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Appreciate the Athletic Trainer Even When You Think the X-Ray Isn't Needed

Sometimes you need to look inside in other ways.

The high school athletic trainer sent a grumpy 14-year-old Boy and an impatient parent for an X-ray the other day. It was close to my deadline. And I was finally about to sit and focus on writing my column. Then the phone call.

It was The Boy.

Boy: “Dad, the trainer won’t let me practice or play unless I have my hand X-rayed.”

He’d hurt it last week during his football game but the swelling had gone down.

The High School Athletic Trainer: The under-appreciated, overworked, often unfairly maligned, but always diligent overseer of injuries. Of course, there is much more to their jobs, but that’s what most of us know them for — looking out for the health of our student athletes.

But I had a column to write. I didn’t have the co-pay or the patience for the ER or walk-in clinic. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I was mad. I doubted his hand was broken. No way. It was going to be a complete waste of money and time.

Before picking The Boy up, I called my wife. She called around and found a walk-in clinic that would take him in 2 ½ hours.

I decided that the library would serve as the place to best spend our idle time. I would write my column and the Boy would enjoy some quiet time reading.

Me: “I need to write my column. Can I have a notebook and pen, please?”

Boy: “I don't have a notebook and pen.”

Me: “But you have your backpack. Right?”

Boy: “I don't keep a notebook and pen in my backpack.”

Me: “You don't keep a notebook and pen in your backpack? What do you write with? What do you write on?”

Boy: “I have pieces of paper in my binder and write on them.”

Me: “But you don't have a pen.”

Boy: “I have a pen but it doesn't work. So I borrow one.”

Me: “We have one thousand pens and pencils at home.”

Boy: “I keep forgetting to take one.”

Me: “You don’t ever forget your Beats or your phone.”

Boy: (Shoulder shrug)

Me (In a very calm library-appropriate voice): “Boy, go and get something to read.”

Boy: “The Kindle is in the car.”

Me: “You are in a LIBRARY (shhh, I tell myself). There are 10,000 magazines in here.” (Not sure why I didn't mention the books as well.)

He makes a face like he's in pain. He finds a paperback and sits across from me with the book open in front of him. He's staring out the window.

Me: “Read the stupid book.”

Boy: “But it's boring.”

At this point, I think I've cracked a tooth from my clenching and grinding. Other kids are reading books or magazines. Now he has another book. And he is angry that he's being forced into getting an X-ray.

I’m also thinking about the time being wasted in the library and later at the clinic when I could be writing a column and he could be smashing his hand against helmets and stuff.

My wife sends me a text that he’ll need his student picture ID card at the clinic. I guess it makes sense. What was there to stop me from going through this with some other Boy?

Me: “You have your school ID card, right?”

Boy: “Huh?”

Me: “Your ID card — with your picture on it — for school.”

Boy: “I don’t have it.”

Me: “Where is it?”

Boy: “I don’t know. In my bedroom?”

Me: “You are supposed to have that with you at ALL times in school. Do you go to school in your bedroom?

”Boy: “I didn’t know. Why?”

 Me: “Because … they need to know who you are. You need to know who you are. It’s all about knowing who you are. And without that card…”

At that moment, my thoughts dribble off the end of the table and die on the carpet.

It’s the trainer’s fault. Broken hand… there is NO broken hand.You are probably waiting for the ending where I tell you that the Boy’s X-rays showed that he had a broken hand. And you would be wrong because the X-rays came back negative and the Boy will be cleared to practice again. 

However, our time was not wasted nor the co-pay ill-spent. A trainer fulfilled his obligation to a young athlete. And a father and son exchanged glimpses of the subtleties that make them so much alike.

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