Athletic Trainer Spotlight | David McDonald of University of North Florida
David McDonald, Head Athletic Trainer of UNF Sports Medicine Department, shares how he found fulfillment and camaraderie through his career in college athletics.
Could you share about your career in athletic training?
My whole family was in the medical profession, and I was always around athletic trainers throughout high school.
I went to college to play soccer and during my freshman year, I had a stress fracture where I was out for a full season, and I then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State had athletic training as a major, and I found that as a better fit than pursuing a business degree.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to work at a lot of great schools with great staffs. From Texas, Oregon, Chicago, and now Florida, I would not trade my experiences for anything as they have made me who I am both personally and professionally.
What is your philosophy in regards to athletic training?
Being a servant overall– you are serving student-athletes and providing them with quality healthcare. You need to be able to coordinate things quickly with doctors, coaches, and athletes.
You also need to deliver the best care to athletes as quickly and safely as possible. We never put a student-athlete back on the field if they are not ready.
What sports do you typically work with?
I am the Department Head overall, with over 19 sports at our school. I mainly work with men’s basketball and men’s golf.
What are the typical injuries in golf and basketball?
In golf, we see a lot of hip and back injuries. In basketball, we mainly see ankle, knee, and back injuries.
What shifts have you seen in athletic training throughout the years?
There is more of a focus on recovery now, with finding the latest recovery tools and integrating manual therapies.
What is the most difficult aspect about being a trainer?
The time away from family. I have a two-year old son, so being away from him can be extremely tough when I am gone for three to four days at a time. I travel with men’s basketball mostly from November through March, but there is work with all of our student athletes year round, so my staff and I are always working to help them get better.
How were you introduced to the Marc Pro?
When I was at Oregon State University, I had a few complicated cases. One case was with a women’s volleyball player. She had hip issues, low back issues, and could not stay healthy. I was trying to figure out what to do to help this athlete, and I was looking at other recovery mediums online. I came across the Marc Pro on the internet and reached out. I had a 2-hour conversation with Gary Reinl from the Marc Pro team who sent me a 3-month Marc Pro loaner to try.
I hooked the volleyball player up to the Marc Pro, and at this time, she was very frustrated. She had already worked with trainers and physical therapists. She kept the Marc Pro on for four hours and then said to me, “I have never felt like this before.” She was so excited and happy. Her parents even said, “Thank you so much for what you did with her.” I knew that something must be working with the Marc Pro.
What is your favorite part about working with athletes on a daily basis?
The relationships. The camaraderie of college athletics. I always say that I have never left college– I graduated, but never left the atmosphere of college.
The athletes are my kids. From former athletes having amazing success at the professional level to ones that went professional in something other than sports, staying in touch with them is the best part.
What advice would you give to athletes about recovery?
Do it frequent, do it often, do what’s comfortable. Have an open mind towards it. With any new modality and technique, there is skepticism, but you have to have an open mind towards it because you don’t know what will work for you.
You have to do regular maintenance on your body and fuel it properly, just like a car. Listen to your body and take care of it.
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