The Epic

Athletic trainer helps players back on their feet

Nicole Ong

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It is 7:30 p.m. The football team’s center snaps the ball and the crowd roars with excitement, but exhilaration turns to silence when a player is injured. Megan Gwozdecke immediately runs onto the field to tend to the player.

In such situations, there is one person who always comes to their aid: Gwozdecke, Lynbrook’s athletic trainer.

“If I have to go on the field, I try to make the [injured] kid laugh because it helps them relax,” said Gwozdecke. “If I can make them laugh then I can say, ‘Okay, we’ll be fine.’ Making sure your athlete is calm when they are in pain makes a big difference when evaluating them for injury.”

She assesses the player’s condition and guides him to the sidelines. As the game progresses, she cheers with enthusiasm from the sidelines. She ensures that players are hydrated and adjusts their helmets as they step off the field.  

“At the end of the day, my job is to take care of athletes and make sure that they’re healthy enough to play,” said Gwozdecke. “If you have a boring day, it’s a good day, because that means no one is hurt.”

As the athletic trainer, Gwozdecke plays an integral part in the lives of student athletes. After an injury, she performs rehabilitation with athletes. This process consists of strengthening exercises, stretches or modalities, such as ice and hot packs.

“During sophomore year I sprained my ankle really badly,” said senior Sara Mandic, a varsity girl’s volleyball player. “After I got treatment from the doctor, I checked in with Megan quite often. She’s super patient and gave me really helpful exercises to do. I was a bit scared of her at first, but now we are like besties, and she is one of my favorite people.”

Gwozdecke travels with the football team every game, as football is a full-contact sport. She also travels with other sports teams to major tournaments including leagues and Central Coast Section (CCS) tournaments.

“There are times [during a game] when I’ll be taping the players’ ankles or knees, but someone else goes down,” said Gwozdecke. “ I’ll just drop everything and I have to run. There are times where my job could be hectic, but it’s about staying as calm as you can because when you freak out, the kid will freak out.”

Gwozdecke has two student helpers, seniors Garrett Riley and Shannon Changizi, who help her with tasks such as setting up the field and tending to minor injuries. Changizi assists Gwozdecke during the fall, while Riley assists in the winter.

“I love the fast pace and learning, how it’s outdoors and you’re just kind of everywhere,” said Changizi. “I think being with Megan and the fast pace of everything gave me a passion to pursue medicine. Not only do I look at her as a friend, but she’s also my mentor. I’m not afraid when I get injured because I know she’ll take good care of me.”

Outside of being a student helper, Riley plays both football and baseball and values Gwozdecke both on and off the field.

“I think the most meaningful part is the sensitive family that we have,” said Riley. “A lot of people look to Megan as a teacher; I look at her a mother figure. Same goes for Shannon, we’re all a big family. That’s the best part about it, because at the end of the day, when I graduate high school, I come out with a really close group of people.”

Although the job can often get tough, Gwozdecke always feels fulfilled at the end of the day.  

“I’ve always wanted to be an athletic trainer since high school,” said Gwozdecke. “I’ve played sports my whole life, I love being around sports and I can’t see myself anywhere else. When people are very grateful for what I do for them, that means the most to me. Seeing a kid come back from a serious injury and go back to play is my favorite thing.”

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Athletic trainer helps players back on their feet