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ActiveWrap Chat- Inside Today's Athletic Trainer in College Baseball

Posted on May 20 2023

ActiveWrap recently sat down with Mike Martinez, ATC for University of California Irvine to get some insight on all that goes into college baseball athletic training.

Hi Mike, can you tell us a bit about your road getting into athletic training? Why you chose the field....and maybe what sports did you participate in or injuries led you to athletic training?
Initially, I wanted to be a physician when I was younger but I was very active in sports. I was a football player, wrestler and pole vaulter while I was in high school. I then decided that I would go to college and figure things out. I took an ROP physical therapy aide course and was introduced to an athletic trainer who told me all about the profession. It allowed me to continue being part of the sports environment and also be part of the medical field. I instantly fell in love with athletic training. 18 years later I’m still in love with this profession.

What is your primary focus at UCI?
I am currently responsible for the healthcare of the baseball team and men’s water polo team at UC Irvine. Although my primary responsibility lies with both those 2 sports, there is some cross over as we look after the sports medicine facility as a whole.

 Tell us about the travel schedule for a College level ATC at just got back from Hawaii with the team a few weeks back...that can't be too bad right?
Every sport is different. We all have different travel schedules and we travel more some years than others but it can be challenging and great fun at the same time. In baseball, we generally play 56 games during the season and a number of them being away games which means we will travel either locally or out of the state. Long days and long nights can be tough but trips like the one we took to Hawai’i can be great fun and be filled with great memories. Remember as a team, we spend many hours together then many of us do with our own families during the season. Bonds are formed and memories shared. It is a great part of the profession to be able to mentor young athletes.

4) Can you take us through a typical in-season day for a baseball trainer at home?
Well, a typical day during baseball season can be 10 hours or more a day. There are not too many days off during the season and I typically say “good bye” to friends and family for the 5 months we are officially in season. The time demand can be challenging.
A typical day will start with me entering the ATR (athletic training room) about 3 hours before practice for pre-practice treatments that will lead to preparation for the days practice. The field will be set up for hydration and medical necessity during that time as well. Practice will begin and I will attend practice to monitor any changes in the players that have issues and in case of a medical emergency. Once practice has ended, we will conduct post-practice treatments and discuss options for the players that have sustained injuries. Once that is all done, I will begin my medical notes for all players that had treatment that day and address any other issues that may have come up. Game day is very similar except that we are on the field much earlier and out on the field much longer.

Many shoulder injuries and elbow injuries occur in pitching athletes... talk about a standard pitch count that is protocol in college and also rest days for pitchers? Does the athletic trainer and pitching coach work together on these?
The only time a get involved with pitch count is if a pitcher has sustained an injury and we are progressing him back to full activity. Usually a pitcher, if he has been injured, will begin with a throwing program that will lead him back to a successful return to the mound and throwing bull pens before he is activity allowed to enter a game or is game ready. We generally, and I say we because it is always a collaboration between our pitching coach and I, will start with a pitch count of about 20-30 pitches when we feel a pitcher may return to the mound. We will gradually progress the pitch count to 30-45 pitches. We also always introduce fastballs first, then change ups, and then we progress back to a breaking ball. Once the athlete has reached a pitch count of about 50-55 pitches we are more comfortable knowing they will be successful in a game situation. Generally, a starter’s pitch count can range from 80-110 pitches if they are having a good game.
I am very fortunate in that my relationship with the coaching staff is a good one. They are very supportive of my efforts and as I am of theirs. It is a great thing when coaches and athletic trainers work together for the success of a team. I am very thankful to have such a great group of coaches to work with.

What role does using heat packs and ice packs play for your athletes in both prevention, recovery and rehab? Are there any new modalities or methods you are finding success with?
Heat is useful to warm the tissue I may be prepping for soft tissue mobilization and at times just to warm the area, loosing up the tissue, decrease soreness (Gate theory of pain), and to mentally prep a player to play. In combination with other thermotherapies, a moist heat can be very useful.
Ice wraps are useful especially after initial injury to control edema. Now we have to understand that ice will not stop inflammation from occurring and the body needs to naturally go through the process of healing but to minimize a situation where swelling can be significant is important. If we allow swelling to get out of control then it will be present for a longer period of time. If it is allowed to stay around we do know through research that this influx of fluid can inhibit signaling in the neuromuscular junction which will lead to muscle atrophy.
I do like, instrument assist soft tissue mobilization tools. These tools I have found are very useful. But like all modalities, if they are used with expertise, can be very beneficial in the care and prevention of injuries.

In pro-ball there has been more of a push to make the game safer even for players and the fans. For the fans, a push to expand protective netting to prevent errant bats and balls from flying over the dugouts and into the stands. For players, double play break-up slides are being cracked down upon. Have you seen any other safety changes at the college level?
Somethings I encourage our players to use, are for example, Evoshields. Protects their elbow and I think is a worth wild piece of equipment to have. It certainly has protected a number of my athletes over the years.
Time is a factor and I am aware that there may be some changes coming down the pipe related to travel that will help the athlete recover and allow for more school time.

We see you are also a regional director for the California Athletic Trainers Association as well as professor at Concordia University, Irvine? Tell us a bit about these roles and how you have evolved into these areas from your initial sports medicine beginnings.
First, I am very blessed to be part of both the CATA, CUI, and other professional committees that have improved my ability to lead and teach. I am pleased that my colleagues have found me to be an asset in the profession and that we together can continue to progress the profession in order to better serve the community and protect our student-athletes.

My role as Regional Director for the California Athletic Trainers’ Association, is to represent the membership in Orange County, San Bernardino and Riverside. To bring awareness to the membership with topics that relate to the profession and to inform them of changes that have occurred, either legislatively or within our profession. It is also part of my duty to create more opportunity for learning and continuing education. Personally, this role allows me to continue to help the profession grow and gives me the ability to empower other members within the profession. I am a huge proponent of mentoring and giving back as well, so it was always natural for me to feel like I needed to be part of the leadership to help continue to progress and push for more, as a profession. This eventually led me to a position in which I became a clinical instructor for Concordia University, Irvine’s Athletic Training Program. I was a preceptor for a couple of years then I was approached by the director of the program to consider teaching within the athletic training program. It really was an easy decision for me. It just felt right and I felt it would give me a greater ability to mentor and to help mold the future of the profession.
I have to say that I am truly thankful for the opportunity to serve my profession and I get to do it with so many incredible professionals that give me support daily; so I can continue to do what I am so passionate about.

What changes would you like to see happen for athletic trainers in the near future?
I would like the state of California to recognize the profession of Athletic Training. We are the only state in the Union that does not have legislation in place to protect the community, the profession and those professionals within the state that are trained to be Athletic Trainers. Licensure in the state of California is a must. It safeguards from those that are not qualified from claiming to be an athletic trainer.