Wrestlers count on trainers

The three-day state meet keeps doctors and trainers on the move.
Sunday, February 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:26 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On a mat, someone calls for a trainer. Dr. John Yetter rushes to the mat, takes a look at the wrestler’s arm and stops the match.

Early on the last day of the state wrestling championships, a match is stopped as a wrestler sits, grabs his arm and moans. Yetter, an expert in sports medicine from St. Louis, jogs onto the mat and assesses the situation. The wrestler is supporting his hurt arm with his other hand and his wrist hangs limp.

His arm is beginning to turn purple. Yetter immediately says the match cannot continue.

After doing some tests to the wrestler’s arm, Yetter and another man help him up and walk him back to a room full of fold-up tables that serve as temporary doctors’ chairs.

Yetter has the wrestler sit on a table and proceeds to put a temporary cast on the arm. By the time he is done, the wrestler’s parents have arrived. Yetter puts the arm in a sling and tells the parents to go to the hospital and have the arm X-rayed to rule out a break.

At every wrestling tournament, there are volunteers hovering in the background waiting to take care of the next injury. They stop nosebleeds, close cuts and attend to any other injuries wrestlers have. When the injury is serious, there are doctors around to decide if the match should continue.

Yetter was one of nine doctors working in Hearnes Center this weekend. Nineteen certified athletic trainers and eight students also volunteered for the tournament.

Mark Dempsey, president of Missouri Athletic Trainers Association, was the medical coordinator for the tournament. He said the trainers come from all over the state but most are trainers for schools that have wrestlers in the tournament and are members of the athletic trainers association. Stephanie West, an athletic trainer for Hickman, worked at the tournament.

Yetter said most of the time the athletic trainers handled the minor injuries.

“We’ve got enough trainers, so we let the trainers handle the bleeding noses and mouth,” Yetter said.

Doctors such as Yetter handle more serious injuries such as torn ligaments, breaks and cuts. Yetter rarely completely treats an injury. If he suspects a break or a torn ligament, he will stabilize the injured area until the person can go to a hospital or see a specialist.

According to Yetter, the nosebleed is the most common injury. He said a mixture of dehydration and trauma make the injury common in wrestling. With all this blood, the trainers go through many pairs of latex gloves.

Gloves aren’t the only medical items used in bulk at the tournament.

Dempsey said before the tournament started he bought 1,000 gloves, 800 gauze pads to wipe up blood, 124 rolls of athletic tape and four large rolls of cellophane to hold ice packs on the body.

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