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University of the South | Athletic Trainer Spotlight with Ray Knight

Ray Knight, Head Athletic Trainer at the University of the South, shares how he has seen a reduction in injuries by eliminating ice and developing a fresh recovery protocol.

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Ray Knight is in his 18th year as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Tigers. Knight serves the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Society as the chair of the Honors and Awards committee. In 2008, Knight was honored as the TATS Eugene Smith/Mickey O’Brien College Athletic Trainer of the Year Award.

What initially attracted you to athletic training?

I played many different sports in high school including baseball, cross-country, and football. However, I knew that I was not athletically gifted or talented enough to play sports in college, so I shadowed the athletic trainer at my high school. Shortly after, I realized that athletic training was a good way to be part of the team even when you are not playing.

How many student-athletes are at the University of the South?

We have a total of 550 student-athletes with 24 varsity teams.

What is your philosophy in regards to athletic training?

If you are an injured athlete and you are not able to participate in the sport that you love, an athletic trainer needs to do everything possible to help you return to play. An athlete needs to commit to treatment and doing rehab every day. In our athletic training room, the treatment component includes using the Marc Pro to help speed up the healing process.

What sports do you typically work with?

Most of the time, I work with the football team. However, I have a hand in all 24 sports that are part of Sewanee athletics.

Do you typically see similar injuries across all of the sports you work with?

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We see many different types of injuries including ankle sprains, shoulder injuries, ACL tears, pulled muscles (especially hamstrings), and back injuries.

Someone once told me, “If you can take care of the ankle, knee, and shoulder, you can be a pretty good athletic trainer.” A lot of the injuries that we deal with include the ankle, knee, and shoulder, so knowing how to address these areas appropriately is key.

What shifts have you seen in athletic training throughout the years?

There has been a major shift for athletic trainers to move from icing to not icing. RICE is not the preferred treatment anymore. Active recovery is the answer.

Shifting away from icing has really changed what we do at our school. We know that ice is not going to help an athlete get better, so we no longer give ice bags out for injuries.

Do you use ice for recovery?

No. It is my preference that an athlete does not ice. We have to educate student-athletes about the change and shift in paradigm with icing. They are trained in the concept of ‘ice, ice, ice’.

It is my job to educate them on new technology that we believe in. I am constantly educating them on why they should use the Marc Pro over ice.

How were you introduced to the Marc Pro?

In 2013, I worked training camp with the Tennessee Titans. Later in the fall, I had a football player suffer from a bicep contusion. I followed the treatment plan for the player that I was taught in school—ice massage, pulsed ultrasound,  and electrical stim. But, the player was not getting better with weeks of this treatment. I called the athletic trainer at the Tennessee Titans to find out some other ways to treat this injury, and he recommended that I don’t have the player ice.

He then sent me a video with Gary Reinl and Kelly Starrett. The video made me curious and piqued my interest about the idea of ‘not icing.’ So, I bought Gary’s book, ICED!, and spoke with Brandon Aiken, another athletic trainer, about icing. After all of this research, I thought, “Gary might be onto something by not icing injuries.”

And now, we have a no ice policy.

How many Marc Pro units do you have at the university?

We have purchased 10 units since 2013.

What is the protocol for using a Marc Pro in your athletic training room?

Our first line of defense is to put a Marc Pro on the athlete. Initially, we typically have the unit on the athlete on for 30 to 60 minutes.

We then give the athlete a unit to take home. A student-athlete will take a photo of where to place the electrodes so they know where to place them for later. We tell the athlete that the Marc Pro should be on for 2 hours that night to encourage healing. The next day, we re-evaluate.

How has the Marc Pro helped your athletic training staff?

Having the Marc Pro units allows us to spend more time with other athletes. We can focus on everyone and provide a better level of care.

What is the most difficult aspect about being an athletic trainer?

For me, it is juggling spending time with every sport and juggling giving every athlete undivided care.

How do you handle athlete injuries?

Everyone wants to play the sport they love. When an athlete is injured, there is fear that the athletic trainer is going to say that they cannot play their sport.  But, we are here to help them. If athletes follow our plan, we can help them get back to play in a safe manner.

Athletes trust me and believe my recommendations.  The athlete has to know that you care about them before they will trust you. I truly care about the athletes as people and want to help them in any way that I can.

What is your favorite part about working with athletes on a daily basis?

Each day is a new day. You never know what is going to walk through the door. That is my favorite part. You work with someone and you give them resources to get better. You want to know if the athletes are improving each day. I love the day-to-day progress that we see with the athletes.

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