The "Atlas of Human Anatomy" textbook Christa Ikard had to purchase in college has become a $64.95 sidekick of sorts. The cover is slightly discolored, and the pages are dog-eared, but she won't part with her original copy.
"It goes everywhere with me," Ikard said.
And Ikard goes everywhere with Steamboat Springs High School's athletic teams. The former Sailors athlete and 1998 graduate of SSHS is in her third school year as the school's head athletic trainer, but Ikard, formerly Christa Pearson, also teaches several freshman math classes and a sports injury class.
"I never wanted to come back here," she said. "This is a different Steamboat than the one I grew up in."
But after graduating from Colorado State University in the fall of 2002, Ikard found her way home. She graduated with a degree in health and exercise science with minors in anatomy and neurobiology, while finding time to complete the required 1,500 hours of internships to become a certified athletic trainer.
And to think, Ikard went to CSU to sit in a cubicle. She was a student trainer in high school, but Ikard also served as high school Webmaster and became interested in computer science.
When she was unable to earn a 3.5 GPA after her first semester of college, Ikard lost her scholarship. She needed to find a work-study job. Ikard was playing club volleyball at the time and had a conversation with the team's athletic trainer about an opening.
"I got in work-study with them and did that all
four years," Ikard said. "After I went back to training, sitting in front of a computer for 12 hours doing Java script left a bad taste in my mouth."
Watching Ikard interact with the athletes and her student trainers, it's hard to imagine her sitting alone in front of a computer plugging in codes. She has developed a tremendous rapport with the Sailors coaches, the athletes and those working under her.
"She's a blast," senior student trainer Andy Garber said.
Garber, 17, and senior Heather Whiting, 17, are Ikard's student trainers this year. Both have taken her sports injury class and are eyeing careers in physical therapy.
Whiting became interested in athletic training when she visited with Ikard after injuring her shoulder several years ago while swimming.
Whiting made the trip to Cortez with the Steamboat football team this fall. It was her first solo trip away from home. When a Cortez player went down with an unknown injury, and the team didn't have a trainer on the sideline, Whiting was called out to help and made the correct assessment.
"The kid broke his ankle and dislocated his tibia," she said. "It makes you feel good about yourself because you know you did the right thing."
During cross country, Garber would tape up his teammates before meets. Like Whiting, Garber also is an athlete. Ikard said it's common for athletes to work their way into athletic training.
Whiting and Garber are primarily responsible for taping ankles and doing ultrasounds on injuries in the training room. They also assist Ikard when she can't make a game or match. With Steamboat's growing list of fall, winter and spring sports, that happens occasionally.
Local physical therapists help out at the high school, as well. Ikard said Steamboat's high school athletes are in a unique --and fortunate -- situation because of the access they have to so many highly trained medical and health personnel.
"It's a blessing to me," said Ikard, who averages 50 hours a week between teaching and training.
As the head trainer, Ikard said she is responsible for "injury evaluation and recognition," but things aren't always easy for Ikard. She is only 25 and female, so she often encounters people who question her judgment.
"I get questioned all the time," she said. "This is what I'm trained in. Ninety percent of the time, I know more about a student's body than other people do."
Steamboat coach Aaron Finch trusts Ikard. Football is the largest sport Ikard has to manage during a calendar year. This season, Ikard was in the training room at 4 p.m. in preparation for 7 p.m. games.
"Christa does a great job of evaluating players," Finch said. "And she's the one that deals with (descriptions) that come back from the doctor. It takes a huge load off the coaches' mind because she's not going to let a player out there unless it's safe."
And safety is the most important business for athletic trainers.
"I'm not in the business of winning or losing," Ikard said.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org