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From training professional sports teams to college level athletes, and back around to high school, East’s new athletic trainer Ron Wollenhaupt has dealt with everything from bone contusions, to seizures, to patellar tendinitis. Now, Wollenhaupt has a new home in East’s training room, helping athletes of every sport with their injuries.
Before finalizing the deal with Shawnee Mission Sports Care, Wollenhaupt spent four years at the University of Nebraska at Omaha playing on their tennis and baseball teams. He’s always loved sports, specifically tennis and baseball, and decided he wanted to pursue sports in college.
During his college years, Wollenhaupt was unsure of which career path to follow, though he knew he was leaning towards physical education and teaching. His summer job working for the Omaha Royals baseball team allowed him to have the chance to speak to their trainers, who suggested that he consider being a trainer himself. By the end of his senior year of college, Wollenhaupt was a student trainer preparing for his certification test to make everything official.
After getting his college degree, Wollenhaupt worked for the Cleveland Indians baseball team for five years, followed by working as an online health teacher and full-time trainer at Kansas City Kansas Community College. According to Wollenhaupt, all have been good experiences, but high school ends up being the easier group to train.
“You get so much help at the high school level,” Wollenhaupt said. “At the college level, it’s pretty much you are it because the parents aren’t around and the coaches are so busy recruiting. In high school you’ve got parents and coaches and teachers and everyone all helping.”
Even though there’s a slight difference in difficulty between the three levels of athletics, there are several common denominators Wollenhaupt has found in each of them.
“Most of [the injuries I see] are muscular [or] skeletal,” Wollenhaupt said. “Most of it is strains, sprains, tendinitis, contusions. Ninety percent of it is those four injuries. We’ve had a few fractures this year, but for the most part it’s those.”
Besides the common four category injuries, Wollenhaupt has experienced injuries that turned into medical emergencies out on the field. He has dealt with a range of situations from athletes feeling disoriented and light-headed because of a diabetic emergency, to holding players’ necks still after a bad fall until an ambulance comes.
“The biggest thing about the trainer is you stay calm,” Wollenhaupt said. “You just have to say, ‘you call 911, I’ll take care of this.’ You just tell the athlete, ‘it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be fine. We’ll call an ambulance. I’m going to hold onto your knee, I’m going to hold onto your head, I’m going to hold onto you right here.’”
Though dealing with emergency situations may not be the most fun part of a trainer’s responsibilities according to Wollenhaupt, the absolute worst part is no matter what sport, having to tell an athlete that they are hurt and will have to be on the bench for a number of weeks. But even though a trainer’s job is full of bumps, there are still things that make his job all worth it, Wollenhaupt says.
“My favorite part about being a trainer is watching athletes who have been hurt, watching them recover,” Wollenhaupt said. “Watching them go through the process of [recovering], and working with them emotionally and physically through the adversity of an injury to where they recover from the injury and then have success.”
The injury he remembers most clearly happened while he was the trainer for the Indians; a catcher for the team had rotator tendinitis in his shoulder, and was beginning to think his career was over. Through the struggles, he ended up having the patience to work with Wollenhaupt and rehabilitate his shoulder through therapy. After several months, he returned to the baseball field. His first game back, he pegged a guy out at second base– a great comeback, according to Wollenhaupt.
“He turned to the dugout and looked straight at me,” Wollenhaupt said. “That look was enough. And he made the big leagues. That really sticks in my mind as one of those things that makes it all worth it.”
Stories like the catcher’s are the reason Wollenhaupt does what he does. The best part of it all is, according to Wollenhaupt, watching them learn from the injury and learn from the adversity of it, and being able to watch them come back and succeed.
“It’s great to win, you see the wins and losses,” Wollenhaupt said. “But as the athletic trainer, it’s not about the wins and losses. It’s about the health of the athlete.”