mo hampton

Mo Hampton, Stafford head football coach.

Sometimes Caitlyn Cortese approaches a player on the Stafford sideline and asks him what he had for lunch, or who taught his fourth block that day.

She’s not just making small talk.

As Stafford’s athletic trainer, Cortese is tasked with evaluating athletes for injuries. In football, that includes concussions. Simple memory tests can reveal what an athlete might not want to.

“Because they know it’s going to get them pulled out of the game,” Cortese said.

Cortese teaches two classes at Stafford—Sports Medicine I and Sports Medicine II—the latter of which requires her students to log 100 observation hours after school. The real rush begins at the final bell.

Athletes promptly arrive at the training room for treatment, which could be as simple as a stretching routine. From there, she fills all the water coolers and injury ice for the day’s contests and returns to the school building for last-minute treatments. On the sidelines, “it’s a lot of standing watching and waiting for things to happen,” she said.

Before she could call herself an athletic trainer, Cortese had to earn a master’s degree, pass a certification exam, and finally obtain licensure through the Virginia Board of Medicine.

“People don’t realize we’re healthcare professionals,” she said. “We don’t just tape ankles and provide ice packs. We’re prepared for a wide array of events.”

Cortese is entering her sixth year at Stafford, and during that time she’s learned the value of forming relationships with athletes—before they get hurt.

“If they feel like I’m somebody they can talk to and trust, then when an injury does occur they’re more likely to want to come to me and share that with me sooner,” she said.

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