WLAA Profile: Trainers from U-M’s MedSport in charge of keeping athletes safe, healthy and on the field

As longtime athletic trainers for Dexter athletics, Trevor O’Brien and Shannon Siira have always put the well-being, health and safety of the athletes first – from the practice field to the weight room to the intensity of competition.

The duo trainers are part of MedSport, the sole provider of athletic training services to Dexter schools for the past 15 years. MedSport is the sports medicine department of Michigan Medicine and has four main clinics in Michigan that provide a number of different services including, but not limited to, physical therapy and rehabilitation, physician visits, and return to sport testing.

This fall season, however, is going to be different. Very different. Responsibilities will increase and duties will change but it’s all part of the big game – keeping these young athletes safe and healthy.

O’Brien is glad to be back on the field and he sees the return of athletics as a huge positive for all high school athletes eager to compete and represent their school on the field, in the gym, out on the running trails, on the court and in the pool. It’s game on for the Dreadnaughts!

“The fall will be a challenge with all of the changing schedules and keeping track of everything, and just the new protocols that are in place,” says O’Brien, now in his fifth year working with Dexter. “But we do acknowledge the mental health component and importance of student athletes participating in athletics. Some sort of normalcy for all students, not just athletes, is going to play a huge part this fall in their mental health and well-being.”

With regards to COVID-19, both O’Brien and Siira are ready to follow the new safety protocols aimed at keeping athletes out of harm’s way and limiting the risk.

“We have made specific screening processes for our athletic training room and we are taking extra precautions with our physical distancing and personal protective equipment,” says Siira, who along with O’Brien, were on furlough for two months over the summer as a result of the pandemic. Many of the athletic protocols were put together by the athletic directors and the MHSAA.

Athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. Athletic training also is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an allied health care profession.

The Outreach Athletic Training Program at MedSport provides services after school hours that include practice and game coverage, injury prevention strategies via strengthening and taping/bracing, injury rehabilitation, return to sport testing, musculoskeletal and concussion evaluations, and more. They work with other healthcare providers and coaching staff to determine the best timeline for an athlete to return following an injury.

Most of the time you might find O’Brien and Siira standing on the sidelines, observing the athletic event going on at the time. It may seem that they are just watching the sport, which they technically are, but they are also paying attention to potential injuries that occur.

“Observing how an injury happens tells us a lot about the type and nature of that injury,” says O’Brien. “Athletic training is the only medical profession that can observe an injury happen during a practice or competition, evaluate that injury within minutes, rehabilitate that injury, and return that individual back to their sport.”

The athletic training profession to the general public is oftentimes confused with personal training. In reality, these are two very different professions.

Personal training is based around physical fitness and improving one’s health & wellness which is, of course, very beneficial, while athletic training involves a licensed medical professional who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of acute injuries. An athletic trainer currently requires a Bachelor’s degree but in most cases (70 percent) athletic trainers have their Master’s degree in a related field.

They all must pass a Board of Certification exam and be licensed in the state in which they practice. They also must maintain their certification by obtaining continuing education credits to stay up on the most evidence based practice research.

O’Brien has been an athletic trainer for seven years and has been at MedSport/Dexter for five years. He attended Western Michigan University and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in athletic training and then proceeded to California University of Pennsylvania to obtain his Master’s degree in athletic training.

He then worked for U-M Athletics as one of the athletic training fellows working with the track & field team. In conjunction with working at Dexter, O’Brien also works with the Division of Public Safety & Security at the University of Michigan as their athletic trainer.

Siira has been an athletic trainer for seven years at MedSport, working at Livonia Franklin High School for two years and now at Dexter for the last five years.

She attended Central Michigan University, obtained her Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine in 2012, and then completed her Masters of Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Psychology at A.T. Still University in 2017.

During the winter and spring seasons, Siira spends more time in the MedSport Ice Cube Physical Therapy Clinic but helps cover events at the school when needed. She also is a MedSport clinical specialist.