From catastrophic injuries to months-long rehabilitation, Giuliani says being an athletic trainer is being "an educator first."
Associate Director of Sports Medicine & Head Football Athletic Trainer, Lehigh University
Every day, Lehigh University’s Associate Director of Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer, Marco Giuliani, witnesses firsthand the dedication and resilience of the student athletes in his program. Within two minutes of speaking to him and hearing how passionately he speaks about his job, anyone will see that serving these athletes has driven his passion since the beginning of his career.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Giuliani aspired to play professional baseball. After taking an “Introduction to Sports Medicine” class during his junior year of high school, Giuliani was sold. Sports medicine combined two things he loves: sports and helping people.
“Athletic training is not just ‘Alright, let’s go fill up a water bottle and get out on the field,’” Giuliani explained, “You’re an educator first. You’re teaching these kids different life skills they may not have gotten if they didn’t play sports.”
Giuliani described one of the first times his skills were put to the test during an incident at their football game versus Yale in his first year. Yale’s quarterback gave head-to-head contact to Lehigh’s safety as the quarterback was scrambling. Lehigh’s safety went soaring through the air and was unconscious before he hit the ground.
In the moments that followed, Giuliani’s characteristically thoughtful and thorough brand of athlete care had its opportunity to shine for the first time.
“As soon as I get out there, I always try to make eye contact with the athlete – so they see a familiar face. It’s not a referee, it’s not an opposing athlete. They know what I do, they know I’m there for them,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani then performed a full neurological assessment and C-spine check of the athlete. Everything appeared to be okay until he sat the athlete up and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. He immediately laid the athlete back down, cut off his equipment, secured him to a spine board, and sent him to the hospital for a CT scan.
The athlete had suffered a subdural hematoma, or a pocket of blood on the brain. Typically, this injury would result in a surgical procedure to remove a chunk of the skull, allowing space for swelling. Guiliani’s athlete got “lucky, in a sense” – he did not need an evacuation of his skull and was discharged from the ICU after 5 or 6 days.
Giuliani said once an athlete is out of the hospital, the hard work truly begins. This particular athlete opted to withdraw from the academic semester upon discharge from the hospital to begin six months of vestibular (concussion) rehab.
“It’s crazy how much a football student athlete puts their life on hold while they’re in college,” Giuliani said. “They train all year for about eleven opportunities at a minimum. It’s crazy to see the grooming and training they go through – all those early mornings just for those eleven games. They’re not guaranteed to make the playoffs or go to a championship game, and yet they still wake up every morning and get it done.”
Pride in his job and love for his athletes keeps Giuliani going, though anyone’s resolve would be tested in the face of countless catastrophic injuries. Regardless, he persists in caring for his athletes and teams.
Giuliani described an incident that happened recently where a senior lineman severely dislocated his ankle. He said the impact “sounded like a fresh tree branch snapping.” When Giuliani and his team got to the athlete, he was sitting upright on the field looking disoriented.
“We get out there and can see his left ankle basically doing a 180,” Giuliani described.
After stabilizing the ankle on the field, Giuliani immediately took the athlete into the team’s SidelinER® to recuperate emotionally.
“The nice thing about the tent is that it allows a student athlete a safe place to process their emotions and everything they’re going through in that situation. When you’re on a table on the sideline and ten- to twenty-thousand people are looking at you, it’s tough to be truthful.”
Giuliani explained how athletic medical evaluations have changed in the past few years since the emergence of SidelinER®. The privacy tent allows athletes to lay back and let out their frustrations without feeling the gaze of thousands of fans.
Here at Kinematic we understand the intensity of being a sports medicine professional. Beyond being a sort of “First Responder” in the face of catastrophic injuries, athletic trainers and physical therapists work hard to educate their student athletes on how to be strong team members and people. It’s a privilege to create a product that serves as a tool for passionate and driven ATCs like Giuliani to perform on the job.
Collectedness and expertise have come with years on the job, but heart is something that Giuliani was clearly born with. This grit and desire to help others trickles down to his staff, student athletes, and the entire athletic program at Lehigh University.
“I know going in every day that I get to work with some really good kids,” Giuliani said. “They care, they enjoy what they do, and they always have respect – and that’s the biggest thing.”
Written by Daniel Sisson