Behind the Scenes
Four decades after Title IX legally removed barriers that kept American women out of sports, St. Kate’s Division III varsity programs are stronger, involve more students and are continually raising the bar for athletic performance.
Helping St. Kate’s athletes prevent and recover from injuries in this increasingly competitive environment is Abby Edgar, now in her 10th year as head athletic trainer. As sports seasons cycle through the year, she and Jeff Polski, the strength and conditioning coach, work with some 70 to 80 athletes at a time — consulting as needed with therapists from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program (see "Diving In," the DPT feature in this SCAN issue) and physicians and physical therapists from Twin Cities Orthopedics.
Edgar’s job demands as much empathy and psychology as knowledge of sports and physiology. She is certified by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, and holds a B.A. in athletic training and health education, and an M.S. in school health education.
Edgar works hard to build relationships with students from their first year on. She attends almost all varsity games and most practices; she’s there to evaluate, tape, ice and consult. Those relationships, however, can be tested when Edgar has to call an athlete off the field — for injuries that can range from sprains to concussions, to tears of the knee ligament.
She believes that for the athlete, going through the recovery process can be as formative as playing the sport itself. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to evaluate a personal, emotion-laden situation logically.
“I think that’s part of college,” she says. “That’s part of growing up — kind of a life lesson. But there’s definitely pushback. They absolutely want to play, and I respect that. So I say, ‘If you play, here are the risks. I understand this might be the last time that you get to play at a college level or that you might get to compete. But if it is a concussion, what will happen if you do hit your head again? Do you want to be able to walk in 10 years?’”
Edgar also helps athletes recognize the broader impact of their decisions. “I’ll ask: ‘Can you do your job? Are you helping the team if you go out there right now?’ Sometimes they don’t realize, until we have that conversation, that their decision affects other people,” she explains.
Ultimately, Edgar bases the decision to return an athlete to play on empirical evidence. Can she kick a ball the way she must to participate? How is her balance? Can she walk without pain? This year, Edgar plans to start administering cognition and coordination tests to establish concrete baselines she and injured athletes could use to measure recovery.
“I cry with the athletes; I laugh with them,” she says. “I love my job. My best day at work is when they’re all healthy and they’re all out there, and I can just sit and watch them play.”