Arkadelphia trainer talks role in light of Hamlin collapse

By ISAAC BOURNE | For The Arkadelphian

On Jan. 2 during a Monday night matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Bills safety Damar Hamlin took a hit to the chest that was expected to be fatal, as he collapsed to the ground. Bills training staff rushed onto the field and through the quick response by Bills’ assistant athletic trainer Danny Kellington, Hamlin is alive today, being discharged from hospital care on Tuesday, a week after his collapse. 

“[The Hamlin incident] is the worst-case scenario that goes through my head before each and every game, but that’s why we have the plan in place.”

— Kristin Schalchlin, Badgers athletic trainer

Like so many others, this incident displayed the importance of athletic trainers to a team’s staff and their role in keeping players healthy and, in this case, alive. Athletic trainer for Arkadelphia Badger athletics, Kristin Schalchlin is a member of the team that makes the Emergency Action Plan for the Badgers similar to the one used that night in Cincinnati.

“The Emergency Action Plan is used if someone were to have a significant injury at practice or at a game, Schalchlin said. “[The Hamlin incident] is the worst-case scenario that goes through my head before each and every game, but that’s why we have the plan in place and why I went through school. So the only thing that has changed for me is that more people are taking notice — like coaches, parents, administrators and officials — of how important my job is.”

Schalchlin is an employee of OrthoArkansas that has been contracted out to Arkadelphia, and her main discipline is orthopedics, which comes in handy with a job that requires constant work with athletes. With her job’s importance coming into the limelight, many are just now seeing the work that must be done.

Kristin Schalchlin, center, is pictured among students and athletics staff. | Submitted photo

“As an athletic trainer, my job is to be there at practices and games as well as before and after,” Schalchlin said. “I try to prevent injuries from happening, but if someone was to get hurt, I’m right there and can diagnose and then treat them, and get them back to playing.”

Her work with players goes beyond just during competition, she also goes through pre-participation physicals every year to make sure the players are healthy and able to compete and meets with the teams to let them know her expectations from them from a health standpoint.

“Everything just boils down to communication between me, coaches, kids and the parents,” she added. “I can’t help them if I don’t know what’s going on.”

In the competition arena, also, she must be aware of athletes and their physical well-being.

“I find myself counting feet and bodies most of the time, just to make sure everyone is up and walking around. If I’m missing one, then I know that maybe something happened.”

Schalchlin is an avid sports viewer who loves watching the games, but she also keeps her eyes out for blood or other types of physical signs that might hint at an injury. When someone goes down, she moves in on the scene and is able to provide care for the injured player in a swift manner.

“If someone goes down on the court or field, I’m checking for movement, and if they’re moving I can relax a little and know that it’s not a spinal injury or a cardiac event. If they’re moving or yelling, then I know whatever happened is fixable and we’ll get through it,” she explains. “Most of my on-field exams are just trying to figure out what happens specifically and trying to calm them down enough to get to the sideline and do a more in-depth evaluation. There I can decide if they can continue or not.”

The level of detail and care that must be given to every player is a job that many could not take, but Schachlin takes the role, and loves doing it.

“I love the relationships I build with the coaches, school staff, and most importantly, the kids,” she says, “being able to watch the sports I love with the kids I love.”

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