GRAPEVINE, Texas – When Faith played Midland Christian in football this year, sophomore Ben Ashton took a hit he will never forget. Running down the sideline, Ashton went up to catch a pass and was hit as he came down. He flipped and landed on his head. Coaches rushed to his side, but the most important person on the field at that moment was Brandon Stafford.
Stafford is Faith’s athletic trainer this year, and nowhere is his presence more noticeable than on the football field. “I’m essentially the first medical professional a lot of these kids will see,” Stafford said.
Stafford is not directly employed by Faith. He works for Texas Orthopedic Associates which provides athletic trainers for Faith. Stafford said he got this job because he knew a doctor at Texas Orthopedic Associates from his clinical rotations in school. “Dr. Harris’s sons play sports here. He’s one of the doctors at Texas Orthopedic, and they contracted me out to the school,” he said.
When a player goes down on the field, the first thing Stafford checks are the ABC’s: “air, blood flow, and circulation.” Sometimes these things are very easy to check. “If a kid goes down and he’s talking or screaming, you know obviously he’s breathing,” Stafford said. After he has established an athlete’s vitals and that the athlete is not more seriously injured, he said, “it just depends on what they’re complaining of. Most importantly you want to make sure their neurological system is intact, especially if it’s a head injury or neck injury.”
When Ashton went down, the first thing Stafford did was make Ashton talk to him. “He said he got hit and twisted around and kind of landed funny and that his head hurt. That notes that you want to be careful about a cervical spine injury, so we took our time with him to make sure it wasn’t his spine that was injured,” Stafford said.
Once he had ruled out a spinal injury, he was able to roll Ashton over and check other areas. “It was a scary moment because you always think the worst and prepare for the worst, but it wasn’t his cervical spine and that was important,” Stafford said. “We want to make sure he’s not going to be paralyzed. You want to make sure you can get them up and off the field safely.”
Stafford does even more off the field. He helps the managers prepare the water coolers for the games and, for football, tapes every varsity athlete. Unfortunately, unlike public school athletic trainers, he cannot work at the school full-time. While public school athletic trainers may put in 40 to 50 hours a week with their athletes, he only gets around 15 or 20 [hours]. Stafford said he wishes he had more time at Faith, “I wish I could get to know them better. I’d like to be able to do some rehab treatments with kids in here, but that’s just not what this job calls for.”
“If a player comes out of a game, then the person that makes the call is me,” Stafford said. “I’m looking out for the student-athletes’ best interests. Their health is my concern. If I feel like they’re only going to harm themselves or they can’t protect themselves, then they can’t go back in.”
“I try to prep for what I might need in an emergency or in the middle of the games,” Stafford said. Before each game, he tapes and bandages athletes who need it, takes the training kit and AED out to the sidelines along with water for warm-up, and helps some players stretch. “Once the game starts it’s just sit back and wait for injuries. You definitely hope they don’t, but it’s probably going to happen,” Stafford said. “I’d rather be here for four hours and not have to deal with any injuries, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often.”
While he is Faith’s athletic trainer, Stafford does not hesitate to help visiting teams out as well. “If a visiting player goes down, I’m more than willing to go out there to help and see if their athletic trainer needs anything,” he said. “If a player goes down for either team, my job is to help.”
To see this article as it was originally printed in the Grapevine Faith RAWR, click here.