Athletes are getting back in competition shape this week, and athletic trainers are back at work.
Ryan Pederson is entering his ninth year as trainer at Seward High.
Growing up in Mitchell, South Dakota, he knew he wanted to do something in the medical field.
He earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in fitness and performance. He is also certified with the National Athletic Trainer Association so he can practice anywhere.
Pederson’s first job was in Pinconning, Michigan, located near Saginaw, at a high school there. It had the same sports as Seward, he said. From there, he moved to Florida and a school with 3,700 students and 29 sports. He spent 10 years there.
“Then I came back to a little bit of normalcy,” he said.
After another year in Michigan, he accepted a job at Lincoln Orthopaedic/Bryan Health and Memorial Health Care Systems in Seward. He also worked for the Lincoln Saltdogs as their trainer for eight years.
He drives to Seward every day. His schedule at SHS starts when school gets out and ends either when practice or a given event is over.
Athletes at Seward High have 15 sports to choose from, ranging from football to cheerleading.
“They’re all so different,” Pederson said. “They all bring something different.”
He said he’s not just a trainer. Sometimes he has to be a sideline psychologist, too, especially if an athlete has a negative attitude.
“You have to put it all behind you and move on to the next play,” he said.
While he’s never called plays for football or basketball, he will offer his two cents, he said with a grin.
As the trainer, his job is to treat and evaluate injuries. He focuses on prevention, as well, with tape, braces and the other tools of the trade. He has taken a class on proper taping techniques, he said.
Hydration is also key, and Pederson is also responsible for concussion protocols. He said increased awareness has led to a decrease in concussions.
“That’s trending in the right direction,” he said.
Another trend is the use of gloves. That’s been stressed in recent years because of blood-borne pathogens.
Pederson hits the road with the football team, but doesn’t usually travel with the other teams. Each school provides a trainer for home games, as an unwritten rule, he said.
The worst injury Pederson has seen was a dislocated elbow with both bones broken. He works on a lot of ankles, but said knee injuries have tapered off.
“Strength training really helps,” he said.
He enjoys getting to know the athletes and has formed bonds with many of them.
“Every year, I have a stack of graduation announcements,” he said, smiling.
Pederson is also required to finish 50 hours of continuing education every two years. He’s also relicensed every year.
While Pederson enjoys his time on the sidelines, he’s happiest if he doesn’t have to work.
“I hope they don’t need me,” he said. “If no one gets hurt, that’s best for everyone.”