Athletic Trainers are health care providers responsible for student athlete safety. Athletic Training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and facilitation of rehabilitation of their team’s medical conditions. However, only 40% of secondary schools in Missouri have full access to an athletic trainer. Axes made it a mission to ensure that proper athletic training services were offered to young athletes in the Greater St. Louis area. Axes conducts the athletic training for all the soon to be largest school district in the state of MO; Wentzville School District; Timberland, Holt, Liberty, and eventually, North Point.
During March, athletic trainers across America are being recognized for their commitment to helping people prevent injuries, stay healthy and active and most recently, leading the way with establishing covid-19 protocols. As health care professionals, they are health care professionals. Highly educated and dedicated to the job at hand, athletic trainers can be found in high schools and colleges, corporations, professional sports, the military, performing arts, clinics, hospitals and physician offices. Athletic trainers impact health care through action.
Axes Physical Therapy would like to salute our ATC’s; Aaron Bruns, Alex Castulik, and Caitlyn Thomas, for their essential role in providing quality health care for our local athletes every day.
In honor of National Athletic Training Month, we sat down with Aaron Bruns, Director of the Axes Physical Therapy’s Athletic Training Program, to learn about his story and answer some frequently asked questions.
Q: Aaron, tell us a little about yourself. How did you decide on a career path in Athletic Training? How long have you been in the field? Where did you go to school?
A: I first got into Athletic Training in high school in Kansas City. I loved being around sports my entire life and this was a great way to continue to do that. Since, I knew that I probably wasn’t going to make a living playing sports. I was a student trainer/equipment manager for three years for my high school football team and then attended Southwest Missouri State University (Now Missouri State U.). I graduated from SMSU in May of 1992 and have been in the athletic training field ever since. I then spent 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball team. I worked at every level of the minor leagues throughout those 12 years and finished in AAA for the last few.
Q: Have you ever had a personal experience being treated by an Athletic Trainer?
A: I have to say simply because I’m so old and athletic trainers weren’t around a lot back when I was in high school.
Q: Is there a sport that you’re particularly passionate about?
A: For me, there is no better sport than Baseball. Plain and simple. It is truly the greatest game ever invented.
Q: How do you conduct an assessment of an athlete’s injury during a game?
A: One Word: QUICKLY! Coaches need an assessment fast and want to know when their athlete can go back into the game. While I’m on the field or court, I’m asking a lot of questions about what happened. Where does it hurt? Did they get hit? What sounds did they hear or feel?
By doing so, I have a pretty good idea what the injury is – before I even get back to the sideline when the coach is looking at me for an assessment.
Q: How do you educate athletes about the prevention of injuries?
A: I spend time talking to them about how injuries occur and what can be done to try and prevent them. We simply cannot prevent all injuries, but if we give them proper training techniques and strengthening exercises, maybe we can minimize the frequency and risk of injury, or perhaps the severity of it.
Q: Can you tell us a story of how you coached an athlete to care for an athletic injury?
A: It was about my 6th or 7th year in baseball and we had a pitcher coming off of “Tommy John” surgery. He had missed the entire season due to the injury and was trying so hard to be ready for the following season. I spent the entire off-season down in Florida at our spring training facility working with him daily. Whether it was stretching, strengthening or doing his throwing program. Even put on the catcher’s gear for him so he could throw off the mound.
We spent a lot of time together that off season. He had rough days, but he was able to make it back to pitching the following season and was extremely successful! He hit his goal, and subsequently, I hit mine. It feels so good to know I had even a small part of that.
Q: I’m sure the news you have isn’t always good news. How would you share a difficult piece of information with an athlete, parent, or coach?
A: Very carefully. I always try to give them the best-case scenario, along with the other possibilities. I’m very honest with Mom and Dad about what I think it is. With the Athlete, I try to get them to laugh a little if possible. Believe me, movement is medicine, but so is laughter. I usually tell them I don’t want to jump to conclusions until we have an MD look at it and we will go from there.
Q: In your opinion – what sets the Athletic Training services at Axes Physical Therapy; provided by you, Alex, and Caitlyn, apart from the rest?
A: I believe it’s the personal touch that we have established with all of our schools. We aren’t just there to take care of the injuries. We are a part of this school and this community. We are a part of these young athletes’ lives. To shorten the story, we care. Teddy Roosevelt’s quote sums it up, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Q: What advice would you give to students who are considering a career path in Athletic Training services?
A: Start shadowing your Athletic Trainer at your high school now. It’s never too early to start learning about the profession and what goes into being a great Athletic Trainer. It’s a lot of fun!
Aaron, Alex, and Caitlyn, we appreciate each one of you.
Join us in applauding these frontline health care heroes during National Athletic Training Month 2021!