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Berry College Sports Medicine: A Purpose Bigger Than Yourself

MEDIA RELEASE - 10.22.15: Ice bags, pre and postgame stretches, water coolers, and ankle tapings are prominent in the room. On the outside looking in, the sports medicine departments at any college or university appear the same. The staff members work to provide quality care for student-athletes in the prevention and eventual treatment of injuries.

So what makes the Berry College Sports Medicine Department different?

Believing in a purpose bigger than themselves, the BC Sports Medicine Department considers the iconic head, heart, and hands of Martha Berry in every thing they do. Grounded in their four pillars of integrity, compassion, service, and unity, the team puts their student-athletes first--no matter what.

The department is unique in several ways. Not only is it staffed with some of the top doctors in the Rome area, but both Berry undergraduate and graduate students also work in the Sports Medicine Department, connecting with their peers and fellow teammates on a deeper level than most adults ever could.

"We care about our athletes' physical well-being, but we care about them emotionally too," commented Brooke Mackelburg, student training room supervisor. "We know and understand how tough it is for them to be in a situation where they have to sit out of practices and games, and we want to help them as much as we possibly can."

Any student-athlete's career can change in a second. One wrong jump, twist, or explosive movement can end their season. Traumatic injuries, such as ACL or meniscus tears, sideline many college athletes each year, leading to months of emotional and physical pain and rehab with their sports medicine department.

An ACL tear occurs when the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee is over-stretched or torn due to any number of traumatic events. Similarly, a tear in the meniscus occurs when the rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee gets twisted or turned too quickly. Both of these injuries require surgery and extensive recovery times.

The Berry College sports medicine department works closely with these injured athletes throughout every step of their long, exhausting, and painful recovery processes, working towards an ultimate purpose beyond themselves.

"After surgery is when we really take over for the rehab," commented Shelby Smith, program director and Berry College student. "Once a student-athlete is cleared, they usually come in three to four times a week to work on range of motion and strength in the injured body part. We look out for our athletes emotionally and mentally during this process as well, advancing them through rehab at their own pace."

"Recovery can last for months for these student athletes," said Ginger Swann, director of the sports medicine department. "It is easy to get down when they are not playing and contributing to their teams. Spending time explaining details of the rehab can help ease fears for our athletes. Setting goals, short and long term, can help them stay motivated as they see small progressions over time."

Jackie McGivney, a sophomore goalkeeper for the Berry women's soccer team, tore her meniscus the second day of soccer preseason and has been working very closely with the sports medicine department to get back on the field.

"When I went down, the trainers came over immediately to try and figure out what happened," said McGivney. "They asked me all sorts of questions about how my knee was feeling, what it felt like when I went down, and if I had ever had any previous problems with it before. They encouraged me that everything would be okay, and they took me up to the training room. They scheduled all of my doctor's appointments for me, and someone from the training staff was always with me for those appointments as well."

McGivney returned to the Vikings on Sunday, played 93 minutes and earned the win in Berry's 3-2 overtime victory over Birmingham-Southern.

Tessa Piety, a senior member of the first team All-SAA women's soccer team, tore her ACL four consecutive years in high school. In 2014, while at Berry, Piety had ACL reconstruction surgery on her right knee.

"After my most recent surgery, the Sports Medicine Department helped me a ton," Piety shared. "One of the student workers, Lisa Robertson, even spent the night in my room following the surgery. She helped me shower and everything."

Swann believes that more than just a surface level relationship with the athletes is vital in helping them rebound from tough injuries. "Building authentic relationships with our student-athletes is a huge part of being able to establish a trusting relationship which is necessary for an optimal experience for our athletes," commented Swann. "We hope to focus on who the athletes are in order that we can learn how to best serve them."

With compassionate athletic trainers and student workers--along with encouraging teammates--student-athletes have all the support they need to make full recoveries. The assistance offered from the athletes' large support systems not only help the athletes get back to action but also enables them to come back stronger than before, more passionate than ever.

"A lot of people ask me why I don't quit," concluded Piety. "One of the reasons is because I can't do anymore damage to my knees. The other reason is because I love working with my team and soccer. Each surgery has been a very humbling experience, but I don't want my injuries to defeat or define me. Soccer gives me a way to be me. It gives me an escape from things with people I love."

With a mission statement that states, "Believing in a purpose bigger than ourselves, the Berry College Sports Medicine Department labors to care for the student-athletes and the Berry community with a mind of INTEGRITY, a heart of COMPASSION, hands of SERVICE, and in a spirit of UNITY," the trainers at Berry put their athletes' emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being first as they guide them down their roads of recovery.

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