Athletic Trainer Spotlight | Brandon Aiken of the University of South Carolina Aiken
Brandon Aiken, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine at the University of South Carolina Aiken, shares what excites him about sports medicine and how Marc Pro complements that passion.
How long have you been an athletic trainer?
I have been an athletic trainer for over 20 years. I started out as a grad assistant and working as a rehab tech, with over 1,500 hours of internship hours.
What attracted you to athletic training?
I have always been interested in athletics. I injured my knee playing football and we had an athletic trainer come to the school. Seeing the athletic trainer, I thought to myself that athletic training offers the best of both worlds. In athletic training, there is the medical side of the profession and the sports side too. The job is a lot of fun and there is amazing satisfaction with bringing athletes back to play.
What is your philosophy in regards to athletic training?
I believe in treating the whole athlete, not just the injury. There are physiological components to athletes that must be taken into account that are both mental and physical. There are multiple elements that must be taken into account from nutritional deficits, stresses from school, to sleep deficiencies.
What sports do you typically work with?
I am lucky enough to work with all teams. In the fall, I work primarily with women’s volleyball and travel with the team.
What injuries do you most commonly address?
There are a wide variety of injuries, but most commonly I see ankle injuries, shoulder injuries, and issues with the knee.
What is the most difficult aspect about being a trainer?
There can be long hours with time away from the family. I have a 5-year old and 2-year old, so being away from them during travel seasons is difficult.
How and when did you hear about the Marc Pro?
I heard about the Marc Pro about 5 years ago. I am a fan of Kelly Starrett and his thoughts about mobility and working out tissue in the training room. I found Gary Reinl’s video from the CrossFit Games about not icing injuries. I liked Gary’s courage to say no to ice and thought that the theory of not icing made sense.
Initially, I started with a soccer player and did not use ice for treatment. I went home that night and thought, “Am I doing the right thing?” A few days later, the soccer player was feeling better, faster than we expected.
How many Marc Pros do you have at the university?
We have 24 units at our school. Our treatment protocol includes the Marc Pro because it allows us to get athletes out to the field quicker. Because athletes see the Marc Pro’s benefits, we have to offer seasonal priority to teams that are in-season. Every year, it is in my budget to buy 2 more Marc Pro units because it is impossible to keep them in stock for the athletes.
The units are always checked out, and 4 of our athletes have purchased their own personal Marc Pro devices. We have a check out sheet that includes the Marc Pro unit number and has a place for the athletic trainer to sign for approved athlete usage.
What do you tell athletes who check out the units?
We train the athletes on how to use the device and tell them that you are looking for the biggest contraction possible. We also say to turn it as high as you can tolerate, be in a completely relaxed position, and use it for a minimum of 4 hours in a row.
What do your athletes like best about the Marc Pro?
Simply, the athletes see the value in the Marc Pro because it allows them to get better, faster.
How has the Marc Pro helped you in the training room and strength room?
We include the Marc Pro in a range of motion and strengthening exercises. I am also a strength coach and we don’t recommend athletes ice post-lifting. Why would we do it for injuries? Now I only use ice for keeping water cold.
The Marc Pro moves things along so much faster and doesn’t slow the healing process down. Ice does not allow for the body to do what it has to do. With the Marc Pro, recovery times are faster, we can reduce pain, reduce swelling, increase range of motion, and strengthen. In turn, this leads to sustained and long-term recovery–complete recovery for the athlete.
What has been the most surprising thing you have learned throughout your career?
Everyday, my job keeps getting more fun. Someone once told me, “If you know everything in sports medicine, you should find a new job.” I am always looking to learn because there is so much to learn about how to get better in a sport. We have to get away from the thought that “we have always done it this way.” Our team incorporates continuing education courses into our budget every year to support ongoing learning.
What is your favorite part about your work?
I love the relationships that you build with athletes. It is such an amazing experience to see athletes come back from an injury.
Want to hear more? Watch our interviews from the NATA Conference, where talked with 13 athletic trainers about why they are leaving ice in the cooler and taking a new approach to recovery.