WILKES-BARRE — When you go to a sporting event, you typically go to see the athletes — definitely not the trainers.
But without the trainers, some of the athletes you want to see would not be able to take the field to compete.
Geisinger Health System has sent 18 of its 66 athletic trainers on staff to help the competitors at the ongoing Keystone State Games.
“An athletic trainer is a certified and licensed health care professional who is trained to evaluate, treat and prevent sports injuries,” said Roxanna Larsen, Director of Sports Medicine, Orthotics and Fitness at Geisinger’s Musculoskeletal Institute. “It’s important to have a health care professional on-site for the Keystone Games because they can handle acute and chronic injuries.”
Among the trainers on duty for the games is Chris Krzak, 43, of Blakely, Lackawanna County.
“The Keystone Games have a high level of athleticism,” said Krzak. “I’m there to make sure the kids succeed. But most importantly, that they are safe before, during and after the game.”
“I deal more in the baseball realm in regards to the Keystone Games,” he continued. “But a lot of the trainers in Northeastern Pennsylvania know a lot of the players in the games. So it’s kind of our way of keeping tabs on them.”
An athletic trainer can never be too prepared while on duty at a sporting event.
“Preparation is essential to being an athletic trainer,” Krzak emphasized. “You have to make sure you have an emergency plan before you go to the site.”
He did not get into the profession on a whim. It was motivated by family.
“I was a decent athlete in high school but I really wanted to stay involved with sports,” said Krzak. “I figured athletic training was a good way to help people and stick around in sports.”
He added: “My father had his knees shredded from playing football. I wanted to be one of those people who helped him get back on his feet.”
Trainers are in every college in the area and mostly every high school, according to Krzak.
“Besides school, athletic trainers are at any sporting event like the Keystone Games and marathons.”
He also took the time to dispel some stereotypes about trainers.
“People think that all we do is hand out ice or tape up athletes,” Krzak said. “But that’s not the case. We have the knowledge for injury evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation.
“I know we have an antiquated look but I’m glad people are finally seeing us as medical professionals. The perception is finally changing for the better.”
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes