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ActiveWrap Chat -Inside Today's Athletic Trainer In Professional Hockey

Posted on April 14 2017

Our first in our professional series, ActiveWrap® take an inside look at the life of a professional athletic trainer (ATC) in hockey and learns about treating hockey injuries.To reach a high level in any sport requires a great deal of time, dedication, and discipline. The life of an athletic trainer for a pro team is no different.  I recently sat down with Mike Hannegan ATC, CSCS as he prepares for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and threw him a few fun questions related directly to his career in the sport of hockey dealing with hockey injuries on a daily basis.

Mike Hannegan ATC, CSCS with Anaheim at a practice in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mike...take us thru a typical day start to finish as the asst. athletic trainer during the season on the road, at practice, and at home games.

That’s a tough one. Depending on the team’s schedule each day can be somewhat different. On a practice day I tend to get to the rink around 7am. I start to prep the Athletic Training Room for the forthcoming treatments for the day. We also have to make sure all the laundry and equipment is ready to go. Lastly, there’s the coffee. We go through several pots of coffee in the morning alone. Next I prep the bench for practice with all the supplies for the players and coaches. We continue treatments for the players who are not skating and watch practice just in case a new injury occurs. After practice, we will finish our treatments and clean up everything so we can do it all over again the next day. I will also check in with our strength coach to see if he needs any assistance with the gym workouts. There is also a difference in our training rooms at the game rink or at the practice rink.

Home games are a little different as the practice is much shorter and lighter. We have a couple hours of downtime before they return to the rink for the game. Some players will arrive around 3 hours before game time. I still get to the rink at 7am but usually don’t leave until after the game around 11 pm. When we travel on the road it get to be a tough schedule. Whether we land at 3pm or 3am, the players go to the hotel while we go to the arena to get everything set up for the next day. We try to set up our road trunks like a smaller version of our training room. The timing is a little different and the facilities are never the same as home but we still get all the players whatever treatment they may need. As an Athletic Trainer in the NHL, I may get 1 or 2 true days off over the course of an 82 game season.

What are the most common injuries you tend to see and treat during the hockey season? What common injuries call for the use of an ActiveWrap Ice Wrap in your locker room?  

Everyone gets a sore low back at some point of the season but we mainly send players home with shoulders and knee ice wraps. Our sport is so physical we need to make sure they can take care of themselves at home too.

In college, taping an ankle for speed and no wrinkles was a requirement. Do you find yourself taping as much in hockey and how fast can you tape an ankle these days if we tested you ?

You’d be really disappointed with my ankle times these days. The design of the hockey skate today really prevents the old classic ankle sprains. We see more high ankle sprains now which calls for a much more significant tape job when the player starts to return to play.

What is the process you go thru behind the bench from when the player enters the tunnel off the ice injured? The nice thing about working at this level is the support. We have an orthopedic doctor, general medicine doctor, oral surgeon, and x-ray tech all within a few feet of the bench. We go through the injury assessment and can have x rays done within minutes. If stitches or casting is needed we have all of that on hand too. Hopefully we can return the athlete to play if possible. Obviously during this process we are in contact with the bench and management upstairs on the condition of the athlete as well.

Tell us about your involvement with the young international players that might need a surgery etc...Some players don't have family close by correct? 

Our team has translators and other teachers who work with them on English. Myself or the Head Athletic Trainer are at the appointments to help ease the process as well. In some cases, players have stayed with host families to help ease the transition and care.

With the some of the newer concussion protocol over the past couple years do you find that it is improving the care you can provide as an athletic trainer. The use of Central League Spotters etc and the fact that the ref can send a player off for an evaluation has got to be a plus right?

I wouldn’t say that the new protocol has changed our care. The process is based on the individual and what is the best care for that athlete. The new concussion protocol basically makes recognizing concussion symptoms or events easier to recognize. Nobody has a perfect line of sight for the whole rink. Now we have more sets of eyes helping us in case something is missed which is a nice thing to have.

 As a trainer, adult hockey league player, and father of a young hockey player ....would you like to see players wear more of a full face cage or shield for prevention?

In a perfect world yes. I really like a mask by Boulder Hockey Shield Company. It’s what I put my son in for safety and vision. But there is no way players at the professional level will ever do it unless they are protecting a current injury. Also, I have players play more aggressively with a cage/mask and being more dangerous with the stick because of the added protection. The best injury prevention is being respectful of the game, other players, and playing the game the right way. 

They often say some of the best jobs are the ones with the most time off. How much time off does a pro ATC get come season end?  

 Every year the time becomes less and less. I had full summers off during my years in the minor leagues. Nobody trained year round and all the players would go to their respective home towns. Now, I may get a couple weeks if I'm lucky. We have player development camp at the end of June. Hopefully, if we make it to the Stanley Cup finals we may still playing in June! We have guys who come back for training and start skating again in July.

If an NHL team wins a championship do you get a ring and does your name go on the Stanley's cup?

We do get the opportunity for a ring for sure. As for the cup, I am not sure. There is limited space and a certain number of names they put on there. Depending on the number of players on the roster who qualify to go on there, I think there is a vote who gets the remaining spot. And to be honest, it would be cool but I wouldn’t care as long as we won. I will have my pictures and memories.  

Mike Hannegan is in his fifth season as the Ducks' Assistant Athletic Trainer. An Orange County native, Hannegan joined the organization in 2012 after three-year stint in St. Louis as the assistant athletic trainer for the Blues (2009-12). His resume includes over 15 years of experience in hockey athletic training, dealing with hockey injuries on a daily basis.

Mike Hannegan previously served as head athletic trainer for the Peoria Rivermen in the American Hockey League from 2007-09. He has also been head athletic trainer for clubs in both the ECHL and Central Hockey Leagues (Richmond, Las Vegas, Macon). He was selected in 2006 to represent the National Conference at the ECHL All-Star Game. Hannegan's international experience includes serving as the athletic trainer for Team USA at the 2000 IIHF World Inline Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic.

Mike Hannegan received his B.S. in Athletic Training/Exercise Physiology from Chapman University and went on to complete his Masters of Science degree in Athletic Training from California University of Pennsylvania. He is a Certified Athletic Trainer with the National Athletic Trainers' Association and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength Coach's Association.