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  • Writer's pictureSally Maeng

Caring for athletes with injuries

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Karina's story


When I was in university, you could guess which departments certain students belonged to by looking at their outfits. Ones in blazers and dress shirts were business students. Those who wore bold colors with either a vintage or flamboyant feel were in art programs. Meanwhile, people who paired leggings or Adidas track pants with dry-fit shirts and hoodies were often kinesiology students.

Karina was one of these sports attire wearing kinesiology students. Like many students in this program, her passion for sports science (and biomechanics, physiotherapy, and alike) stemmed from being a high school athlete. She grew up playing softball.

As it is with most athletes, she endured injuries. However, she and her team did not have a healthcare provider - such as an athletic therapist - to guide them through the rehabilitation process. That led to injuries lasting longer than needed.

Did you get my big hint on what Karina's big passion is? Karina is passionate about becoming an athletic therapist (AT) to help athletes with injuries from prevention to rehabilitation. ATs work in high schools (although this is more true for the US than Canada), colleges, hospitals, clinics, industrial settings, and more. Their main objectives are to prevent injuries, assess injuries, rehabilitate injuries, and care for injuries.

Currently, Karina is pursuing a Master's of AT at Whitworth University. Before this, she worked various AT-like jobs. (Just like how you can't be called a lawyer or doctor without proper education and certification, the same goes for ATs.) She was the trainer (not the AT) and kinesiologist for multiple men's varsity sports teams, a junior football team, junior and senior lacrosse teams, and a minor midget hockey team. Furthermore, she worked at a physio clinic and spearheaded an athletic healthcare program for a small college. In other words, Karina loves practicing sports medicine.

Karina eagerly ensures her athletes spend the least amount of time being injured.

She tapes limbs and ligaments and gives massages. She helps them stretch, conducts first aid, and implements injury prevention protocols.

Karina is the first person athletes see when they get injured. Once, I watched Karina be escorted onto the hockey rink to assess one of her player's injuries.

After the assessment, she recommends the next step, such as ice, concussion test, or stitches. Afterward, Karina would care for the athlete throughout the various healing process. She is the one consistent healthcare individual who is with the athlete from injury to recovery.

What fires up Karina the most is watching athletes recuperate and come back to play. The joy on their faces makes her tear up! Karina was once an athlete herself, so she knows how big of a deal this is. On top of that, she was there when the athlete got hurt. They walked through the entire journey of recovery together. She can't help but feel like a proud mama.

While I am incredibly charmed by Karina's passion and ambition, I reached my word limit for this blog. There is so much more I would've loved to add:

  • Karina's career goals and different types of AT jobs

  • Women in AT: The statistics and hardships of balancing prestigious AT jobs with expected family responsibilities

  • Karina's experience in being a female AT for men's sports teams

  • The importance of having ATs for high school level sports and not just reserving it for adult league teams

  • How Canada needs to improve its AT industry to provide better care for all athletes

For now, let me end by saying that Karina didn't even know what an AT was until she was more than halfway through her bachelor's degree. Now, she can't stop talking about it.

If you don't know what your passion is yet, perhaps it's because you haven't come across it. Sure, finding the passion (if such exists) involves hard work and being open-minded. But it also involves fate and the graciousness of others to provide you with the right opportunities.

So get ready, because when you come across your passion, I'm sure you'll knock it out of the park. (That was a softball reference because Karina was a softball player. I'm super witty, right? Just kidding, until next time!)


To contact Karina and learn more about this story, follow @karinalahti on Instagram.


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