From taping ankles to treating injuries, Chase Louthan gradually learns the ins and outs of becoming an athletic trainer.
“You can’t just learn everything from a book,” said Louthan, a senior athletic training major. “Athletic training is hands-on.”
Throughout his education in the athletic training program, Louthan’s experience at EIU has been exactly that – hands-on.
From clinical experiences with men’s and women’s swimming, men’s soccer, football and baseball teams, Louthan feels confident in his training at EIU, and he is ready to take the national certification test for athletic trainers next fall. Before graduation, Louthan will intern for the Minnesota Vikings this summer.
Unlike other athletic training programs, Louthan started gaining experiences with athletes and patients the moment he started EIU’s program.
“A lot of other programs in bigger universities will not let the students gain experience with teams till their senior year,” he said.
“As soon as we get into the program, we are assigned a team, and we will work with the athletes all through our career in the program.”
Within the program, Louthan said, a certified athletic trainer observes all the students’ actions, and ensures the students are comfortable and ready to care for patients. “From day one, we are in the athletic training room learning by doing,” Louthan said.
Louthan also has helped out with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s wrestling and track teams since the U of I cut its own program. They asked EIU if athletic training students would like the opportunity to gain additional Division I intercollegiate experiences on their campus.
Program Director Lee Ann Price ’96, ’97 said EIU’s program is competitive and selective, and prepares students like Louthan for the national certification test. Students undergo hours of observation training and hands-on experience at local high schools, Lantz Arena, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and EIU’s Health Services.
As part of the program, each athletic trainer is required to gain experience with a variety of different patient populations including an upper extremity sport such as swimming, a more contact-related sport like football and a sport of the opposite gender.
Students also are required to have an internship outside of the program, she said.
Throughout the program, Louthan also takes rigorous classes focused on creating a well-rounded athletic trainer who is able to identify different medical conditions. Students learn how to identify everything from ACL tears or a common cold, to knowing the signs if an athlete is depressed or has an eating disorder, Price said.
In a regular week, Louthan will spend anywhere from 20 to 40 hours — depending on the clinical rotation — providing patient and athlete care from preventative tapping and emergency care to orthopedic rehab. Last fall, Louthan even helped with the EIU football team during its 2013 winning season.
In a normal practice for the EIU football team, Louthan said they set up for practice by preparing water and taping ankles. Then they monitor the practice to ensure the athletes do not have any injuries.
After practice, the athletic trainers will treat any existing injuries and provide rehab and maintenance, such as a cold whirlpool bath for injuries occurring during practice.
“Football is the most time consuming because practices are long, there are more injuries and more athletes to deal with,” Louthan said.
Game days often last from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with athletic training students there to prepare athletes for the game, monitor the game and then provide treatment after the game.
“Athletic trainers are the first ones to respond to an injury,” Louthan said. “If someone goes down on the field, we are the first ones there.”
As an athletic training student, the worst injury Louthan has witnessed was an ACL tear, which takes six to eight months of recovery after surgery.
As a sports lover and athlete, Louthan said the athletic training program seemed perfect for him, especially since he enjoyed the medical component, too.
“I have always been around sports my whole life, and I decided I wanted to stay around sports,” Louthan said. Before coming to Eastern, Louthan played football, basketball and baseball in high school and baseball in community college.
Eventually, Louthan wants to work for a professional team, and dreams of one day working for the St. Louis Cardinals. Louthan said he looks forward to traveling to Minnesota to work for the Vikings football team.
As of now, he is not the only student in EIU’s program working for a professional team this summer. Other interns will be working for teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. As in other fields, good references are essential to landing internships and jobs, he said.
“Athletic training is a lot about who you know, and we have professionals at EIU that know a lot of other professionals in the field,” he said.
Even though Louthan competed against students all over the United States for the internship, he landed the internship with help from EIU clinical coordinator John Storsved. Since Storsved had already sent a student to the Vikings, the team called him and asked him about Louthan. Storsved gave him an outstanding reference.
From hours of experience, Louthan said he looks forward to starting a field he is truly passionate about, and he is ready to be a first responder for athletes and different patient populations.
“If an athletic trainer is not there, then who is going to be there if someone gets hurt?” he said.