Stevens Athletics speak on student concern regarding athletic trainers

There has been concern among the student population regarding a head-on collision between two brothers of the Sigma Nu fraternity at an intramural flag football match between Sigma Nu and Kappa Sigma almost 3 weeks ago.

Sophomore James Potestivo was injured, which led to a premature end to the friendly match. “I was knocked out for a few seconds, and then I was just really dizzy, and there was a lot of blood coming from my head—but I don’t remember all the details because I couldn’t think straight at all.” Potestivo noted that one of his Sigma Nu brothers was there to assist him, handing him paper towels and applying pressure to stop the bleeding. “I was there with him […] for about a half hour before a female student came over and said that the medical staff [could not] help me because it is not their place since I’m not a varsity athlete,” said Potestivo. Campus police was called and an ambulance arrived to take Potestivo to the Hoboken University Medical Center, where he received three stitches upon arrival.

The question remains: are the athletic trainers allowed to administer care to non-Stevens athletes?

The Sigma Nu brother who had assisted Potestivo noted that “in years past, there has been a temp trainer on staff for Greek league sports. Either they weren’t there or policy changed,” said the brother, whose name has not been disclosed. “If there was an issue, it would be a lack of a sense of urgency, especially with James’ head injury.” He went on to explain that Potestivo’s situation was dealt with “calmly and relatively effectively,” but believes that the athletic staff did not have the legal abilities to treat his brother.

Potestivo’s overall experience—or lack thereof—with the athletic trainers was discussed at that Sunday evening’s SGA meeting. The minutes indicate that there was some uncertainty among the members of the Student Government Association regarding athletic trainer policy. One senator stated, “Emergencies definitely qualify for allowing non-varsity athletes to the trainer,” while another shared their personal experience, “I play rugby off campus and when I get hurt and go the varsity trainers, they never help me. Can someone tell me why?” While one senator suggested that “[the] Athletic Trainers hate doing their job,” another member disagreed, noting that there might be a legality issue and the fact that “we didn’t sign the forms varsity athletes did.” There was also discussion recorded in the minutes that broached the topic of the Good Samaritan Laws and the overall consensus seemed to be that the issue of athletic trainers being unable to help in a medical emergency needed to be addressed.

Head Athletic Trainer, Tara Donofrio, Director and Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, John Maurizi and Stephanie Garino, as well as Director of Athletics, Russell Rogers were willing to sit down to discuss the issue from their point of view.

“I was on the field during the play,” Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Stephanie Garino explained. “They must have mistaken me for a student, but after we confirmed he was conscious and the injury was not life-threatening we activated our emergency action plan.” This plan entails notifying campus police who take it from there to arrange an ambulance and file an incident report.

The trainers were notified of the accident that had occurred, but Donofrio offered explanation: “We just happened to be there in the office at the time. A few minutes later, and we would have left for the day.” She emphasized that because Potestivo’s injury was not deemed a life-threatening emergency, varsity trainers are not going to step in to administer medical care. “We will try to assist in any way possible in case of a [life-threatening] emergency, but [otherwise], this is where campus [recreation] comes in.”

Donofrio explained that she and other athletic trainers in the Office of Sports Medicine were specifically “hired to treat varsity athletes,” and that the regular student population does not sign the liability release forms that NCAA athletes do. Thus, whether a student collides on the field or falls into a pothole on campus, the procedure is the same: call campus police. “Of course we are covered by good Samaritan laws,” Donofrio laughed, “but we have to deem the situation as a life-threatening emergency for the student treat them.”

“No one knows our Emergency action plan,” said John Maurizi, Director of Campus Recreation, “they just assume we aren’t doing anything. The 30-minute estimate seems a bit inaccurate. You can finish an entire game in 30 minutes.” Donofrio provided additional assurance. “The front desk staff is trained on how to respond to accidents that occur on the field. They notify campus police who file the incident report and then take care of the rest.”

Director of Athletics Russell Rogers emphasized that he would be “glad to talk with anyone in the SGA or student body” regarding the policy on athletic trainers administering medical help to non-varsity athletes, which was emphasized as not a new policy. “These kind of injuries are always going to occur when people play sports. This is why we have the emergency action plan.”