TMH Living Well: Certified athletic trainer enhances high school sports

The Memorial Hospital
Marshall Kraker, ATC, Moffat County Schools
Courtesy Photo

If you are a parent of a high school athlete in town, you’ve likely met Marshall Kraker. He’s the one working one-on-one with an injured student to regain strength, or diagnosing an injury at a game. He’s the school district’s certified athletic trainer, a position sponsored by The Memorial Hospital.

March is Athletic Trainer Month, so it’s time to bone up on what it means to be a certified athletic trainer. Start by knowing that certified athletic trainers are not personal trainers. They are allied health professionals and most hold a master’s degree and certification in their field. Certified athletic trainers, or ATCs, can do much more than tape an ankle or give advice on conditioning.

“Certified athletic trainers do a lot with orthopedic prevention, diagnosis, treatment, injury prevention and rehabilitation, compared to a personal trainer who primarily works with strength and condition to meet one’s exercise goals,” Kraker said.

Moffat County Schools is lucky to have an ATC on staff. It’s a new best practice that is catching on in other states. Approximately one-third of the country’s secondary schools employ athletic trainers.

Kraker has been on the job since last fall. He attends every high school practice and home game, unless he is traveling with one of the teams. He’s no stranger to sports himself, having earned a college scholarship in football, basketball and track. He earned his master’s and passed his certification exams in athletic training last spring.

“It’s been wonderful to support the student athletes and coaches. I help bring back athletes who had injuries, diagnose injuries on-the-spot during games, and help kids improve their conditioning and learn how to avoid injuries while playing,” he said.

It isn’t unusual to find him working one-on-one with athletes for up to an hour a day to help them rebound from an injury or correct inappropriate habits that predispose them to injury.

“A big part of my job is playing detective. Students come to me with pain and I have to figure out the source. Parents appreciate the amount of work I spend trying to figure out what’s wrong. Once I find the source I build treatment and strengthening programs that fit their individual needs,” he said.

Kraker has a special interest in diagnosing. He has spent many hours of his personal time reading about different injuries and treatments and watching videos on physicians diagnosing orthopedic issues.

“It has helped me recognize signs, be more accurate and in-depth. It’s really rewarding and families appreciate that they get care immediately and receive advice on when to see a doctor,” Kraker added.

Kraker has diagnosed ACL tears, concussions, sprains, strains, breaks and more this year. He helped initiate a concussion handbook for the district and a more complete concussion program, including a vestibular-ocular screening at the start of the season to provide a baseline for comparing future tests.

Kraker is grateful that The Memorial Hospital gives him the opportunity to advance athletics in Moffat County. Parents, coaches and athletes couldn’t agree more.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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