Penn State’s Athletic Training Club: The Secret To Curing Dancers’ Aches And Pains

In the training room of the Bryce Jordan Center, normally reserved for members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the Penn State Athletic Training Club is preparing to deal with the rush of hundreds of dancers seeking treatment for their aches and pains.

The Athletic Training Club maintains a staff of eight to ten members that rotate in and out during the 46-hour marathon. About sixty students are active members of the club, an educational component of the Athletic Training Major at Penn State.

So what exactly does the club do during THON? Well, when dancers feel sore or any kind of nagging discomfort, they head over the trainer’s room just a few steps away from the floor where ATC assesses their injures and provides proper treatment through a combination of ice baths, heat therapy, massages, and ankle and arch taping. In just a matter of minutes, dancers are back on their feet.

The most common types of complaints, according to ATC’s THON chair Chris Blaszka, are swollen knees and feet, as well as lots and lots of blisters. A table full of band-aids, gauze pads, and baby powder sits at one corner of the room, just waiting to be used when the effects of standing for more than 24 hours begins to take its heaviest toll on Saturday night into Sunday morning.

While one may think the training room would be a special exception, Blaszka was clear that dancers are not allowed to sit down, as those are the rules of THON. However, if the injury is causing significant pain, the club is instructed to contact nursing staff. ATC is also connected to the EMS, and students log in through a computer so the staff knows exactly what medication they’re on, if any.

“They’re allowed to prop [their foot] up on the table, and then we’ll help from there,” Blaszka said. “Even in the ice tubs, they have to stand. They can lean a little bit, but they can’t sit down. It makes our job a little tricky, but it works out.”

Blaszka explained that most students try to tough it out and not seek a little help for their aches and pains, perhaps even putting off treatment until the reach a certain milestone (hour 30, for example). THON and the ATC place no restrictions on when you can and cannot walk in, and dancers are free to come in and out as frequently as they please. One student last year had her ankle taped 46 times — one for each hour.

Despite its close proximity to the dance floor, it’s a hidden gem of sorts for dancers who don’t even know it exists.

“Truth be told, I think a lot of people don’t know we’re here until word of mouth spreads,” Blaszka said. “One gets and ice bath and says ‘oh, that was amazing’ and then literally we’ll have a line at the door.”

Even though the ATC staff is busy during the latter stages of THON, the beginning is mostly quiet. Unless there’s an accident, most dancers don’t start feeling the effects until well into Day Two. So to pass the time, the staff hangs out with their THON family — the Deckman family — and plays with the kids. The room is decorated with a special theme each year. For 2015, the club chose Disney, complete with the famous castle.

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Despite having a more-than capable staff on board, there are times when they need to ask for help from faculty and staff. When they run out of ice, they run over to Lasch, the Penn State football building. When they ran out of supplies early Saturday morning, the women’s basketball team donated some of their own.

“They really help us out,” Blaszka said. “I sent out one final email saying ‘dress fun, have fun,’ and I got a bunch of different responses from our faculty saying ‘keep the Penn State spirit, support the Deckmans,’ the whole thing. They’re always behind us.”

Before the crush of dancers makes their way into the trainer’s room this weekend, be sure to give a shout out to ATC for helping put dancers back on their feet.

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About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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