by Claire Miller
Inside the athletic facility adjoining the practice fields for Georgia State University’s football team, College of Education students Jessica Hemsley and Jacob Keller make sure the players are in tip-top shape for practice.
Hemsley and Keller, who are first-year graduate students in the Department of Kinesiology and Health’s sports medicine program, also attend games and prepare team members to be healthy, hydrated and ready to play.
They recently sat down to discuss the sports medicine program, their career aspirations and what it’s like to work with the football team.
Q: When did you first become interested in sports medicine?
Jacob: In high school, I played baseball and the athletic trainer really got me interested in sports medicine. I took his class on basic first aid and when I got to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. In researching different collegiate programs, I decided to study athletic training and sports medicine.
Jessica: For me, my family pushed athletics a lot and the importance of being physically active and healthy. So growing up, I played a lot of different sports and always had an appreciation for them. Also, I was more of a math and science person, so I wanted to find that equal balance of the sciences and medicine, along with working in the sports field and with athletes. I also wanted to attend games and practices as often as possible. Being involved in that kind of environment was ideal for me.
Q: When did you first start working with the football team at Georgia State, and how did you get that job?
Jessica: In the graduate program in sports medicine, all students are assigned a position working at Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University or one of the local high schools as athletic trainers. Jacob and I interviewed with Georgia State and during the interview, we expressed our interest in football.
Jacob: We started this June. We had a few days to meet the team and get settled in, and then we started assisting them with their conditioning and weight lifting during most of the summer.
Q: What is a typical day like working with the team?
Jessica: Days are pretty consistent, depending on what part of the season we’re in. We usually report to work around 6 a.m. for pre-practice treatment to deal with injuries or try to prevent them from occurring, whether it be through taping or applying heat packs or doing ultrasounds. We also help get the field ready and set up coolers to keep them hydrated, which is also part of injury prevention.
Jacob: After we get them ready for practice, we make sure they stay hydrated and watch to see if anything happens – like someone goes down or needs to get stretched out again to continue practicing. If they are injured, we bring them back inside and assess it – we have different protocols for different injuries. Then after practice, they’ll lift weights or go to class. We’ll head back to the Sports Arena from there and do treatments in the afternoon.
Jessica: The afternoon treatments give us more time to do exercises and help them maintain strength or recover from an injury, if they have one. If it’s a new injury, we try to help control inflammation and put them on a quick but safe road to recovery. We monitor guys who have injuries, modify their workouts or practices and answer questions about what they should be doing during training.
On game days, it’s a little more focused but we still have a similar protocol of getting the guys taped up and stretched and ready for the game. We watch different sides of the field and when they come to the sidelines, we’ll hand out Powerade and water and check them for cuts and injuries.
Q: What is your favorite part about working with the football team?
Jacob: The players, definitely. There are so many different personalities on the team. No matter what kind of mood you’re in, there’s always someone there who’s going to keep you entertained. And football is just a fun and entertaining sport to watch. There’s always something exciting going on.
Jessica: Between the players, coaches and staff, it’s definitely a team environment. Something entertaining is bound to happen every day. And it’s a great learning experience – you can go from an acute injury, like someone tearing their medial collateral ligament (MCL), to someone who’s had shoulder problems for a year and a half, so there’s a wide variety of injuries we get to encounter and learn how to rehabilitate. It can seem like a daunting amount of time for a job, but it’s enjoyable. This is what we have a passion for.
Q: What do you hope to do when you graduate?
Jacob: I’d like to work with a high school or college team. I’d like to work with college football or baseball, or, like my athletic trainer in high school, I could work at that level with all the sports during the year – soccer, basketball, football and track.
Jessica: I definitely want to stick with athletic training because I enjoy being in that environment at the games and at practices. Ideally, I’d like to work at the college or professional level. As an undergrad, I worked at a high school for a year and while it’s good to see all the sports year-round, I’d like to stick with just one.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about the sports medicine program at Georgia State?
Jacob: I think the classes and the program in general are getting better and better every year – they’re getting more refined and focused. They’re figuring out the best ways to help us out now that the program has been around for a while. It’s good to be a part of this program and see how it grows and improves. And the football program is only two years old, so they’ve had to start from scratch. No matter where I end up, I’ll know what to expect.
Jessica: One of the main things that really attracted me to Georgia State’s program and to working here was the focus on combining our work with Georgia State teams with our class studies. We have a class every semester that we dedicate to what we’ve learned at our jobs and we get to share various injuries we’ve seen that we want more insight on from other athletic trainers in our program. It’s like having a team of trainers working together to figure out ways to correct injuries.