Keith Thomas: The man who prevents injury

Keith Thomas

Bobby Colla

Sports Editor

There are a team of people at Hudson Valley that help prevent and treat injuries for the student athletes that play for the school’s 16 intercollegiate athletic teams, but athletic trainer Keith R. Thomas is the one person who oversees all of them.

When Scott Melville and Jon Griggs both got injured during Hudson Valley’s men’s basketball game against Cayuga at home on Nov. 8, Thomas was the first person on the floor to help them.

“I try to provide the best quality allied health care for these young people,” said Thomas. Over 300 student athletes play intercollegiate athletics at the college, and he takes care of every one of them.

Thomas does this by keeping his information abundant and current.

“Medicine is always advancing, so we stay up to date on the advancements in medicine,” he said. The job requires awareness because of it’s random nature.

“Our day is not the typical 9 to 5 day,” said Thomas. “The days can be all over, and it flexes based on demand and want,” he said. The athletes health and willingness to be helped determines Thomas’s everyday workload.

Thomas also said that his schedule flexes based on the season. The fall and spring games may be a little earlier in the afternoon like 1 p.m., as opposed to the winter season when the games may start later, closer to 7 p.m.

“We try to get these athletes back out to play as quickly and safely as we can.” said Thomas. To do the job quickly is important, but only as quickly as the athletes condition allows, according to Thomas.

“The student athlete’s health is the most important thing,” he said.

Thomas got the job as athletic trainer in October of 2004, when his mentor Stuart Balter resigned from the position to become an executive sales representative with the AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company. Balter was the athletic trainer at Hudson Valley from 1986 to 2004.

Before coming to Hudson Valley, Thomas received schooling and experience from a few different places.

Thomas graduated from Newark Central High School, less than 20 miles from Rochester, N.Y. Thomas said he sustained a few injuries while playing lacrosse in high school and this was what first got his interest in athletic training.

Thomas then attended Alfred University where he studied Athletic Training and played lacrosse. According to Thomas, playing lacrosse was one of his passions earlier in his life.

After graduating, Thomas became eligible to take the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification. Passing this made him eligible to be an athletic trainer.

Thomas found a job as the Athletic Trainer at La Salle Institute, next door to the Hudson Valley campus in 1998. He was also a health teacher for grades 6-9 at La Salle.

After his time with La Salle, Thomas went to UAlbany to study for his graduate degree in curriculum development and instructional technology, and be an assistant athletic trainer with their football and baseball teams.

Following his time at UAlbany, Thomas had a short 6 month long stint with Union College, before finally coming to Hudson Valley where he’s been for the last ten years.

“The thing that I’ve loved the most about my job and what it took to get me here is the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned from those people,” said Thomas.

Thomas enjoys skiing, which he took up a few years ago and even with a recent rib injury sustained while on the slopes he goes right back out there and has fun doing it.

Thomas said that now he’s just enjoying life and trying to do his job with a positive outlook on things. He said he is happy he found a job that he enjoys doing and doesn’t dread going to work everyday.

“The student athletes are why I come to work everyday and I enjoy seeing them on a daily basis,” he said.

The student athletes are also a learning tool for himself and others, according to Thomas. “I’m always learning with this job. The students are always looking for me to teach them something, but I think I learn a lot more from the students than I think I can provide for them,” he said.

Thomas also teaches two courses on the Hudson Valley Campus including Introduction to Sports Medicine and First Aid. He tends to tell stories and connect what he has experienced as an athletic trainer into the classroom. He said he tries to do the same when talking to the athletes he treats about their school work.

“I try to always keep it a learning environment,” he said. The athletes are what keeps his job going and he builds relationships with every single one of them. Thomas added that it was the biggest thing he gets out of his job.

“Building relationships with the coaches, staff, and with the student athletes especially is important to me,” he said. Thomas wants to get to know who he is working with and not only does it help him do his job, but also rewards him with friendships and memories that he wouldn’t pass up.

“This is a very rewarding job. There is nothing better than having a student come back to you to say thank you, after they’ve graduated and started a successful life,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, he has met more good friends and created more memories in the last 10 years than he she did in his years prior to working at Hudson Valley. “I’m pretty proud of these relationships I’ve built with the student athletes,” he said.

 

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