Ahead of the curve.
That’s where UAB Head Football Coach Bill Clark wants the Blazer sports medicine program to be, and given the resources of one of the nations’ top medical programs, there is no reason why sports medicine shouldn’t be ‘blazing the trail’ for other programs to follow.
“One of the things we want is to be on the cutting edge of safety and prevention for athletes in our state and the sport of football,” Clark said. “That’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve got going for us here at UAB with all this great medicine. We want to be on the front edge of all those things.”
Exciting times are ahead in many ways for Clark and his UAB football program. Sports medicine is not only part of the excitement, but also holds a place as one of the six pillars that make up the foundation of Clark’s program. The other pillars are academics, recruiting, training, character education and coaching.
Sports medicine has many layers with each holding critical importance.
“When we all think of sports medicine, it’s usually fixing a knee or fixing a shoulder or something like that,” Clark said “But in today’s world, sports medicine encompasses the whole deal of taking care of the athlete. When you think about safety, you think about return to play the quickest, all those things go hand in hand with our training. You talk about the prevention side of it – from nutrition, how we lift, how we run. All those things make up our whole athlete.”
Head Football Athletic Trainer Daniel Springer is at the forefront of helping to execute the program’s sport medicine program. Springer, a Cincinnati native, came to UAB as a graduate assistant in 2010 and eventually worked his way up to his current position. However, the progression toward his current role began a long time ago.
“My dad was a sideline reporter back home and I spent my early childhood on the sidelines,” Springer said. “That’s where I learned what an athletic trainer was. I saw these people running out on the field, helping people out, taping guys before games. That’s what got me into athletic training. I actually started in high school, working with the trainers. I starting working on my craft right away.”
Now he’s in Birmingham helping the Blazers as they work toward the return to the football field next September. These days, much of his time is spent working with the players during practice and keeping them ready for those sessions. Soon, the focus will change toward an off-season routine.
“In and out of season are actually kind of similar from our standpoint,” Springer said. “A lot of times, we may have had guys with injuries they were nursing the previous season. We will work toward getting them back for spring ball into summer. The main thing that changes for us is what our responsibility is for a health care coverage standpoint. Are we covering a lift or are we covering a practice?”
It’s impossible to ignore the big things happening with the UAB football program. On the practice field, Clark and his coaching staff and Blazer players are working toward making the program better than ever. Glance to the North end of the practice field and you’ll see – and hear – construction on the Football Operations Center. The building, which will help take the program to another level, will include office space, meeting and film room, locker rooms and a weight room.
It will also include a top-of-the-line athletic training facility.
“Sports medicine is very much like medicine in general,” Springer said. “It is constantly evolving. There is constant research going on with the current trends and technology and methods. Technology is always changing. The physiology, the histology of injury doesn’t change. But how we treat them might change. What is the newest thing to get our athletes back on the field? That’s what we’re looking for.”
For example, the training room in the Football Operations Center is expected to include underwater and anti-gravity treadmills, which will allow injured student-athletes the opportunity to begin rehab sooner.
“Both of those take body weight off,” Springer said. “So, instead of waiting eight weeks for an athlete coming off knee surgery to start his walking or running progression, we get them started right away. Those are something we haven’t had in the past that will really benefit us going into the future.”
That’s just one step of many needed to keep the UAB sports medicine program on the cutting edge.
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