Athletic trainers being redeployed to front lines of coronavirus pandemic

by Chris Renkel & Stephanie Kuzydym / WKRC

Tuesday, April 14th 2020

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – High school stadiums are silent.

No practice.

No games.

No championships to compete for.

Coaches are at home instead of the sidelines. But athletic trainers have found a new field: as the frontline workers of COVID-19.

A typical day for Ken Rushford used to start out in the afternoon in his training room.

“Normally, I’d be working at St. Xavier High School with the athletes there,” Rushford said. “Since the COVID virus has been around, Tri-Health has deployed us to other settings to assist the patients out there.”

Athletic trainers have been retrained and redeployed to new sites during the height of the pandemic. They're not alone. Physical therapists, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals have also been sent to the frontlines.

Taking temperatures, checking blood pressure, taking pulses: the skills all transferred over to helping during the response to coronavirus. Their jobs now consist of providing physical therapy, screening patients, even administering coronavirus tests.

“Athletic trainers are more...than the men and women that get the towels, that get the water, that get the Gatorade and tape ankles,” Rushford said. “We can be out in the general population and do just about anything else the health care providers can do.”

They traded the adrenaline of a basketball game for the stress of the deadly virus.

“The transition from adrenaline on the field to protecting our own families has been a difficult transition,” Rushford said. “It’s been a huge adjustment for us.”

“We’re not just a one-trick pony,” Chris Bonnell said.

Bonnell used to spend his days also in his Sycamore High athletic training room, wiping down training tables, evaluating his athletes and getting them back into the game. Now, he’s working in the physical therapy clinic with senior citizens through telemedicine to keep them moving.

“Instead of the young kids trying to get back in two or three days, these are people that we’re trying to get back to active, daily normal life so they can go garden or walk around at the park or walk their dog,” Bonnell said. “It’s those goals instead of getting someone so they can be back in at a game on Friday night.”

As for their athletes? They talk with them regularly. Some are even going through physical therapy themselves.

But most?

“The majority of the kids have no idea what’s going on with what we’re doing these days,” Bonnell said.

“They probably think I’m doing vacation,” Rushford said.