Coaches diagram plays, players execute them and, if everything works according to plan, there’s a good outcome. But when athletes sustain injuries, the trainer comes into play, and the results can make the real difference in the game of life.
There’s a good chance that one of the most vital people to the success of a high school sports team is someone who isn’t known to many people. Coaches diagram plays, players execute them and, if everything works according to plan, there’s a good outcome. But when athletes sustain injuries, the trainer comes into play, and the results can make the real difference in the game of life.
Faced with ever-shrinking budgets, the high school athletic director is increasingly faced with a dilemma: choosing where to allocate the on-site services of a medical professional. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association limits mandated trainers to every game and practice for football on all levels and varsity hockey. That leaves the decision of how to assign trainers for all other school sports to local athletic departments.
Marblehead works in concert with Shaughnessy-Kaplan Sports Therapy & Rehabilitation Center that also has a clinic at the Jewish Community Center in town.
“We pay them and they provide us with a trainer for practices, games and preseason,” MHS Athletic Director Mike Plansky said. “For those sports that don’t require a trainer, we prioritize on the greater chance of injury in each sport. We also have the trainer present at home boys lacrosse games.
“If we have multiple events, we call in other trainers that I might know or EMTs in the area to fill the bill,” said Plansky. “We do the best we can without an unlimited budget.”
About $15,000 is allocated annually for a high school sports trainer in his budget, he said.
Kevin Samaha has served as the 30-hour/week Marblehead High trainer for the last two years. He is employed by Shaughnessy-Kaplan and works the remaining 10 hours each week at the JCC clinic, Plansky said.
“All of the coaches have [Samaha’s] number if they need him. They are also equipped with medical kits, and they also have the most important emergency numbers just in case something happens and he’s not around,” the A.D. said.
The trainer arrives on the job at Marblehead High every day at 2 p.m.
“Football is the only sport that I travel with, but I also go on the road with any team that makes the state tournament,” said Samaha, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training from Endicott College. He’s taking prerequisite courses to attend graduate school at Northeastern University to become a physician’s assistant in sports medicine at an orthopedic center.
“I’m also at boys and girls hockey and lacrosse games, which takes priority over baseball and track,” he said, “but if I get a call from the track coach at the Village School or the baseball coach at Seaside Park, I’m only less than a mile away.”Shaken by tragedy
Monday a North Andover senior died after collapsing at a track meet a week earlier. Samaha admits that Marblehead might have to rethink the use of defibrillators following that incident Currently, the high school has two on site. Neither is on the sidelines with Samaha, but a defibrillator is close by, in the athletic wing of the building.
“Salem State College has one [defibrillator] for hockey games, and we have two. But after the North Andover situation last week I might have to bring it out with me, along with splint bags, cervical collars and crutches, as well as a medical kit for high-risk sports,” he said.
“For football, I also have what they call a ‘trainer’s angel,’ which is a devise that cuts off the facemask on a helmet. We’re supposed to keep the helmet and pads on them to prevent as much movement as possible.”
Samaha said he also will keep the defibrillator at hand for low-risk sports, along with a medical kit and ice to keep down swelling in areas like ankles.
In his two years along the Marblehead sidelines, Samaha has dealt with nothing more serious than elbow dislocations and knee ligament issues.
“Fortunately, there was nothing that was life threatening,” he said.
A Concord, N.H., native, Samaha enjoys being a Marblehead trainer but says it’s anything but easy.
“When the bell rings at 2:30 p.m., I’ve 40 kids lined up at my office to be taped, treated for injuries or stretching rehab. It could be overwhelming for one person,” he said.
“The winter season is my favorite, because it’s indoors and there are less athletes, which gives me more time for one-on-one care that they deserve.”
Samaha was the road trainer for North Shore Spirit games last summer and will be the home trainer for the North Shore Navigators in its first season.
“I enjoy working with the pros, because there’s two trainers instead of doing it by myself, and also, I just have one team to worry about,” he said.
Despite the heavy workload, Samaha isn’t complaining, because he knows he has the support of the coaches as well as the parents, something he was nervous about when he accepted the MHS position.
“I was able to establish their trust and we’re now on the same page,” he said.