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Working in Health Care: Athletic Trainer Keeps Athletes on the Move


Working in Health Care: Athletic Trainer Keeps Athletes on the Move

Tim Brister, Certified Athletic Trainer, DCH SportsMedicine

My Background/Education
Brister, originally from Demopolis, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. He later passed the certification test with the National Athletic Trainers Association. He also is licensed by the Alabama Board of Athletic Trainers.

Years at DCH
27 years; Brister started as a physical therapy aide in the days before DCH had a SportsMedicine department.

Department Overview/My Current Duties
DCH SportsMedicine is made up of 12 full-time, along with part-time and per diem, certified athletic trainers. It is contracted to the Tuscaloosa county and city schools, American Christian Academy, Tuscaloosa Academy and Holy Spirit Catholic School. The athletic trainers are on site daily at the high schools for practice and games to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate athletic injuries. “It’s a free outreach program to the schools as part of DCH’s commitment to the community,” Brister explained.

The athletic trainers’ first goal is to prevent injuries among the athletes by showing them proper training exercises or using preventative measures like bracing and taping. But when injuries happen, the athletic trainer is there to evaluate and treat the injury and make the appropriate medical referral to a physician if necessary.

Football season is one of the busiest times for SportsMedicine because it includes varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams. It’s also a high-injury sport because it is a high-contact sport.

The department also covers middle school football, and sports like baseball and soccer, in addition to community events such as the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon and its own 5K Fund Run each May.

Brister assists about 130 athletes during football season. He primarily supports students at Hillcrest High School in grades nine through 12.

Benefits to Athletes
Why does DCH hire athletic trainers to help support local athletes? “Over the years DCH has devoted more to our SportsMedicine program. They’ve seen the positives that have come out of the program and the impact on the community,” Brister said.

Besides building good will in the community, the work of the athletic trainers can help prevent serious head, neck or limb injuries that could plague an athlete for life. The DCH athletic trainers ensure that Alabama’s strict concussion laws and the medical director’s protocol are followed by the athletes. They ensure that the athletes go through a closely monitored process before returning to play after having concussion signs or symptoms.

What I Like About My Job
“Being around the athletes is a big thing. I’ll see them at middle school and see them develop through high school,” Brister said. He also likes that his job keeps him outside a lot and the change of venue that comes with his duties.

What’s Challenging
“You have to cram 50 hours of events into a 40-hour work week. I work a lot of evenings, and have Saturday and Sunday events, so often I’m not at home with the family.”

Athletic Trainer and Inventor
In a quest to improve rehab equipment, Brister developed a product called the CoreGlide®. He wanted to design a compact, self-contained product that didn’t take up a lot of room (i.e., big equipment built on a track) that could help athletes with rehabilitation and total body balance.

Similar in look to a skateboard, the device only weighs 12 pounds and the resistance is built in thanks to a web of heavy-duty rubber bands underneath it. It’s been on the U.S. market for a few years, and is being used at several physical therapy clinics and athletic training facilities.

Why I Chose This Field
In high school, Brister tore his ACL* playing football. “After having surgery, no one knew how to rehab me for return to play. This encouraged me to seek out a career helping athletes return from such a significant injury.”

Career Pointers for Greenhorns
For young people considering his occupation, Brister suggests shadowing someone in the sports medicine field. “Some people have difficulty touching someone’s feet or seeing something gory. You may have an athlete with a really bad injury at any time, and you have to be prepared for that.”

*Anterior cruciate ligament in the knee

To learn more about DCH careers or to apply online, click here

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