When Arcadia High School's former athletic trainer left her post in favor of teaching full-time, The Physical Edge stepped in to fill the gap in sports medicine care.
The Physical Edge, an Arcadia-based gym that offers physical therapy and fitness training to athletes of all levels, revived its sports medicine outreach program earlier this year.
The program provides schools and youth sports organizations with athletic trainers for little-to-no profit. The athletic trainers on staff at The Physical Edge take turns attending all practices and games for every sport played at AHS.
"The main purpose of the program is to give student athletes access to proper sports medicine care," Physical Edge athletic trainer Ben Torres said. "We try and work with these schools and give them the best sports medicine care."
While the outreach primarily focuses on schools at this point, Director of Physical Therapy Mike Millanes said he wants to expand to eventually service youth club sports throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
That's because, unlike most states, California does not require public schools or youth sports programs to staff an athletic trainer. However, having one on hand can greatly reduce the risk of sports-related injuries.
Every year, 3.5 million California student athletes suffer sports-related injuries of varying degrees of seriousness.
Concussions are one of the most common sports injuries, seen most often in football players. Evaluated by a non-sports medicine specialist, an athlete with a minor concussion could appear healthy enough to return to play. However, that could cause a secondary concussion, which could lead to serious long-term brain injury or even death.
Athletes with even a minor concussion should rest for a full week after symptoms have completely cleared. More serious concussions have an even longer recovery time.
As a high school freshman, The Physical Edge athletic trainer Eddie Breight experienced a secondary concussion when he returned to play too soon following a Level 3 concussion — a concussion that knocks a person unconscious for five minutes or more.
"I was lucky that I didn't die," Breight said.
Breight said the secondary concussion never would have happened had he had access to an athletic trainer.
"I remember the only ice we had on the field was keeping the drinks cold," he joked.
The trainers at The Physical Edge say they love their jobs and are happy to lend their expertise to student athletes.
And expertise is something they have a lot of.
Two of The Physical Edge's three certified athletic trainers have worked with notable professional sports organizations, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and All American Heavyweights, a professional boxing academy. They have all gone through the rigorous training and certification programs required by law for athletic trainers.
AHS Athletic Director Ryan Press said the outreach program provides a valuable service.
"It's just essential to have it, even just the last couple of weeks with the heat and managing that with our athletes," he said. "We're just really fortunate that this all worked out. We're happy with the program."
Jonathan Hopkins, a tight end and defensive lineman on the AHS football team, would agree.
On Thursday afternoon, the senior was in the training room, icing a strained tendon in his right knee under the supervision of athletic trainer Alfonso Flores.
"I'm very glad we have this," Hopkins said. "It's helpful and (the injury) would have been a lot worse."