INSIDE JOB: WHAT AN ATHLETIC THERAPIST REALLY DOES – FEATURING SHAWN WINTERS
Athletic Therapists are always seen on the sidelines of sports. They jump into action when injury occurs both on and off the felid/ice. But, that’s only what the public sees. While checking on our Instagram followers, we came across an Athletic Therapist who resides right here in the BOQ. His name is Shawn Winters. Since we love getting to know our followers, I wanted to get to know a little bit more about him and what he does because, well, to be honest, I’m not exactly the type of guy who would know much about anything to do with athletics.
If you know me, then you know that I am a curious guy and when something intrigues me or leaves me puzzled, I need to know everything there is to know about the subject. I shot Shawn a message via Instagram saying, “I’ve got to ask… what is it that you do exactly?” He responded humorously and mentioned that he gets asked that question a lot.
He went on to say that he is an AT (Athletic Therapist). I had to be honest, I haven’t heard much about this job at all. He responded saying that not a lot of people have unless they have been involved in some sort of semi-professional sport or high-level organized sports team. Makes sense!
The more Shawn spoke about his profession and the local organizations that he is involved with, the more intrigued I was with his work. So, we agreed to link up at BlogBOQ’s “other office,” The Brake Room, to talk more about Athletic Therapy. When we met up, I picked Shawn’s brain for about 2 hours. I got to hear about his early life to current and what his job as an AT is all about.
So, Shawn, can you describe to me what an AT does?
“A lot of what I do is preventative. I assess those painful and stiff body parts and provide corrections to the person that is punishing their body. My goal is to always be as proactive as possible. I want to prepare athletes and help them prevent injuries so that they can better avoid them altogether, rather than have those athletes injure themselves and I help after the fact.”
I am now really starting to understand what being an AT is about, but, what types of injuries or body parts are you able to assess as an AT?
“The technical term for the parts of the body that I treat is the musculoskeletal area. It is exactly what it sounds like. If you injure a muscle, a bone and/or a joint, I will assess you, mobilize you, and provide you with ways to physically recondition the injured body part.”
With all that said, Shawn doesn’t just limit his work to athletes. In fact, he also works as an Athletic Therapist at PhysioHouse in Belleville. There, he works with people of all ages and walks of life who also require therapy. In fact, in a time where people love to say that millennials are “lazy”, Shawn actually has THREE jobs to balance. His busy schedule consists of a day job at the PhysioHouse, working with the Belleville Senators and working with the Belleville Skyhawks. This guy does not stop!
After our initial meet up, Shawn invited me to watch the Skyhawks practice at the local Mary Anne Sills field in Belleville to see for myself how much of the job is preventative. As I got to the field, right away, before practice even started, Shawn had a bunch of football players lining up to tell him about their pain and discomfort. He was all business at the feild while taping, assessing, mobilizing and suggesting physical exercises for the athletes to heal or help the pain/discomfort.
I had to ask… what is the end goal as an AT?
Shawn looked at me with a smile and said, “to get these people back to doing what they love”.
We chatted some more about Shawn’s day job at Physio House. I asked him, what do you think the biggest misconceptions are about working in your field?
“People think that you need to have a referral from a doctor to make an appointment.”
This was a moment where I realized that I was also one of those people and my assumption was wrong. The truth of the matter is, we now live in a society where opioid addiction is at an extreme level. I consider myself well informed and current on a lot of issues but, like many others, I believed that you needed to see a doctor before stepping into a Physio office.
When Shawn told me this bit of information, I was blown away. Shawn continued to say, “Scary, isn’t it? So many people end up going to the doctor’s office and getting a prescription for a pain killer before looking into how to take control of their pain with physical therapy first.”
He then went on to say that he has seen it firsthand himself.
“I’ve treated people who, only after a very short time, became addicted to pills and are now trying to come off of them and take control of their mobility and pain management.”
I then asked, what is the prognoses for someone who has been addicted and injured?
“Not good. With years of numbing an injury and not using corrective therapy that would change the physiology of the injury, the pain can be lifelong. Basically, if you let an injury go untreated and then take a pill that allows you to not feel the pain, the injury doesn’t just go away. You continue to use that body part while still not corrected and that only makes the problem worse.“
So, what would you tell people who need help?
“Listen, I’m not saying don’t go to your doctor, but what I am saying is that you can take control of your life now. You don’t have to be a victim of your circumstance.”
It was kind of eye opening that our conversation from the point of when we met to current went in this direction, but I guess it only made sense. Shawn continued on to say, “many people think that someone who is addicted to opioids looks a certain way, or comes from a low-income family, but, that’s not the case. It’s people who have labor intense jobs, people who get hurt in car accidents, ex-athletes. I’ve seen pretty much anyone from all walks of life struggle with pain and mobility."
" I’m kind of a quiet guy, but I will not give up on anyone who gets up everyday and comes in to better themselves. I’m here not only to guide you, but I’m also here to encourage you.”
Before speaking to Shawn about Athletic Therapy, I was very unaware of the topic altogether. Not only did he educate me on what the job is about, but he also corrected my assumptions. Shawn really understands people and what they need, and he will work with you to help you recondition your body after injury. Best of all, he will always take preventative measures to help you avoid more damage.