Stop the bleeding, tape an ankle, repeat

Head athletic trainer Chris Franklin demonstrates the proper ankle taping technique on student Nikki Taplin. The student trainers have been in the training room from 1-7 p.m since Aug. 18.  - Tara Lemm/Staff Photo
Head athletic trainer Chris Franklin demonstrates the proper ankle taping technique on student Nikki Taplin. The student trainers have been in the training room from 1-7 p.m since Aug. 18.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff Photo

Student athletic trainers help

keep athletes fit and on the field.

POULSBO — It could be said they have a fetish for nose plugs, and prefer sports with a little blood.

“We like blood because it’s quick and exciting, and it gets your adrenaline rushing,” said North Kitsap High School rising senior Rose Bissonnette, who’s finishing her third year in the Athletic Medicine/Student Athletic Training Program. “We don’t like to train some sports because they don’t have injuries, like baseball. I love wrestling.”

Bissonette and training partner in crime Meghan O’Hara, a NKHS rising senior who’s wrapping up her third year in the program, have selected wrestling as one of their top sports to student train. They’ve memorized how many nose plugs each wrestler requires to stop a bloody nose. They pride themselves on being able to place nose plugs faster than any other student training team.

“For wrestling it’s timed, so it’s like your own competition,” O’Hara explained.

Bissonette and O’Hara are joined by approximately 25 other student trainers completing the three-year program at NKHS.

These students, in addition to head athletic trainer Chris Franklin and assistant athletic trainer Craig Middlebrook — a 2003 NKHS grad — are a major reason why NKHS sports operate smoothly, and athletes remain in healthy playing shape.

They’re some of the high school sports world’s most important players, but without the uniforms and acclaim. The student trainers travel with the teams. They’re on the sidelines making sure the players are hydrated. They tape ankles and go through 900 to 1,000 rolls of athletic tape a year. They stock first aid kits. They’re prepared and ready to help a few hours before and after each practice or game. They keep the athletes accountable for completing injury prevention exercies. They’ve gotten up at 4 a.m. to catch the bus to wrestling tournaments and put in a 17 hour training day. Sometimes they’re out and about until midnight at varsity football games.

Many of them are honor roll, AP student-athletes themselves, experiencing both sides of sports and school, bringing their books on the bus.

“It’s like a job where they can’t pay us,” said Taylor Ottomano, a NKHS rising junior who’s in her second year of the program. “But we get a lot of cookies and cupcakes.”

The No. 1 goal of the athletic department and its trainers is preventing injuries. It’s a goal they’ve been quite successful at, as some serious injuries have become nearly obsolete at NKHS.

Franklin doesn’t like concussions.

“A head injury can change a person,” he said. “I know how scary they can be. I’d much rather prevent that.”

So he did.

When Franklin arrived at NKSD 14 years ago he implemented mandatory helmet fitting the night before football games. He said a haircut or weight loss can cause a helmet to fit improperly. The season before helmet fitting became common place Franklin said NKHS football players suffered six concussions. In the last 14 years Franklin said there’s maybe been four or five concussions. He said about two to three helmets need adjustments each week, which is two to three kids who’re protected.

“I really take pride in making sure the helmets fit properly,” he said. “We’ve seen a dramatic decrease, and it’s just something that protects the kids.”

However, ankle sprains, pulled hamstrings or quadriceps and jammed fingers remain common. But that’s going to be the story in any training room at any athletic level across the country.

In addition to nixing serious injuries and rehabilitating mildly injured athletes daily so they recover faster, a major bonus of the training program is trust. When an athlete is injured, student trainers are their friends and can lend psychological support as well.

Nikki Taplin, a rising junior at NKHS, is in her second year of athletic training. She’s also a basketball player. Last year during a game Taplin and another girl crashed into each other. Taplin’s eye was cut and bleeding everywhere, but she wasn’t worried.

“It was really reassuring because I knew the trainer,” she said. “I knew they would take good care of me. When you know the people it’s a lot easier to trust them.”

Several of the students in the program have an interest in the medical field and plan on studying medicine after they graduate. Participating in the athletic medicine and training program at NKHS is the perfect stepping stone.

NKHS is one of four high schools in Washington that has an articulation agreement with Eastern Washington University. NKHS students who complete the program and attend EWU arrive with six college credits to their transcript.

Franklin said he’s working on developing articulation agreements with Washington State University and Whitworth University.

Currently three NKHS athletic medicine program graduates are at WSU and EWU, with one at Whitworth and Michigan State and two are in medical school.

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