Tam’s first ever athletic trainer, Tina Tubbs, expertly wraps a basketball player’s ankle with shiny blue medical tape, firing off questions about the injury while giving directions on icing and elevation. Her Gus Gym office is full of first aid and training equipment, with a UCLA foam finger perched in the corner.
“People seem to think that all I do is taping,” Tubbs said. The athletic trainer’s duties are in fact far more extensive. Despite the numerous services she offers to athletes, Tubbs said most students are unaware of her presence, or misconstrue her role as athletic trainer. Tubbs’ main goal for the weeks to come is “making people aware of what I’m here for.”
Tubbs has treated concussions, bone fractures, strains and sprains since assuming her role at Tam about a month ago. She’s on the job three days a week to apply her expertise in the areas of sports medicine, injury prevention, emergency care, biomechanical analysis, rehab, manual therapy and nutrition consultation. Tubbs also attends Tam sports events to provide on-site heat exhaustion and environmental (weather) hazard consultation.
Junior volleyball player Allie Hoog recently went to Tubbs with an ankle sprain. “Whenever you need something iced, you need something taped, you don’t do it yourself, you go to a trainer,” Hoog said. “She’s a great resource to have.”
Tubbs has worked primarily with fall athletes (football players, cross country runners, and the occasional cheerleaders) but hopes that as the winter and spring seasons begin, more athletes from a wider variety of sports will take advantage of what she offers.
Tubbs also hopes to raise student awareness about the possibility of careers in the sports medicine field. “It’s huge to educate people on this profession and as a career path,” Tubbs said.
Although she’s a new face, and she fulfills a new role on campus, Tubbs is far from new to the field of sports medicine, and has a higher level of experience than most high school trainers. She received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s degree in advanced sports medicine, and has travelled the country working with collegiate men’s and women’s teams. Last year she worked with UCLA’s NCAA champion women’s volleyball team. When a desire to be closer to family brought Tubbs to Northern California and the Tam position became available, Tubbs “decided to give it try.” So far, it’s been “extremely different” in terms of funding, athlete interactions, and professionalism.
“College sports are a business,” Tubbs said. “Students are there on scholarship and there’s a lot of pressure from coaches and administration when a starter’s on the bench.”
According to Tubbs, in these cases, the responsibility fell to her to administer medical care and physical therapy to the athlete and bring them, “sometimes miraculously,” back to playing condition as soon as possible.
At the high school level, Tubbs deals with the new twist of discussing student health with athletes’ parents, who she said are far more involved than in college athletics, where Tubbs dealt exclusively with coaches and athletes themselves.
Tubbs also has a much more limited control over students’ recovery regimens at Tam. “When kids get injured, they go home at night,” she said. In her previous positions, Tubbs was able to closely monitor the recovery of each athlete, sometimes meeting with them two or three times a day.
Tubbs has noticed major differences in funding as well. “Coming from a career path with an endless budget is a huge difference,” she said. At Tam, where funding for Tubbs’s job comes from parent donations through athletic boosters, resources are more limited. Training and medical equipment which was previously available to Tubbs is often lacking at Tam, but the athletic trainer isn’t letting that limit her. “There’s not as much available here, so I have to think outside the box,” she said. “Sometimes that means developing a rehab routine with everyday items rather than higher tech training equipment.”
Although several aspects of high school athletics can be challenging, Tubbs finds others refreshing. “High school is the purest kind of athletics you can see,” Tubbs said. Unlike collegiate sports, where athletes are driven by scholarships and competition, high school students have the opportunity to join teams for the love of exercise and their sport. “There’s fun in athletics [at Tam],” Tubbs said. “There’s no pressure.”
As fall sports come to a close and the winter sports season begins, Tubbs will be working to ensure that Tam athletes are healthy and prepared for the season, and continuing to adjust to her new position at Tam.