Coastal Orthopedics’ athletic trainers embrace the unexpected in a profession that’s routinely growing and changing

Athletic training is constantly evolving and progressing along with the growing nature of skill set and competition, as today’s athletes are becoming bigger, stronger and faster across the board.

Athletic trainers are no longer tasked with simply assessing and treating injuries on the field. In recent years, the profession has expanded with athletic trainers providing rehab and treatment in clinic and rehab settings in addition to providing emergency assessment on the field or in the training room.

At Coastal Orthopedics, athletic trainers Tiffany Frickert and Steve Favia specialize in treating acute and chronic muscle and bone conditions often resulting from athletic injury. With a combined 30 years of athletic training experience, Tiffany and Steve have worked in various aspects of sports medicine from working with high school, professional and Olympic athletes as well as outpatient orthopedic patients to creating and running a physical therapy department for orthopedic surgeons or providing ergonomic and onsite industrial athletic training services.

Together, Tiffany, also a licensed physical therapist, and Steve, also the head athletic trainer for Cardinal Mooney High School, work alongside a team of sports medicine physicians and physical therapists to provide the best possible treatment in the hopes of helping athletes return to competition.

With no two days ever the same, Tiffany and Steve have learned to embrace the unexpected. The two have the ability and desire to intervene in the most difficult situations while maintaining a professional degree of composure and compassion, allowing them to provide the best possible care for their athletes.

Q: How do you view the role of an athletic trainer?

Tiffany: The role of an athletic trainer has expanded in the last few years to where we are not only on the field but we are in clinic and rehab settings providing rehab and treatment to athletes as well as initial emergency assessment as needed on the field or in the training room.

Steve: Athletic trainers are the nucleus of a sports medicine team. We know the athletes before the injury, often see the injury happen, and are involved until the return of that athlete to play.

Q: How has athletic training evolved over the past decade as both player skill set and the competitive nature of sports have grown?

Tiffany: I believe athletic training has progressed along with the growing nature of skill set and competition. I think athletic training is more widely recognized in the public eye and is becoming mainstream or a necessity in schools and at the college level.

Steve: Athletes today have become bigger, faster and stronger at all levels.

Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of being an athletic trainer?

Tiffany: That’s easy: the long hours put in caring for the athletes and attending all practices and competitions.
Steve: I like to say things sometimes get “ugly” and “ugly” looks different every time. The ability and desire I see in all Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC) to intervene in “ugly” situations and keep their composure is difficult. These athletes are people we spend every day with, build relationships, and at times, we have to separate our personal feelings in order to do the job.

Q: As an athletic trainer, how do you find balance between professionalism as a first responder and the compassionate need to calm an athlete’s fears and emotions, particularly for those experiencing critical injuries?

Tiffany: We all care about the well being of our athletes and typically develop a strong connection with them, so it is usually easy to put on the “professional face” when needed or when we know that our assessment and care means them being able to participate or come back from a major issue. Psychology classes are involved in the major, so we learn to help them deal with the loss they feel when not participating.

Steve: Trust. Building a solid relationship of trust with your athlete is important; so when that athlete is in a bad situation, they know you are going to be there. And as the ATC, you must be prepared and calm so when those situations arise you can keep calm and do the job.

Q: What’s the most common type of injury you see as an athletic trainer?

Steve: Although one of the best parts of my job is you never know what could happen on the field or what might walk into the clinic, by far the most common injury in active people are the basic sprain and strain injuries of the joint and muscles. 

Q: Which level of competition (i.e. high school, college, professional) do you enjoy working with the most? Why?

Tiffany: Difficult to choose as I have worked in all settings. They each have their rewards. I would probably say professional as some of my best memories were working with beach volleyball players who have now become very dear friends.

Steve: I have experience in all levels of athletics. Although all of these have pros and cons, I enjoy mostly working with the younger high school population. A lot of that has to do with the ability to influence so many young people.

Q: What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to those who are interested in pursuing athletic training as a career?

Tiffany: Be sure to volunteer your time in a clinic or setting that has athletic trainers prior to pursuing your education in athletic training.

Steve: Reach out to an athletic trainer and request some observation. Understanding the good and the bad before entering any profession is always the best practice.

Q: Coastal Orthopedics athletic trainers are actively involved in the community working with a number of different programs at the high school, collegiate and professional level. As a practice, what are some of the ways Coastal Orthopedics has helped shape athletic training in the area and which teams does Coastal Orthopedics assist?

Tiffany: Coastal Orthopedics is a big part of the Cardinal Mooney High School athletic training program: one of our employees works at the high school as their head athletic trainer. I know we have helped some of the up and coming ice skaters from the Ellenton Ice rink. I think it is great we can become a part of the community and have people be aware of our practice. We can see athletes from the start of injury to full return to sport!

Q: What are some of the ways in which students who have an interest in athletic training can get a feel for the field?

Tiffany: Most students can volunteer in a clinical setting or college prior to making their decision to be a trainer. There are several high schools that have programs for students interested in being an ATC where the student spends time in the training room learning under a licensed ATC.

Steve: If a student wishes to experience the field, I would recommend reaching out to the ATC at your school and sitting and speaking with them. I have 10 students who come in daily to assist. This gives them the opportunity to see the good, bad and ugly of the profession.

Q: Are there any additional certifications or licenses that would be beneficial for athletic trainers to obtain to further enhance their athletic training degrees?

Tiffany: I have always thought it is a bonus to have a physical therapy degree in addition to an athletic training degree.

Q: Would you like to include any additional information that you feel is important to this field?

Steve: I encourage everyone to know what an ATC is. There is a large population who commonly mistake athletic trainers for personal trainers, strength coaches, or other health care professions.