Athletic trainers help schools bring athletes back with new health, safety recommendations

by Meghan Mongillo & Stephanie Kuzydym, WKRC

Tuesday, May 26th 2020

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Mike Gordon is looking at a whole new ball game -- one with no history and no concrete rules.

Gordon is the Greater Cincinnati Athletic Trainers Association president, which oversees all the athletic trainers in the area.

Gordon, who an athletic trainer at St. Xavier High, said everything from the way athletic trainers interact with athletes to how drills are conducted will be different.

“This is not business as usual,” Gordon said. “It cannot be business as usual. It cannot be the same thing we did last summer and the summer before that because this is a completely different ballgame.”

On Friday, the OHSAA released recommendations for summer workouts for school sports. The five-page document outlines three phases, which will require things like pre-screening and temperature checks.

It does not address whether an athletic trainer should conduct those contact screenings.

Phase 1, which allows no more than 10 people, including a coach, at the workout, began Tuesday.

OHSAA Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass told us right before the guidelines were released, though, that athletic trainers are an essential part in sports' comeback.

“Everything from temperatures taken to looking daily at the signs and symptoms -- who’s more important and who is better qualified,” Snodgrass said.

Even Brian Reinhart, St. Xavier’s athletic director, asked the sports medicine staff to advise on guidelines.

“We want to listen to the experts throughout this whole pandemic,” he said. “I think that’s really been important.”

Together with the recommendations from the state, the county, the archdiocese and the OHSAA, St. Xaxier administrators are making a school-specific policy. Reinhart understands that some athletic directors may be getting a push to return, as well as a pull to hold off.

“If we can’t follow the guidelines then we’re not going to do it. That’s just the way it is,” he said. “You can’t be too safe in a pandemic.”

Phase 1 recommendations cover everything from a pre-workout screening, limitations on gatherings, facility cleanings, physical activity, athletic equipment and hydration.

During Phase 1, all coaches and students have to be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Gordon created a survey for the area’s athletic trainers to send to their athletes so they can answer the pre-workout screening questions before arriving on site.

During Phase 2, up to 50 people may gather for outdoor workouts with social distancing in place.

During Phase 3, workouts may also move indoors with social distancing still in place.

Each phase is 14 days. Gordon's hope is that if administrators and health care professionals collaborate, no one will have to go through another season without sports.

“Let’s try to do this right because we get one shot

BEHIND THE SCENES: Mallon finds second home at West Noble


May 23, 2020

LIGONIER — As soon as Amberly Mallon walked into the gym at West Noble High School, she felt like she was at home.

The Grove City, OH native was looking to get back into working with kids, and an opportunity came up to work at Parkview Sports Medicine. She was hired and has been the athletic trainer at West Noble in the seven years since.

“I walked into the gym with (West Noble Athletic Director) Tom (Schermerhorn) and it was like walking into my high school gym,” Mallon said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is like being at home.’ … That’s become my community: even though I live in Fort Wayne, Ligonier is my community.”

Grove City is a suburb of Columbus. Mallon went to Ohio University for her undergrad before getting her graduate degree at Urbana University in Springfield, OH. She worked in the Columbus area for seven years before taking the job with Parkview.

Mallon’s official title with Parkview Sports Medicine is “PSM Care Navigator Supervisor, Athletic Trainers.” She helps train and oversees the athletic trainers through PSM in this role. What most people know her for, though, is her work with West Noble.


Not only has Mallon been at the school for seven years, but she’s developed relationships that go beyond the trainer-athlete title.

“Amberly is such a part of the family at West Noble,” Schermerhorn said. “As an athletic trainer, she deals with a lot. Her job description is probably a lot of physical rehabilitation and treating injuries, but she probably spends more time dealing with the mental aspect of it and the emotional side of our athletes and students. … A lot of kids, she’s just there for them and it’s such an important part of what we do at West Noble.”

For Mallon, it’s important to be there on a daily basis for the athletes. That’s why she commutes 45 minutes each day from Fort Wayne to her office in Ligonier.

“It’s important to see them score the game-winning basket in the sectional game or beat Angola in something, but they come in and they’re excited because they got their driver’s license or they studied really hard on this biology test and got an ‘A,’” Mallon said. “It goes beyond athletics because you get to know who the kids really are and not just their position on the team.”

Building that personal trust, in turn, has made Mallon’s professional job that much easier.

“Being there for those things helps because when they get hurt, we already have that relationship,” Mallon said. “We have that built-in trust of, ‘OK, she was there for me when my dad was really sick and I just needed somebody to talk to. So, now that I’ve had this really bad injury and it’s going to be a while, I can trust her.’ I think it just goes hand-in-hand.”

“She stops by the hospital, she’s checking in with the kid, checking in with the family, seeing if there’s anything she could do,” Schermerhorn added. “She just always goes that extra mile to make sure the kids are cared for, whether it’s making phone calls to the parents.”


The relationship Mallon has built with the athletes has also led to some fun moments.

Whenever an athlete goes down with cramps, they know Mallon will be there with a bottle of mustard. Mallon says the aura around the condiment started before she arrived at the school, but it’s taken on a life of its own since she’s been there.

“There’s a lot of theories that things with sharp tastes or high sodium content can help with cramps,” Mallon said. “Definitely in football, if a kid starts cramping, generally there’ll be some form of a ‘Mustard’ chant from the crowd. The parents seem to really enjoy it because they know their kids don’t like mustard and they’ll take it if it makes them get back into the game.”

Mallon felt a connection to West Noble on her first visit. Seven years later, she’s become a fixture of the school and the Ligonier community.

“It’s really heartwarming,” Mallon said. “I don’t have family in Indiana, so to become such a part of a small, tight-knit family — people are born there and they pretty much stay — is really endearing that I’ve been accepted into that. It means a lot to me.”