Q&A with head athletic trainer Gagan Cheema

Devon Lee, Tech Editor

The Oracle: Have you always known you wanted to be a trainer? Gagan Cheema: Yes. In school, I started off in a different health care discipline, but a lot of the prerequisites followed athletic training. Having known what an athletic trainer does—because in high school I had to see our athletic trainer a lot—and as soon as I was familiar with what kinesiology was and the kinesiology discipline, I sort of knew, “Okay, this is the path I want to take because I want to be a health care practitioner, but I also love athletics and sports.” So I think I knew from an early point in my collegiate career that this is where I wanted to go.
TO: What do you think is the best way to prevent injury?
GC: The best way to prevent injury is a combination of different exercises. Sometimes there’s a little misconception that you don’t start exercising hard until your season begins. The best way to prevent injuries is to continue at least some sort of program, although it varies between when you’re in and out of season. Pre-season and post- season workouts are important, whether it’s the strength or conditioning workout or mobility training, to make sure that you’re moving correctly and you’re working at some level of athletic physical activity, and that’s just to maintain a healthy body as far as bones and musculoskeletal and soft tissue goes. Make sure that you have consistency and you almost make exercising part of your life. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you do during a season, but just get some sort of physical activity in and make sure your mobility is strong and your strength is strong.
TO: What is the most serious injury you’ve ever treated?
GC: During one of our football games here, the other team did not have an athletic trainer, unfortunately, and a player sustained a head impact injury off a tackle. I think he got caught up in the bunch, and it was on top of the head, so it was a compression injury on the spine, and he had sustained a cervical neck fracture along the spine. Any type of spinal fracture and concussion-related injury is really, really high-risk. Unfortunately, he had to be taken for emergency care immediately. However, with our protocol and process, we made sure everybody was on the same page and communicated well to the other school’s officials and administration, and all of that was handled correctly. We followed up, and everything was okay later.
TO: What is the most common form of injury?
GC: The most common, I would say, are probably ankle injuries, ankle sprains. We tend to see a lot of muscle strains at the beginning of the season, especially for first-time student athletes who might not have played or conditioned at the same intensity previously.
TO: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
GC: Working with our students and helping them overcome any injury, illness or ailment to get them back to their sport safely. For a lot of our student athletes, athletics is a big thing and a big part of their identity, so if I can help them get back from any injury that they have, I think it’s rewarding to see them from when they begin with me to see them progress and then back to 100 percent.
TO: What is the most challenging part of your job?
GC: I would say sometimes the emotional aspect of it: to see how distraught a student might be because they’re not able to play.
It is challenging to see students you know not feeling well and feeling sort of down about not being able to play their sport. But then it’s good for me because then I get to help make a plan of care with them and get them going and see them happy and returning back to what they
love to do.