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Inside Camp: Texans Athletic Training Staff


The Texans' facility underneath the west concourse of Reliant Stadium sprawls out over a full half of the Stadium's service level, housing the team's locker room, weight room, cafeteria and numerous team meeting areas.

But located right at the 50-yard line, at the figurative heart of the complex, is the team's training room.

"The way our building is set up, everybody has to come through the training room at some point," assistant athletic trainer Jon Ishop said. "If you're just trying to go to the player lounge, go to the cafeteria, you gotta cut through here."

And as just as you'd expect of those working at the heart of Reliant Stadium, the Texans' trainers are experts in reading their team's vital signs.

"Those guys usually have a pulse of your team, probably as good as anybody, because they're down there in that training room," head coach Gary Kubiak said.

The start of 2009 Texans Training Camp marks a period of long, hectic days for the team's athletic training staff, which is charged with monitoring all aspects of players' day to day health and well being. With a dual focus on injury prevention and injury treatment, the Texans trainers, led by head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan, don't get much of a break during camp.

"We'll start working with them at 6:30 in the morning and we'll usually finish about 10:00 at night," Kaplan said. "So we'll work with them all day and night and try to get them well as fast as we can."

But work for the trainers starts long before players show up for treatments. A routine day starts at 5:20 a.m., as staff and their summer assistants show up to set up both the training room and the field for an 8:30 a.m. morning practice. Taking account for a few early rising players who come in for treatment as early as 6 a.m, Kaplan and his team work to treat, tape and weigh players until they head for the field about 20 minutes before the first whistle of practice.

Outside, the trainers monitor players during practice, attending to any strains or pulls that might pop up in Houston's hot and humid conditions. After practice, the staff returns back to the training room for post-practice treatment and gears up for the cycle to start up all over again. With only the team's midday meetings as their reprieve, the training staff routinely works past 10 or 11 p.m. before they close up shop for the night.

{QUOTE}And with 80 players in camp to tend to, the scale of the training staff's work in terms of equipment use is staggering. In a given day, the team will go through 30 cases of Gatorade, 1,000 pounds of ice and nearly a half-mile—2,250 feet—of athletic tape. And that's just in a day. Over the three weeks of training camp, the Texans' training staff will use approximately nine miles of tape, a length that would span a distance from Reliant Stadium all the way to the Heights.

With nearly 30 extra players in training camp compared to a regular season roster, training camp also serves as a chance for players to get accustomed to their training routines, with the training staff there to cater to and adapt to their preferences.

"It is a big feel out session, kind of the first day of school until you get down to that (final roster of) 53," Ishop said. "Each individual athletic trainer will have his own group of guys, if you will. They may like the way I stretch versus the way my tape job is. They may let me spat their shoe, but they'll let Geoff tape their ankle… I guess that's kinda their way of getting what they need, how they need it, because if you feel a certain way, you play a certain way."

The relationship that Kaplan, Ishop and the Texans trainers develop with player allows them to be a valuable information source for the coaching staff on not only specific injuries and conditions, but also on the energy level and fitness of the team on a general level. With players constantly passing through the training room, Ishop can quickly pick up on any team-wide issues with fatigue or practice conditions.

"Not just the guys that we deal with, but the guys passing through will mention, 'Oh, my knee is sore' or 'Oh, this muscle is sore, I'm fatigued,'" Ishop said. "So those are the kind of things that Geoff can relay to Coach and say 'Coach, it's not that the guys are soft, we've been working and we've got guys like Andre Johnson, like Matt Schaub, guys who usually work hard every day nonstop, and now they're feeling it."

"When it's just one or two guys, you go, 'Aah, you got to pick it up,'" Ishop said. "But when you have the bulk of the guys, especially your hard workers who don't miss time, don't miss days, and they're feeling a certain way, then [we let the coaches know]."

And when contending with hot and humid Houston weather amid grueling two-a-day practices, the training staff makes player hydration a primary concern. The team's practice facility is dotted with coolers stocked with Gatorade and water, and players are encouraged to drink liquids all the time, wherever they go, from at home to shopping at the mall or the grocery store. And if players do lose lots of water weight from a tough practice—Ishop cited defensive tackle Frank Okam as a player who could lose up to 10 pounds during the course of a practice—the team will have EMTs on hand to administer an IV.

But at the end of a long, hot day, the Texans training staff will wake in the morning for yet another day of practice with their double mandate of injury prevention and treatment foremost on their mind.

"It is a dual role," Ishop said. "We try to stay on the side of prevention, and that's why you see all the hydration… That's why we tape ankles and encourage ankle braces, because that's another way to prevent an ankle sprain. You're not going to stop it, obviously - it's football, and that happens.

"Therefore, we have to wear two hats."

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