March is National Athletic Training Month, and Benton Community High School senior Blane Pankey knows just how important an athletic trainer is to his school.
The three-sport athlete who is heading to McKendree University to play football next year was spending time under the expert hands of the school's athletic trainer, Jim Sargent, last week due to a hamstring strain.
Pankey knows that if Sargent didn't come to the school every day to treat athletic injuries, he would be forced to miss classes or practices to get treated.
"Jim knows what he's doing," Pankey said."Jim's the best communicator. I feel like he's also a friend. He gets you back as soon as possible."
Sargent, a graduate of Southern Illinois University, works for NovaCare Rehabilitation. Part of his responsibilities is to provide services for Benton Consolidated High School.
"I come to the school every day to check on the athletes," he said.
Sargent is also on duty for all home sporting events. For the football season, he travels with the team as well.
"The idea is that if every school has a trainer at their home events, then all events will be covered," said Sargent.
Sargent has an extensive background in orthopedic sports medicine. He has spent the past three decades living and working in the Florida area with athletes at all levels.
In 1996, he was a volunteer trainer for the Olympic Games in Atlanta. "I went in before the games and set up the training rooms," he said. In addition, Sargent also worked with athletes from countries that did not have their own trainers.
In a letter to parents, Sargent detailed his plans for his role at the school. "My goals is to take care and watch over your young adults as if they were own," he wrote. "I plan to make myself available for any questions or concerns regarding the care of your athletes."
Sargent also works with the coaching staffs on injury prevention.
While the main function of the trainer is to recognize and evaluate athletic injuries, they are also trained in conditioning and nutritional counseling, health care administration, acute care of injury and illness, and concussion assessment.
Sargent said that NovaCare donates his services to the school."We actually provide trainers for several area schools," he said.
Even though the job is physically demanding, Sargent said he loves being a part of the Benton teams. "I see myself doing this as long as my body holds out," he said.