By Sue Moore
Rubie Gaudette stands five feet tall, smiles every minute, is about as sweet natured as anyone could be, all while giving commands like an Army drill sergeant. The Vicksburg student athletes she treats pay strict attention to her advice as it pays off in getting them healthy and back into the game, whatever sport it may be.
That’s because she takes care of their sore ankles, back and leg pains, concussions or any other ailment that might be present while playing sports. In her second year as a graduate student at Western Michigan University (WMU), Gaudette was assigned to the Vicksburg school district to get hands-on training in her quest to become a certified athletic trainer.
Gaudette attends classes in the morning at WMU, packs her gear into her car, and is in her very small trainer’s quarters by 2:30 where students line up to be treated for whatever ailment they might have. She tapes ankles, does ultra-sound treatment for muscle injuries, gives advice, and checks players out to determine if they are ready to play. She is on duty at all of the football and lacrosse homes games as well as some away, as they are contact sports that often require on-field examination during regulation play.
Concussions are a big concern these days and Gaudette has the authority to tell the coach whether a player can go back in the game or not. She also informs the referee of any athlete’s condition so he will know if that player tries to come back onto the field illegally.
The athletic trainer is the first to reach a player who can’t get up and checks for concussion immediately. Gaudette explains, “I will ask if there is any neck pain, do in-line stabilization by holding the neck with both hands, then palpate down the back for mid-line pain. I’m looking for any fractures or deformation in the spinal area. You always check for eye tracking and make the decision whether the kid can go or not go, based upon these variables. Every conference team is into concussion management. The coaches here are very respectful. If I say no, that’s it.” There were a lot of concussions last year, and already during this season’s practice, the have been two more. “Kids don’t really understand why [I have to hold them out]. You can push through an ankle sprain, but not the brain. You need that for the rest of your life. They just don’t think of the consequences,” she says.
Heat illness is also a concern in early practices and games. Gaudette monitors players diligently, “I measure the heat and humidity index each day with a digital psychrometer and inform the coach of the degree of danger. If it reads above 104, then everything must stop. If it’s under that, but close, we ask them to take frequent water breaks, use ice packs, and remove padding. The symptoms of heat illness are blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue, cramps, and, finally, profuse sweating, and if that stops all of a sudden, you know it’s really serious.”
“I’ve wanted to be a trainer since watching Green Bay Packer football games with my dad and seeing the trainer run out on the field to treat a down player,” she enthuses. “We’ve been Packer fans, even though our family lived in Arundel, Maine.” After graduation from University of Southern Maine, she enrolled at WMU, which is considered one of the best programs for her profession. “My parents made the trip here in 2013 for Vicksburg’s Homecoming game where it rained, the wind blew, and the temperature dipped to what seemed like the freezing level. Everyone was so nice to them, they loved being here. I love the guys and gals on all the team and feel very lucky to have been assigned to a school like Vicksburg,” she concluded.