By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — One of the most valuable members of Mike London’s staff will get some national exposure Monday.
Kelli Pugh, UVa’s associate athletic trainer for football, will be featured in a video report as part of Sanjay Gupta’s Health Minute series. Dr. Gupta is CNN’s chief medical correspondent.
The piece aims to answer this question: What is an athletic trainer?
“They’ve got some footage from our annual meeting in Philadelphia this summer,” Pugh said Saturday afternoon before the Cavaliers’ scrimmage at Scott Stadium. “They interviewed the president of the National Athletic Trainers Association. And then they also wanted to see a clinical athletic trainer.”
The CNN producer in charge of this project lives in D.C., Pugh said, and wanted to feature a Division I university in the region. So CNN sent a crew to Charlottesville to film Pugh and her staff on a typical day of training camp, as they worked to keep London’s players healthy and hydrated.
“They shot a little bit of footage of us doing post-practice treatments, and then they came back when we were doing pre-practice taping and treatments,” Pugh said. “And then they came out on the field for, like, the first 20 minutes of practice.”
The piece will be posted on www.cnn.com at 10 a.m. Monday. It will air on Headline News around 1 p.m. Monday.
“It’s exciting that Virginia’s getting some national coverage,” Pugh said. “It’s exciting that athletic trainers are getting national coverage.”
In a profession dominated by males, Pugh is in her third year as the Wahoos’ head athletic trainer for football and ninth in the program. She’s delighted that CNN is interested in what she and her peers around the country do.
“It’s fantastic,” said Pugh, who has a bachelor’s degree from UVa and a master’s from the University of Florida. “Any kind of media coverage of athletic training is super for our profession, especially when it helps differentiate between athletic trainers and personal trainers.
“There’s a very common misconception, because frequently in the media you just hear, ‘Oh, we send them to the trainers.’ And the public doesn’t know the difference between an athletic trainer and a personal trainer, and we have vastly different educational backgrounds and credentialing.”
An athletic trainer must earn a bachelor’s degree, Pugh said. “Most of us take a national board certification exam, and then we’re licensed through our state board of medicine. Whereas personal trainers are more like strength-and-conditioning coaches.”
As a UVa undergraduate, Pugh volunteered in the athletic training room and helped with the football team in 1998 and ’99. She returned to the University after earning her master’s from Florida in 2002 and started working for head athletic trainer Ethan Saliba as an assistant trainer for football.
During games, she’s on the Cavaliers’ sideline, watching for injuries. Depending on the severity of an injury, team doctors may get involved. Assistant athletic trainer Andy Baker stays back “on the bench dealing with injuries and letting me know who can play and who can’t,” Pugh said last fall.
Classes start Tuesday at UVa, so the pace may slow some in the McCue Center training room. In early August, however, when the players’ focus is football, there’s rarely a quiet moment.
“This is the only time of year they’re quasi-professionals, these two weeks, so they spend a lot of time with us,” Pugh said. “Particularly towards the end of training camp, as the injuries are starting to pile up, we’re pretty busy all day long.”
Temperatures have been higher in Charlottesville this summer than in recent years — “Considerably hotter,” said Pugh — but the training staff has not altered its routine.
“We’ve done the same thing we always do: They weigh in and out before and after practice, we’ve got Gatorade available all over the place, we encourage them to salt their food,” Pugh said. “We’ve got electrolyte supplements that we hand out to our high-maintenance [players who lose a lot of salt when they sweat].
“The guys have been doing an excellent job working on their hydration, because we’ve had very few problems considering how hot this camp has been. We’ve had fewer heat problems this camp than we did last camp.”