An NFL Athletic Trainer’s Life During the Off-Season

It’s been 184 days or 6 months since the very first NFL pre-season game when the Chargers hosted the Seahawks on August 11, 2011.  Every week for the past 6 months we’ve had football every weekend ending with one of the most exciting Super Bowl games every played last weekend.

“….Are you ready to miss some football?”

You have to admit it: Coming off a very volatile off-season with “the lockout”, the NFL season proved to be exciting and considered to be a huge success on many levels.  Unfortunately, my Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t have the kind of season we hoped for.  Wait ’til you see us next year….

“What do you do for the next 6 months?”

It’s a common question NFL athletic trainers are asked after the conclusion of every NFL season.  The off-season is a busy time of the year with lots of professional projects on our To Do List.  The end of the season medical issues and the planning for the upcoming season makes for plenty to do during the winter and spring seasons around the country.  As we say in the NFL:  “We have two seasons in the NFL:  One with games and one without.”

Off-Season Projects for an NFL Athletic Training Staff

1.  Finalize end of the season documentation, reports, special tests & medical files.

2.  Complete the rehab of all injured players from the season and end of season surgeries.

3.  Prepare for the NFL Combine for screening potential new NFL players.

4.  Prepare for NFL Free Agency.

5.  Inventory and projected upgrades of medical supplies and equipment to improve all levels of medical care for your organizations.

6.  Medical screening and grading of all new players with team physicians.

7.  Attend multiple sports medicine seminars to maintain state and national medical licenses.

8.  Prepare for and cover all team Mini Camps, team practices, workouts and team functions to help prevent and treat all injuries.

9.  Educate medical staffs, players, football staffs, community youth athletes and anyone who will listen in an effort to help reduce injures and to enhance the health of others.

10.  TBD

Time to Recover

As an NFL athletic trainer and physical therapist, I’ve made a career of taking care of other people’s medical problems.  I love that about my profession and it’s very rewarding to me personally.  This time of the year is also a time for my staff and me to recover from working 7 days per week for over 6 months straight.  My 2 great assistant, Rod Scott & Justin Bland, and I have each had a grand total of two (2) days off since mid-July.

Needless to say, the off-season is an important time for all athletic trainers, team football staffs and players in the NFL to reunite with our devoted wives and children.  Our families deserve this break in the schedule for the loyal sacrifice they’ve made to us and our profession.

A Time of Change in Jacksonville

There is so much excitement in Jacksonville with the many changes within the Jaguars’ organization.  A new owner, a new head coach, about 15 new assistant coaches, a new attitude within the organization and a passionate community that deserves a winning football team at EverBank Field.

I’m thrilled to continue to be a member of the Jaguars’ family as I start my 25th season in the NFL.  I can tell you this:  It won’t take long to prove that these new changes will be making the Jags’ 2012 season something special!

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

13 thoughts on “An NFL Athletic Trainer’s Life During the Off-Season”

    1. Yes and if I ever stop worrying, I know that I’m too comfortable. I started my profession under great leaders like Ronnie Barnes and Bill Parcells. They taught me very quickly to always work hard, to keep my feet moving and taking care of the athlete is my most important responsibility. Their positive impact on my career is unmeasureable.

  1. Great Article Mike.
    The most important phase of the macrocycle planning in order to increase further expectations, competitive level and injury prevention & rehab programs.
    Thanks a lot for sharing, Marcos

  2. Personally I find it tough enough finding personal time to myself during the football season, how do you manage? Is it easier now that you have gone through many seasons?

    1. Great question, Kevin. It’s a key issue if you want to be both happy AND have staying power in professional sports. It’s easy…just marry an understanding and independent wife, learn not to need much sleep, acquire the ability multitask like a worker bee, hire a great staff and work very hard at staying in great shape to be able to handle the load! For me, loving the responsibility of helping others is the fuel needed to keep smiling on the bad days. Lastly, finding healthy ways to master the art of stress management is the trick to living a life that makes you want to jump out of bed every morning looking for the next adventure!

  3. Very interesting Mike. I live and work in the UK as a PT and have worked in professional soccer as you would call it.
    But I love to watch A Football and watched the Super Bowl on TV. It sounds like your off season is just as busy as your game season.

  4. Mike you and your staff do a wonderful job and seem to balance it well. Family time is essential in the long run and a key to success. Sadly have seen many casualties of our profession as well as others who take the time, effort, and priority to enjoy a great blessing(s) of life. Thank you for what you do, your professional example inspires others and you stay current, focused and a servant leader to those your serve.

  5. Mike,

    How do I break into the game as an athletic trainer? I have about three years left to retire out of the Marines, and looking for advice on doing the right things along the way. I am new to Linkedin, but my credentials are on file, if you have time, I would appreciate any guidance you could give.
    Thanks, Vince

    1. Hi Vince, Planning ahead is the important first step if a career in a high level football program such as Division 1 or NFL is part of that plan. Extensive football experience is vital. In a recent survey, 85% of NFL Head Athletic Trainers and 83% of Assistant Athletic Trainers had previous experience as an NFL Intern Athletic Trainer. That’s a very strong stat, Vince. If I was you, I’d apply for an internship in December for the summer of 2013.
      Until then, get your hands dirty with football and build relationships with certified athletic trainers working at a high level programs. This gives you someone to learn from and someone who can be a strong reference when you need it most.
      I wish you well. Make sure you mail me one of those resume’s next December, Vince!

  6. I am currently a second year in our ATEP program and have given thought about working at the professional level. Im sure the times vary day to day, but what is an average day like during the season and during the offseason. Mainly what are the hours like?

    1. The hours vary during the different seasons. Average day during off-season: 6:30 to 5 PM, during training camp: 6 AM to 12 AM and during the regular season: 6 AM to 7 PM. From about a week before training camp in July, we work 7 days a week until the season if over in Jan or February. If we get lucky, may staff and I get one (1) day off during the Bye Week!
      Do you still want to work as an athletic trainer in the NFL, Dylan? I hope so because it a cool career, well worth the crazy hours.

  7. I have a question for you Mike. During the last season the NFL made a ruling that each team needs to have an ATC in the review booth to closely monitor player contact to better evaluate concussive episodes. How has this ruling affected your staff on game day?

    1. Hi Marissa,
      The addition of an extra set of “eyes in the sky” has been helpful and welcomed. Having a certified athletic trainer with extensive football experience watching from an uninterupted and better vantage point is only going to help us keep our players healthy.

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