Athletic Trainer Melissa Brusnahan doesn’t want to see you needing her services; she wants you healthy

by Julia Veik

Playing sports keeps you active, healthy and in shape, but along with those benefits comes with the risk of injury. A variety of injuries can stem from sports, but Mrs. Melissa Brusnahan, the Head Athletic Trainer at Marian, is prepared to treat them all. Brusnahan has been an athletic trainer for 27 years and has been the Head Athletic Trainer at Marian for 24 years. Her own experiences with injury recovery are what initially led her to her career.

“I had back surgery as a sophomore in high school, followed by a lot of physical therapy, which is what I initially intended to pursue. After my first semester in college working as a student athletic trainer I realized that was more my calling,” Brusnahan said.

Overuse injuries are becoming more and more common for Brusnahan to see. Overuse injuries are caused by the repeated use of specific muscles, ligaments and tendons without giving the body time to heal before using it again. 

“You’re always going to have your acute ligament tears and ligament sprains, but the overuse, whether it’s swimmers and their shoulders, runners and their lower extremities, lower extremity overuse with volleyball and basketball players, you see it in every sport. It has just exploded with specialization and year-round training,” Brusnahan said. 

To combat overuse injuries, Brusnahan suggests switching up workouts and trying new things to work different muscles in your body. By using those different muscles, athletes can still stay fit with less risk of an overuse injury. 

“That’s why we encourage two and three sport athletes. You need to change up your workout. If a basketball player goes out and goes for a run or goes out and plays pick-up tennis they’re still using muscles, they’re still staying fit, but they’re using the muscles in a different pattern, so that’s beneficial. Changing it up is the biggest thing,” Brusnahan said.

An injury that has become more talked about in recent years is concussions. Concussions seem as though they have become more common in recent years, however, people have simply grown more aware of what concussions are and how to identify them in student athletes. 

“I think schools and just society in general are much more aware of concussions, people say ‘wow there’s a lot more concussions nowadays than there used to be.’ That’s not really true, there have always been concussions, it’s just that in the last 10 to 12 years with all the media attention to concussions, we’re more aware of them. We recognize them for what they are and we treat them accordingly,” Brusnahan said.

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In a 2014 Nebraska Legislative amendment (LB782/AM2057) to the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act, schools were required to have in place protocol for assisting students recovering from a concussion returning to school.  The amendment to section 71-9104 (1) of the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act directs schools to do the following:

Sec. (c) Establish a return to learn protocol for students that have sustained a concussion. The return to learn protocol shall recognize that students who have sustained a concussion and returned to school may need informal or formal accommodations, modifications of curriculum and monitoring by medical or academic staff until the student is fully recovered (nebsportsconcussion.org).

Brusnahan has ensured that Marian’s protocol for injuries such as concussions properly accommodates students with changes in their schoolwork and practices. She has established a protocol that educates students about the risks of concussions and the reasons why the school has to take the steps that it does to accommodate the students with concussions. 

“I think we do a really good job here at Marian, we have a really good protocol in place that I’ve helped set up between the teachers, the counselors, the athlete, the parents, the coaches, and we’re all pretty much on the same page and work really well together. I think we’ve done a good enough job educating that everybody understands at least the very basic ways that a concussion works and why we need to make the accommodations we do,” Brusnahan said.

Regardless of where interests lie, life comes with the inherent risk of injury. Sports can increase those chances of injury, but with a solid base of understanding about how to lessen that chance and treat your body well, the risk can be minimized.

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