Get to Know Team Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Jessica Cohen

During the month of March, the National Athletic Training Association celebrates National Athletic Training Month to highlight the importance of personal trainers and their work. We sat down with our team athletic trainer and got to know her a little better.

What made you want to become an athletic trainer?

I swam in college and I had some bad shoulders so I was in the athletic training room pretty much every day for four years. So I had the opportunity to get to know my athletic trainer really well and I really appreciated everything she did for me and I wanted to be able to help people that way. I love athletics and team sports and being involved in that capacity to help a team was probably why I went that route.

What was your favorite sport growing up?

Oh that’s hard. I was kind of like an outlier cause I was a swimmer and I played water polo. But I was growing up in Chicago during the Michael Jordan era and we always watched basketball. So pretty much anything Chicago- Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls.

What’s your favorite part about being an athletic trainer?

I like being able to help athletes improve their ability to perform. So when you can take someone through the injury process and help them in a mental capacity, emotional capacity, physical capacity, and see the improvement they make and see the progress and how much happier they get as they go from being injured to getting healthy and returning. It’s rewarding to kind of be a soundboard for the athletes to help them work through difficult times is something that’s very rewarding. Ultimately taking individual athletes helping them and then making the team as a whole better and then seeing that progress as you win games.

Walk us through a game day or practice.

Practice day typically what happens is the athletes are usually at the facility anywhere from 1 to 2 hours early and so I’m usually there 3 to 4 hours before practice starts and I have treatments scheduled out. The veterans come in typically closer to practice time. If practice is at 11 I’ll usually start seeing people around 8 and then after practice there’s kind of a post practice with all the ice, recovery based things and treatments.

Game day if shoot around is at 10 a.m., we’re there at 7, girls will start coming in probably around 8:30 a.m. Same kind of thing- it’s all pre practice preparation. Shoot around goes 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., then players will start to go home and some of them will need a few things. If we play at 7 p.m., usually there’s athletes back in the training room around 4 p.m.. On game days I very much let the athletes kind of direct what they need to be most successful for the games.

What’s something about PT that most people don’t know?

The common misconception is that an athletic trainer just tapes ankles and gives water, but athletic trainers usually have a really strong background in anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics-really understanding how the body works. And so I think that I might not even talk to one of my athletes that morning, but when you become as familiar with them as I do I can watch them in practice and see how they’re moving and I can usually tell if something’s bothering them even before they even tell me. And just also being able to tell when fatigue is setting in and things like that.  A lot of times athletes obviously they’re very tough, very strong and don’t want to complain, and so it’s my responsibility kind of to observe them, see them moving and then I have to approach them about “Hey what’s going on? Can we work on this?”

What’s fun for me in my job is that someone might sprain their ankle, but why did they sprain their ankle? Is it because somethings wrong with their ankle? Is it because there’s something wrong with their knee or their hip or their back? And is fatigue involved? Just because you hurt one part of your body doesn’t mean somethings not going on somewhere else. So it’s kind of that every injury you see is unique and that there’s all these varying and contributing factors. So kind of playing the game of figuring out what is the cause of this problem and then being able to fix it.

Just for fun—what’s your favorite movie? Song? Candy? Go.

Oh my gosh. Those are all impossible questions. I don’t have an all-time favorite movie, but right now I’m binge watching Madam Secretary so I’m really into that. I’m a huge country music fan, so pretty much anything country music. My all-time favorite food in the world is ice cream– any flavor, anytime.