Q: What was your path to becoming an Athletic Trainer, and why did you choose this career?
A: I was a former three-sport athlete and came from a family that was consumed with athletics from coaching to playing. I graduated from a high school that didn’t have an Athletic Trainer and so I had no exposure to what an Athletic Trainer was. I was attending the University of Oklahoma, planning on applying to Physical Therapy school. I was doing my observation and met an Athletic Trainer working in a clinic and doing outreach to local high schools and fell in love with the profession. I made some phone calls and the next fall was attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University majoring in Athletic Training. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being an Athletic Trainer?
A: The most rewarding thing to me is getting to work with athletes on a daily basis and having the interactions with them, not just on a professional level as an Athletic Trainer, but on a more personal level – getting to play a role in molding them into adults. It is also rewarding to be surrounded by other Athletic Trainers, athletes and coaches who are self-motivated and are always looking to improve themselves.
Also, my involvement in the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers’ Association and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association has been unbelievably rewarding. I feel like as professionals we have to do what we can to improve our profession and ensure that every athlete has access to an Athletic Trainer.
Q: What is the most common injury you see in high school athletics, and how do you treat it and/or prevent it?
A: Working in the high school setting we see a number of different injuries and that is what makes this career so challenging. You never seem to have the same day twice. I’d say the most prevalent injuries are musculoskeletal injuries to the lower extremity. We try and do as much education and therapeutic intervention early to prevent a loss of time from athletics. Once we have an injury we manage the initial injury with cold and compression and then move towards the rehabilitation process to ensure proper healing. PowerPlay is a resource that we use daily because it plays a vital role in the initial management of our injuries and the fact that it’s portable allows us to use it on the sideline or on the road.
Q: What new technologies and/or products should Athletic Trainers be aware of?
A: I have been blessed with a facility that is amazing so we have almost everything you could imagine. As a clinical instructor for 2 universities I always limit the modalities they can use to challenge them to improvise with minimal resources. We have gone to a lot of manual therapies in our facility. One thing we emphasize is the initial 48-72 hours post injury and the proper management using a number of resources with PowerPlay being one of our “go-tos”.
Q: How often do you use cold and compression therapy to treat your athletes, and what are the benefits?
A: We use cold compression daily in our Athletic Training facility. After an initial injury and post therapeutic exercises. PowerPlay allows us to utilize both cold and compression to get our athletes back on the field as soon as possible.
Leander Walker is the Head Athletic Trainer and Teacher at Yukon High School in Yukon OK; a position he has held for 7 years, and has worked with athletes from youth to professional levels. Leander has been an active member of the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers’ Association, serving for 2 years as the chairman of the Young Professional Committee. He currently serves as the state secretary and serves on the Executive Committee for the organization. Leander works as a professional speaker during the summer presenting on Athletic Training and its role in the health care system and the promotion of youth sports safety. Leander and his staff assisted Yukon Public Schools in becoming one of two schools in the state of Oklahoma and District 5 who have received the NATA Safe Sports School-1st Team award.