News – Head Football AT Fired

27 May

It should come at no surprise that professionals working in athletics (coaches, strength coaches, ADs) are hired and fired on a regular basis.  This is especially true in the professional ranks and at the NCAA Division 1 level in high profile sports.   The pressure to win from pro sports fans and college alumni (i.e. the revenue stream) often hastens the process of firing due to inadequate performance on the job.

It is unusual that an athletic trainer gets fired for performance on the field.

Oregon State has dismissed Barney Graff amid growing questions and complaints about the longtime football head trainer’s work and the sports medicine arm of Beavers athletics in general, coach Mike Riley confirmed to The Oregonian.

The trainer’s tenure at Oregon State dates to 1997, the first year the Beavers football program was led by Riley, a coach whose loyalty to longtime staffers is well known.

“I think I can say we’re just going a different direction with this medical situation,” said Riley, who said he has already interviewed candidates for Graff’s position.

Riley said he met several times with Graff over the years to discuss recurring problems. The decision to let Graff go came shortly after spring football ended on April 30, said Riley.

While the OSU coach was hesitant to go into detail about individual situations, he acknowledged that football players had in some cases lost confidence in the medical care they were receiving.

I have not met Mike Graff, AT nor am I familiar with the Oregon State University.  I will not comment on this particular case since I do not know the whole story.  I will take this opportunity to write about the concerns raised in the article because in the general sense, all ATs can learn from what was written.

Behind the scenes criticism of the football training operation date as far back as 2005, when outside linebacker Andy Darkins of Lake Oswego had to give up football after playing several games with a torn right biceps.

In more recent years, Oregon State has suffered a string of injuries including former quarterback Sean Canfield’s torn labrum, former quarterback Lyle Moevao’s rotator cuff, former running back Jacquizz Rodgers’ shoulder and current wide receiver/kick returner James Rodgers’ shattered knee.

No OSU sources, on or off the record, said Graff is responsible for those or other injuries, but Beavers athletes have openly complained at times about the care they’ve received under Graff’s watch.

The disconnect, sources in the athletic department said, grew so large that the training staff was reluctant to seek outside help and opinions on players’ injuries and treatment.

ATs take great pride in their work.  The foundation of everything we provide is injury evaluation and subsequent rehabilitation.  Often our evaluation reveals that an MD should evaluate the injury, but more often than not the evaluation reveals an injury that we can probably take care of entirely ourselves. 

This pride in our abilities increases with experience and continuing educations.  The more we experience in the field and learn equates to our ability to keep more and more minor injuries in house.  Athletic trainers want to prove we are valuable professionals to have around.  This desire to be valuable may cause us to do too much and not send athletes out to other medical professionals.

What ATs need to prevent the issue raised in the article is a great working relationship with a team physician.  In an idyllic setting, this team physician would come to the training room on a regular basis to provide access for the injured athletes who may not necessarily need to make an office call.  This idyllic relationship between the AT, the team physician and the athletic department would also allow for easy access for injured athletes to the doctor’s office within 24-48 hours of injury.  There should also be an arrangment when an emergency situation arises so that the doctor can meet the injured athlete at a local hospital if at all possible.

The other issue raised with this article is the athlete’s complaint of not listening to or caring for the athletes who bring health issues to the attention of the athletic training staff.  It is important for ATs to know and care for the athletes and learn to listen to their complaints.  This skill is often tough when the hours get long, patience runs thin and staffing is low.  It is tough to listen to athletes complain about their aches and pains for hours on end, but it is what it is.  

 

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