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Outdated digs bind hands of Celtic’s athletic trainer

McNary’s athletic trainer, Jill Pallin, works on Chris Burger’s sore wrist before he heads out to a game. McNary’s facilities for Pallin lag far behind other schools in the area, but a dinner and auction June 2 will raise funds to improve her therapeutic equipment. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When McNary High School’s athletic trainer Jill Pallin was moved to a bigger room earlier this year, from a tiny subroom off the weight training center, she knew things were looking up. Then the mice found the Gatorade.

“They chewed holes in every bag,” Pallin said.

It amounted to a $400 loss for the school.

While the mice are a recent development, Pallin has gotten used to dealing with fewer resources than  her colleagues at other Salem-Keizer schools enjoy. On Saturday, June 2, the McNary Athletic Booster Club is hosting a dinner and auction at the school to raise the funds necessary to bring her facility in line with others throughout the district and the state. Cost is $25 per person and tickets are available by contacting Rhonda Brattain at 503-510-8813 or [email protected], or online at mcnaryabc.org

Pallin is the only trainer in the district without a dedicated ice machine and she has run afoul of the school’s cafeteria contractor trying to keep pace with the needs of athletes who need ice therapy and cold drinks during games.

When someone needs to ice a leg injury, they stick the afflicted extremity in a five-gallon cooler filled with ice. As long as one foot isn’t overly large, two students may get to use it at the same time.

“We’re hoping to get two whirlpools so a lot of people can sit around and dunk all the way up to their hips,” Pallin said. “The whirlpools also offer a massaging action that’s therapeutic.”

On average, about 30 students visit Pallin in her room every day seeking muscle taping, stretching or wound care, but that’s before any actual game or practice begins. Others come in to heat or cool existing injuries to prepare them for workouts or competition.

When Pallin is working with an athlete on stretches, other students are typically helping each other tape muscles. Despite the help, backlogs for certain types of therapy are a regular occurrence.

The warming device, called a hydroculator, holds just four packs and is a frequent bottleneck.

“Instead of using the packs  for 8-12 minutes as prescribed, students might only get 3-5 minutes depending on the number of students waiting to heat a sore muscle,” Pallin said. A 12- or 24-pack machine would increase the number of students being served at any one time.

Pallin services, and those of public high school athletic trainers throughout Salem-Keizer School District, are contracted through Hope Orthopedic, but the facilities are unique to each school and McNary’s has fallen far behind its rivals. Pallin’s room doesn’t even have locking cabinets. The closest it gets is a thin chain strung through the handles of a wooden cabinet.

“It’s a safety issue. I need to know when things are are going in and coming out. It also might help with the mice problem,” she said.

In addition to the whirlpools and an ice machine, she would also like to see the dinner auction raise enough money to buy a new taping table big enough for three athletes instead of just one. The athletic boosters chose upgrading Pallin’s facilities as their inaugural project after reforming earlier this year because it serves all of McNary’s 800 athletes. This year, Pallin has treated athletes from every single sport offered at McNary.

“I don’t like athletes leaving here feeling like I haven’t done everything I can to make them a little better,” she said. “I want it to be as good as West Salem’s [facility] and Sprague’s. Those are attainable goals in this room.”