From the classroom to the playing fields

Student Athletic Trainer, Nancy Melnyk tends an ankle of an athlete. Courtesy George Wu
Student Athletic Trainer, Nancy Melnyk tends Malcom Grants ankle. Courtesy George Wu

Student athletic trainers are available for University of Miami student-athletes at every practice and every game in order to  help rehabilitate any injuries that may occur.

These are students who go above and beyond the call of duty pursuing their career while they work toward a degree in kinesiology (formerly exercise sports science) in the School of Education.

“Each sport has its own dedicated professional athletic trainer and we work under their instruction helping in every aspect,” senior Nancy Melnyk said.

Undergraduates work  without wage to fulfill the required 1,000 clinical hours for their major. Students  work 20-35 hour weeks, attend a variety of teams’ practices and tend to injuries, all of which must be done in addition to a full class schedule.

“During football season, practices start at 5 a.m. and we had to be there by 3:30 a.m. to set up before the players get there,” senior Karl Renalls said. “As a senior, the professional athletic trainers will rely on us a lot more because we’re about to enter the workforce.”

The program starts during the students’ junior years and they treat different sports every half semester.

“It really is very rewarding to have worked with an injured player through the rehabilitation process and see them get back on the field,” Renalls said.

According to the Web site the most common injuries across all sports are ankle sprains, knee injuries and concussions.

“A lot of people think athletic trainers are the same as personal trainers, but they’re not,” Melnyk said.

The athletic trainer has to be a jack of all trades when it comes to treating sports injuries. They prevent, take care of and rehabilitate injuries, whereas a personal trainer would regulate an exercise regimen and help clients reach their goals.

Athletic trainers practice under the direction of a physician and they are recognized by the American Medical Association as health professionals.

“We take care of the athletes on a more medical level than a personal trainer would,” Renalls said. “We need a degree and certification where a personal trainer can just take a few online classes.”

Athletic trainers are behind the scenes of every varsity athletic event. The athletes rely on them every day to help prevent injuries and get them back in the game.

The National Athletic Training Association celebrated National Athletic Training Month throughout March, according to its Web site, and reminds the public that “Not All Athletes Wear Jerseys: Athletic trainers treat the athlete in you.”

“I want to work in the NFL once I graduate,” Renalls said. “Over the summer, my roommate and I both got internships with different teams. I worked for the Washington Redskins and my roommate worked for the New England Patriots.”

Sandra Montalvo may be contacted at