

“The most challenging part is getting them to buy into what we’re doing,” Legendre said.

Heckman added that this is especially difficult after surgery which can be debilitating. She noted that some surgeries can require up to a year of recovery, and that the athletic trainers have to be there for the student athletes as they recover.

The struggle is worth it, however, as both agreed that the best part of the job is getting student athletes back on the field.

“Our whole job’s goal is help them to keep playing,” said Legendre.

There is a work-study position, currently filled, which is mostly ancillary to the athletic trainers. Students who are interested in athletic training and want to see how the job works can take it, as well as anyone in the general population.

Throughout their time in the profession, Heckman and Legendre noticed that injuries correlate with different sports. For students using the weight room, they caution against overexertion of particular muscles.

“Some of these injuries can come from overuse or not knowing the proper technique for lifting especially,” Heckman said. “If they’re new, it’s really challenging here because we don’t have anyone here [to teach lifting] unless you have a friend who knows how to lift.”

There is a new fitness club geared to teaching students how to properly lift, she added. Legendre encouraged people working out to practice “active recovery” to avoid injury. This entails stretching or using a foam roll after working out.

Athletes on or off season and the general student body should all keep a few things in mind to stay fit. It should probably go without saying, but students need to eat and eat healthy. Legendre said that it is not uncommon for students to get caught up in things and forget to eat. He said that it is also important to eat the right things.

“Eat your vegetables, and pasta and chicken,” Legendre said.

In addition, Heckman said that students should make an effort to go outside, resisting the distractions of the phones that many carry with them. Even in the gymnasium, it is good to keep in mind what you are training for when you work out.

“Be training not just for the gym, but for life,” Heckman said.

They also said that it is important to seek medical and mental help when needed. They both emphasized that it is ok to have problems with mental health if people seek help; there should be no stigma surrounding getting care for issues.

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Heckman said. “It shouldn’t be embarrassing to go get help for that.”

Agreeing, Legendre added, “If you know you need help, just ask for it.”

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