National Athletic Training Month Spotlight: Michael Hassett

National Athletic Training Month is held every March in order to spread awareness about the important work of athletic trainers. To celebrate, we are highlighting some Pivot professionals who work hard to keep local athletes healthy, fit, and active. 

Ed. Note: In addition to Michael’s regular Athletic Trainer duties, he also became a physician extender — specially trained and licensed to perform tasks that might otherwise be performed by a physician themselves, under the direction of a supervising physician — working in a clinical environment. Michael describes his activities here.

I started working as a physician extender in October, 2016. I was paired with Dr. Jeffrey Gilsdorf and his physician assistant, Donna Quesada. It was unique in that MMI had never had a physician extender, nor had I ever been one. The first month consisted of shadowing and hammering out roles and responsibilities. We quickly found that there was a huge benefit to the patients – increased hands-on time, personalized home exercise programs, and further explanations regarding nature of their injury and expectations during the recovery process. Another huge benefit is that many of my athletes are seen by these providers. I now have the luxury of being able to discuss said cases in person and gain a more clear understanding of their thought process. Not only my athletes, but students from all over the county as well.

What inspired you to become an athletic trainer? 

Athletic Training appealed to me because it combined my love of sports with my desire to help others. I love having the opportunity to help athletes when they need it the most and help them return to play. There’s something incredibly gratifying knowing that you played a large part in someone’s healing and improvement.

How did you find the school experience to get certified?

I went through Salisbury University’s Athletic Training Program, which was incredibly rigorous and stressful. The majority of our classes were exclusive to athletic training students, which meant small class sizes and getting the same 12-15 people in all of my classes. This dramatically enhanced my learning, as we were able to be hands-on every single day. Outside of classes, we did rotations with sports teams, which was 6-7 days per week. I worked with girls’ lacrosse, cross country, baseball, football, and then completed a senior internship while at Salisbury. Juggling classes (homework, projects, etc.), clinical rotations, and trying to maintain a social life forced me to adapt and enhanced my multitasking skills.  Because the process was so arduous, it more than prepared me to be a certified athletic trainer in the “real world.” Had it not been so demanding, I would be nowhere near the athletic trainer I am today.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I am fortunate enough to have a very unique role in the company. Not only am I the athletic trainer for Walkersville High School, I am also a physician extender. My roles as a physician extender consist of assisting in the physical examination of patients, assisting in interpreting test results, and developing and implementing patient management plans. Because athletic trainers have advanced knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and injuries (among other things), they are perfect for working in a sports medicine practice. I personally work with Dr. Jeffrey Gilsdorf and his physician assistant Donna Quesada who specialize in sports medicine. Between the two of them, I am able to gain an incredible amount of knowledge regarding evaluation and treatment of both surgical and non-operative injuries/dysfunctions. On top of this, I work in a physical therapy clinic one day a week. My many roles within the company allow me to help a wide variety of patients in a variety of settings which exemplifies the diversity of an athletic trainer.

What are the challenges you see most often with working at a high school?

There is a lot of communication that needs to take place in the secondary school setting. With athletes who are 18 or older, you have much more control over the athlete’s care. In the high school setting, it is a multidisciplinary approach consisting of the athletic trainer, parents, physical therapists, doctors/specialists/surgeons, etc. It is nice to have so many parties involved but can, on occasion, be hard to coordinate between everyone and have everybody on the same page.

What is the most surprising part of being an athletic trainer? 

It might sound cliché, but the fact that every single day is different. You can never plan for everything that could happen, nor is it predictable. One day may be slow with few injuries to attend to, while the next day could be chaos.

What do you know now about athletic training that you would go back and tell your high school self if you could?

There are so many things that cannot be taught in a book. The more time you put in, the more you are going to see and experience. You can be an expert when it comes to literature but until you have actually experienced certain things it just doesn’t stick. There are so many once-in-a-lifetime injuries/events that cannot be re-created on paper. Studying helps you learn, but not nearly as much as experiences.