Elite athletes are special individuals with exceptional skill sets. Each athlete is from a different background and had access to different resources growing up. Most student-athletes have trained all their lives for this moment, but when the best of the best come together to compete in Division One Athletics, everyone starts fresh.
The Human Performance Team is comprised of athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, physical therapists, physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists and coaches, to name a few, all play a role in the success of a student-athlete and the team as a whole.
Harris College reached out to these sports medicine team members within TCU to share how they prep student-athletes for the football season, especially the Bowl season.
TCU Team Physicians, Michele Kirk and Jason Mogonye give deeper insight into the physical and mental health components of helping keep student-athletes in top performance shape.
Division One student-athletes have many resources available to them on campus and it is important that they utilize these resources. Student-athletes must talk with the nutrition team and ask questions, visit the training room for treatment, rehab, and recovery, and see the doctor for illnesses or injuries. For in-season athletes, it is very important to talk to their athletic trainers when they are ill to determine whether a visit to the doctor is needed.
One of the most important aspects of bowl season is that it also happens to coincide with the cold and flu season. Often, team members are given a short break prior to the beginning of bowl practices where they travel home to visit family and friends. Coaches also hit the recruiting trail traveling all over the country. This provides more opportunities for players and coaches to be exposed to illnesses, usually viruses, that haven’t been prevalent in their usual environment.
As they return to campus, they bring back those viruses, which can be easily spread in team meetings, at meals or in their living spaces. Prevention is always best and simple hand hygiene can prevent a lot of these illnesses. Seasonal vaccinations, like the flu shot, also go a long way in preventing a virus from causing time away from practice or even the game. This is especially important the closer to the game student-athletes get. Traveling for a bowl game is typically longer than a regular season game, up to a week versus simply overnight. This means close quarters in airplanes, buses, hotel rooms, meeting rooms, etc.
Part of their job as physicians is to look for trends of illnesses in the community and attempt to predict how that will affect the team. Anticipating potential spread helps them plan and mitigate that spread as much as possible. This may come in the form of equipment disinfection, isolation of sick individuals, treatment with medications, or even schedule changes to avoid exposing one group to another who may be ill.
With flu, COVID and virus season in general, team physicians can help treat symptoms and provide medications that can shorten the course or make the symptoms less severe. Many of the symptoms for these illnesses are similar, so their tests help dictate appropriate treatment.
Mental health is just as important as physical health but oftentimes is ignored.
Bowl games are largely in December, at the end of a long season, near-final exams, and in the middle of a holiday season in which student-athletes may be unable to spend time with family due to game obligations. This can lead to a lot of stress and pressure on any athlete, particularly an athlete who already has a mental health disorder. Being proactive in looking after their mental health can be very helpful for optimal performance. This can be in the form of getting adequate rest and nutrition, making time to do fun things, spending time with friends or family, talking to a counselor or reaching out to someone they trust like a coach, athletic trainer or physician, to talk with and share their frustrations.
Ultimately it takes an entire village of human performance specialists, all with unique abilities and educational backgrounds, working closely together to ensure student-athletes have all the resources available to them to be successful as an individual and as part of a team. From head coaches to managers, and with the support of a strong administration, everyone plays a role in the success of a student-athlete in their own way.
Read how Athletic Training and Sports Psychology also help student-athletes prep for optimal performance.
Learn more about the programs within Harris College in these sports medicine and health fields:
- Undergraduate programs:
- Movement Science
- Health & Fitness
- Physical Education with a Strength & Conditioning emphasis
- Graduate programs:
- Athletic Training
- Social Work with Health and Mental Health emphases
For the programs that currently don’t exist, Harris College offers courses that provide students with foundational knowledge and research experience specific to these areas so they can successfully pursue graduate work in those professions.
Contributors: Michele Kirk, MD and Jason Mogonye, MD, TCU Team Physicians, and Ashlyne Elliott, PhD, LAT, ATC , Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in TCU Department of Kinesiology.