The Real Deal: Extraordinary Care
By: Mandy Housenick
GoLeopards.com Featured Columnist
Gavin Studner ’16 couldn't help but be nervous when he walked into Coordinated Health in Allentown in February 2015.
Who wants to go alone to an appointment that is prepping you for season-ending elbow surgery?
Studner, then a junior on Lafayette College's tennis team, tried to make the best of it as he settled into a chair in the waiting room.
A few minutes later, out popped a familiar face: Dawn Comp, a Lafayette College senior associate athletic trainer, who happened to be leaving the doctor's office.
Comp spotted Studner, a regular in the Leopards' training room, and stopped in her tracks.
“She sat with me for 30 minutes,” Studner recalled. “It was her day off and she waited with me and then went into the appointment with me and talked through the surgery with us. She could have just left.
“That's the type of support you don't get anywhere else. You never forget that kind of support.”
Support like that is commonplace from Lafayette's athletic training and medical staff members. They open the offices early for student-athletes; they stay late if they need treatment; they respond to texts and phone calls at all hours of the day and night; their knowledge is vast; their commitment exceeds expectations; and they lend a listening ear whether student-athletes need to vent about their workload or their anxiety following an injury.
"It's a 24/7 job. But we wouldn't have it any other way simply because we know when somebody is damaged, they need help right then and there."
- Matt Bayly,
Director of Sports Medicine
“It's a 24-7 job,” said Matt Bayly, director of sports medicine at Lafayette. “But we wouldn't have it any other way simply because we know when somebody is damaged, they need help right then and there.”
Dr. Jeff Goldstein, director of health services and team physician, has been part of the Leopards' extraordinary medical team for the last 15 years. Even he is blown away sometimes by the lengths the staff goes to to care for the school's student-athletes.
“Their incredible dedication to the student-athlete on every level makes our program stand out,” Dr. Goldstein said. “These trainers provide not only excellent sports medicine care, but they provide it with such compassion and sincere dedication to each athlete. That care runs the gamut of taking care of not only their injuries, but their emotional health and well being, going to the hospital when someone is injured, communicating with them regularly, and being part provider and part paternal figure. When I hear students give me feedback it's heartwarming.”
There are parts of the job for Dr. Goldstein and his team that aren't so heartwarming, though. It's never easy tending to an athlete writhing in pain on the field or finding the right words when his or her season is over because of an injury.
Learning how to handle those situations isn't only based on the personality of the individual delivering the gut-wrenching news, but it also comes with experience. Remaining calm is important; being sensitive is key; and sometimes reaching deep into the extensive knowledge they have of their field.
“You have to have empathy for what they are going through,” Bayly said. “Yet you still have to maintain your discipline as a clinician because the injury is what it is. Does that mean that it's something that is season-ending or career-ending? Is surgery in their future? Can they rehab and come back this season? Those are the kinds of things that fall back on our expertise.”
An added advantage for Lafayette's student-athletes is their ability to have a complete diagnosis quickly, and that often starts with having an MRI, CT scan or X-Ray shortly after sustaining the injury.
Dr. Goldstein and Bayly credit Coordinated Health for that. Lafayette College and Coordinated Health have a longstanding relationship.
“It's very common for imaging to happen pretty rapidly,” Bayly said. “That imaging is very helpful for the patient to understand what the injury is and for us to give the best diagnosis. Having a definite diagnosis backed up by imaging or other tests is certainly very sound medicine.”
While many people think of trainers and physicians as the ones wrapping bum ankles, stretching tight hamstrings and doing the rehab on a knee that's recovering from a torn ACL, their duties extend far beyond that realm.
In a day and age when mental health awareness is talked about more and more among the general public, it's also become a focal point among student-athletes and the medical staff treating them.
Let's not forget the pressure that sometimes lands on these talented young men and women. There's the time commitment of being a Division I athlete, the challenge of keeping their grades up at a well-respected, competitive school and there's often the added dimension of taking on extracurricular activities and/or a work-study job. Tack on sometimes demanding relationships with friends or family members and there could be a great deal of anxiety a student-athlete is dealing with.
“They are the boots-on-the-ground and the providers who have the most and closest contact to our student-athletes, and they are in the best position to respond to all their needs,” Dr. Goldstein said of the trainers. “They are really asking the important questions when a student just doesn't seem right between the ears. You can't perform well as a student-athlete if you're anxious or your mood is impaired by depression. We have focused on that. We offer more referrals to the health care center. Matt and I are expanding our whole approach to the mental health of the student-athletes. It's an issue not just for our college, but when you listen to the chief medical officer of the NCAA, it is now considered the most important subject to address in the entire scope of health care for the student-athlete. And we are on it.”
Dr. Goldstein said there isn't a day that goes by when he doesn't address a mental health issue with a student-athlete.
“The resources used for counseling and mental heath have skyrocketed nationally,” he added. “It used to be a sign of weakness when someone had to talk to a psychologist. They felt it was something they should get through because, 'I am an athlete and I'm tough and I can endure physical pain and emotional pain too.' It's no longer a phenomenon of suffering in silence or being secretive.”
"They were awesome. Dawn specifically was my sports trainer. She was not riding me, but always making sure I was seeing someone.'"
- Carlianne McCabe '16
Carlianne McCabe ’16, who graduated with a degree in neuroscience and was an All-Patriot League midfielder for the Leopards’ women’s lacrosse team, was a beneficiary of the excellent psychological care Lafayette student-athletes have access to. She admitted she struggled with some mental health issues and herniated discs in her back since she was in high school, but didn't always have the required trust in those treating her. As a result, she never healed emotionally.
But when she got to Lafayette, she found a comforting environment that allowed her to open up about her challenges and struggles.
“They were awesome,” McCabe said. “Dawn specifically was my sports trainer. She was not riding me, but always making sure I was seeing someone. I saw Dr. Rose in the health center once every two weeks and then once a month. There were times I would break down, and Dawn was almost like a mom to me on campus. That was something I will never forget. Dawn really helped me stay mentally strong. Even with lacrosse, there were times I wanted to give up because I didn't think my body could keep going. But she helped me so much psychologically. We all knew we could go to her.”
It’s that type of never-ending support that sets Lafayette’s athletic training and medical staff apart from other institutions. And, as Studner put it, you never forget that kind of support.