Joe Shouse/Paulding County Progress Bobbi Brkovic, athletic trainer at both Wayne Trace and Antwerp, tapes the ankle of basketball player Hunter Noel. Brkovic serves both schools and is a valuable asset to their athletic programs. In her fourth year, she helps athletes deal with a variety of injuries as well as the emotional aspect of working through possible career ending injuries.
By JOE SHOUSE

Sportswriter

When it comes to the athletic scene, whether it be college, professional or even high school, the concern for the overall well being of the athlete is more and more prevalent. With the number of concussions being recorded in sports as well as the upswing with anterior cruciate ligament injuries, commonly referred to as ACL tears, and other season ending injuries, many schools are electing to add staff with expertise in dealing with those type injuries.

For two local high schools, Antwerp and Wayne Trace, they have been proactive in dealing with such issues in recent years. Both schools have partnered with Parkview Sports Medicine and for the past four years have shared the services of Bobbi Brkovic as their athletic trainer. She splits her time serving the high school sports programs at both schools and finds herself in demand as she serves as trainer as well as helping athletes and families deal with their future concerning injuries.

Employed by Parkview Sports Medicine, Brkovic came to Paulding County after graduating from the University of Akron.

“My bachelor of science degree is in athletic training and when I graduated I needed a job. I always thought that I would like to work at a university or even for a professional team, but when this job opportunity opened up I took it and I have no regrets. This is the place I want to be and I can’t see myself anywhere else. I love it,” said Brkovic.

As the athletic trainer at two schools Brkovic has little free time. She is dedicated to her job and in helping the student athlete recover from injuries. With a smile she said, “Many people think that we are nothing more than ankle tapers. That is part of it because we are trying to eliminate ankle injuries but there is more to the job.”

It’s a misconception that athletic trainers just sit around in the gym watching practice or ball games.

“I consider my job as if I am a second shift employee. The day starts around 2 or 2:30 p.m. I report to the school I am scheduled to be at for that particular day. There is usually an array of job duties, from helping take care and give attention to injuries that athletes sustain in practice or in games to making appointments for athletes to see an orthopedic specialist or surgeon,” said Brkovic.

Part of the job that Brkovic finds to be the hardest is when she has to deal with an athlete who may have a type injury that takes him or her out of competition and is no longer able to participate.

“That’s when it gets difficult. You can help someone heal from an injury like a twisted ankle but when an athlete has to deal with an injury that may take a year of rehabilitation, that can be quite emotional. Or worse yet, being a victim of a concussion that ends a young persons sports career becomes very emotional not only for the young person but also for their family,” said Brkovic.

Brkovic knows that often times when an athlete or even a family member see her coming their direction its going to be bad news.

“When a kid goes down and is out for the season and we have to tell them the bad news; that’s not fun to do. Sometimes you have to help kids and parents deal emotionally with the unfortunate side of injuries. It’s not easy to understand or accept but you have to do all you can to stay positive and help them work through it,” she said.

Always around sports, Brkovic played basketball in high school where she was a four year starter on the Ontario (Ohio) Lady Warriors basketball team. She still holds the school record with 111 career 3-pointers, a record she set her senior year in 2004.

“I love sports and I enjoy being around this age group. I love the athletic atmosphere and knowing I can hopefully help athletes is a great feeling,” Brkovic commented.

Living in the midst of a Ohio State fan base and even growing up in the Buckeye state, Brkovic somewhat hesitated before admitting that her favorite team is the University of Michigan. Asked how that came to be she had a simple response. “Well, my older brother Anthony loved sports and I guess I got it from him. He was a Michigan fan and if it was good enough for big brother then it was good for me also,” she said with a proud look.

Brkovic appreciates her professional working relationship she has developed with athletic directors, coaches and school staff. As an athletic trainer, Brkovic is licensed and certified by the state of Ohio and is responsible for taking at least 50 credit hours of continuing education every two years.

“With the advent of concussion injuries, there is so much happening in the lives of many young athletes and we are doing all we can to help recovery time, education and understanding when it comes to these type injuries,” said Brkovic.

Concussions is something seen these days from little league diamond to the professional football field and with any injury it is not only a physical issue but also emotional and mental according to Brkovic.

“When an injured athlete recovers from a severe knee injury and they go out on the court or the field for the first time it becomes a matter of trust. Helping the student athlete mentally trust their knee to be healthy and to have a level of success is a big step for them and very rewarding,” she said.

Both Antwerp and Wayne Trace is fortunate to have Bobbi and the support of Parkview Sports Medicine. The athletes at these two schools are in good hands and Brkovic will do all she can to bring an injured athlete back to the place where they can play the game they enjoy. She may be able to improve them to the point they can beat her in a three point contest. No, I doubt it.