Ricardo Serna: Recognize trainers behind the scenes

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ricardo Serna says most athletic trainers prefer to stay behind the scenes.

He certainly does, though he thinks it’s good that his profession gets a bit of the spotlight in March during National Athletic Training Month.

“I tell people: If you don’t know me, that’s a good thing, and if you never have to see me during a game, that’s a really good thing,” Serna said. “It’s good that there’s something out there showing that there definitely is a profession that when needed can get out there and take care of the athletes.”

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Serna, in his 14th year at Port Neches-Groves High School as an athletic trainer, is the first to respond to injuries that happen on the game field, practice field or court, though he works with coaches and athletes year-round to keep everyone healthy through prevention, care and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. Folks like Serna don’t just tape up a player’s elbow.

“We’re also out there for weather conditions,” he said. “We monitor the heat index, the storms and lightning. We want to make sure that they’re always safe and healthy, whether it’s through prevention by taping them up, or making recommendations in the weight room during the off-season on their lifting regiment.”

Athletic trainers are different from fitness or personal trainers. The American Medical Association recognizes athletic training as a healthcare profession, according to the Board of Certification For The Athletic Trainer website. ATs are licensed at the state and national level and can work directly with sports programs at school or through healthcare providers.

Serna and fellow AT Crystal Oden work for the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District.

“In our area there is a lot that work through Christus or Methodist or Memorial, then they go out and they have reach-out programs where they go to high schools that don’t have athletic trainers and they work there,” Serna said.

In light of the recent outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent cancellation of schools and sports competition, there hasn’t been much for Serna to do.

“As long as no school is in session and there’s no sports going on, it’s just a sitting and waiting game,” he said. “I just hope they can get it done, especially for the seniors. They’ve all worked hard and they deserve a chance at their season, but at the same time you’ve got to keep everybody healthy and keep everybody safe.”
With no practices either, Serna says there is some risk of injury when the athletes eventually return and start practicing, particularly as the weather begins to warm.

“Anything that they can do on their own to maintain everything that they’ve gained throughout their offseason for football or the season that they’re in right now, they should do it,” he said. “If you have access to weights at your house, do something and stay active. Of course in three weeks the temperature can change, and if the athletes are not staying in shape and acclimatized to the weather, then that’s something they need to keep in mind when we do get back.”

For any athlete at any time, though, Serna says the best way to avoid injuries is to listen to the coaches and trainers.

“I’ve been very fortunate with all the staff that I’ve worked with, and they definitely know, have researched and they’re aware of the proper ways to lift and how to stay and get in shape,” he said. “Listen to your coaches and listen to your athletic training staff, because everybody’s going to have your best interest in mind. A hurt athlete doesn’t help the program at all.”