Athletic training duties shift a bit as Beavers battle COVID-19

Friday, October 16, 2020
Buena Vista University Head Athletic Trainer Nick Long works with BVU freshman wrestler Justin Stock, of Kanas City, Mo., in the Fritcher Fitness Center in Siebens Fieldhouse on campus. Stock studies rehabilitation science at BVU. /Photo submitted

When golf, cross country, and tennis teams depart for competitions this fall, Nick Long helps send them off.

But not after taking temperatures and other checks.

Long, who serves as Buena Vista University’s Head Athletic Trainer, sets his alarm for 5 a.m., or whatever it takes, in order to see teams before they leave campus for meets and matches.

“We did testing for the teams when our student-athletes arrived on campus,” says Long. “We used TestIowa at Sunrise Pointe Golf Course (in Storm Lake) at that time and we’re excited to have a TestIowa site now open on campus. We also work closely with Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake, specifically their Unity Point Clinic.”

The aim: Keep student-athletes and their opponents healthy as they represent their schools in the throes of a pandemic.

Long joins a trio of full-time athletic trainers and nurses on campus in monitoring the well-being of the Beavers. Student-athletes join coaches, faculty, and staff members in a self-assessment each day through the BVU app available on their phones. When a student-athlete receives a red checkmark for running a temperature, for example, Long and his staff, as well as BVU’s nursing staff, receive an email alert and quickly work with the student to set up a telehealth appointment.

“After the telehealth appointment, we determine the next appropriate step for care,” Long says. “Often, it might just be that the student hit the wrong button while going through the health assessment on their phone.”

A symptomatic student-athlete then completes a test through TestIowa, which will show whether they are positive or negative for COVID-19. A student who tests positive self-isolates on campus or at home. Contact tracing then identifies students who must quarantine because they were in contact with the infected person – within a distance of six feet for 15 minutes or more.

Coaches, such as Mark Rial, BVU Head Wrestling Coach, have offered to meet with students quarantined on campus on a daily basis, to accompany them on walks, always mindful to wear a mask while observing physical-distancing requirements to prevent additional spread.

“It is imperative to get students in quarantine out of their room for their mental and physical health,” Rial says. “Even though they feel fine, and are in perfect health, they need to get out and exercise and get fresh air.”

Rial understands how difficult it can be for students who must quarantine.

“Even though some of our student-athletes don’t quite agree with this course of action, they’re showing great poise and maturity,” Rial continues. “We talk about it all the time in wrestling and in life, to control what you can control even if you don’t agree with the situation. The student-athletes I’ve worked with did an amazing job handling the situation that they had no control over, especially considering it happened to them during their first two weeks of college.”

And while Long and his crew haven’t taped as many ankles or wrapped as many shoulders this fall with games and matches in football, volleyball, and soccer sidelined until spring, the athletic trainers continue to staff practices multiple times per week, doing all they can to ensure the health and safety of 400-plus student-athletes, their BVU peers, and more.

“We have seen some normal orthopedic stuff this fall, but, luckily, nothing that has required surgery,” Long says. “We’ve changed some of our routines to do taping outside to help with physical distancing. We also wear masks and do our best to keep advising students. We’re trying to leave no stone unturned when it comes to keeping students here on campus and in good health.”