By Jake Crouse, Copy Editor
On a list of “favorite daily activities of college students,” one might find lunch with friends, club meetings, napping or keeping up with favorite television shows. But for one Furman student, the sound of a 7 a.m. alarm tops the list.
Junior Megan Kirkpatrick is in her car on the way to work before many teachers have finished breakfast. As the sun rises, so do the athletes that she helps each day as a student assistant with the Sports Medicine Department at Furman.
“We don’t have to go every morning,” Kirkpatrick says, “but I go because I love to watch and take in as much as I can.”
The work is not always glamorous for sports medicine student assistants, she says. A new day doesn’t always mean a new diagnosis or a new recovery. But for Kirkpatick, the dry, routine parts of her job are meaningful as well.
“Handing out water is not the most exciting thing,” she said, “but without water these players aren’t on the field. They can’t stand.”
When the players do reach the field, Kirkpatrick is often right there on the sidelines with them – handing out water, distributing towels, assessing possible injuries. Though she works to understand and help treat injuries, she is hoping that she doesn’t have to learn lessons each game.
“It’s a weird situation,” Kirkpatrick says, “because you don’t want to be bored, but in a sense you do because if you’re bored that means no one is getting hurt.”
Unfortunately, injuries happen often and sometimes in gruesome fashion. Kirkpatrick watched from the sidelines as a Stetson soccer player went down two weeks ago after a late challenge from a Furman defender, which resulted in a broken leg and a hospital visit.
“That was awful and I felt so bad for the Stetson player,” she says. “We hate to see those things happen.”
Kirkpatrick feels a lot of empathy for the injured players she deals with, because for her, injury is not just a lesson to guide her studies in health sciences – it is also an all-too-familiar past. In high school, Kirkpatrick suffered an ACL injury in the last weeks of her senior basketball season. The injury required training with a physical therapist in her area, and since then things have never been the same for Kirkpatrick.
“Going through recovery, I found myself always asking my physical therapist questions,” she says. “I had never really been like that with a class before, so in that way, it was something new.”
The answers she received spiked an interest in athletic training and physical therapy for Kirkpatrick. So when the assistant trainer position with the Furman sports medicine program was offered, Kirkpatrick seized it.
Kirkpatrick works practices, games, treatments – there are very few times she finds herself missing an opportunity to learn in this environment. She says this is a true representation of why Furman is perfect for her education.
“You can read in a book all you want all day long,” Kirkpatrick says, “but until you actually experience and see how things actually work, real mechanisms of injury or anything along those lines, it’s very different.”
Though sports medicine is often associated with textbook physiology and anatomy, there is also an emotional investment in the process that you have to experience, she says. For a number of players, injury can bring with it feelings of despondency about missing time on the field, which translates into pessimism in the early stages of rehabilitation.
“If someone thinks that they are not going to achieve what they want to, then they give up,” she says.
But she and the sports medicine workers refuse to let players give up on themselves, providing an uplifting experience to help the athletes overcome injuries to body and psyche.
“The atmosphere is very positive,” Kirkpatrick says. “There’s a lot of laughter and a surprising amount of encouragement.”
The determination these players show during the process, she says, is an “inspiration” to her experience at Furman. So whether they are back on the field or stuck in rehabilitation, Kirkpatrick and her eight co-assistants will be by their side every step of the way.