Injuries and illnesses are a part of life, and especially so in professional athletics. Over the course of a long and arduous MLS season, Austin FC’s players sustain plenty of bumps and bruises, some more serious than others.
Athletic Trainer Satoshi Iida plays a key role in keeping them healthy and performing to the best of their abilities. Iida moved to the United States from Japan – where he completed his undergraduate degree – in 2013, and attended the University of Arkansas to complete his master’s degree. The education process is ever-ongoing, with Iida still taking a handful of education courses every year to improve his knowledge and skill set and provide the best possible care to Austin FC’s players.
When a player goes down injured on the field, Iida is often the first to react. If you’ve watched Austin FC play, you’ve likely seen him run out and treat the player through a well-rehearsed process.
“The priority is – and it doesn’t happen often – but the first thing I need to rule out is any kind of emergency situation,” said Iida. “I figure out what body part is injured, and once I know that, the list of serious injuries comes to my mind, and I’m going to check all the boxes to rule out any serious injuries.
“Then once that’s done, I decide or assess how severe the injury is, and determine if the player can continue playing or if they need to come off.”
It’s not just injuries that Iida has to worry about, though. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing major disruptions in professional soccer around the world, Iida helps implement team health and safety protocols, and tries to limit the team’s total number of cases and exposure.
“I think the biggest challenge with COVID is that there are so many unknowns,” said Iida. “It’s hard because it’s not black-and-white, there are a lot of gray areas we need to make decisions on.
“A virus is not like an injury, you cannot physically see it and you don’t know when it’s coming. We have to adapt and adjust quickly to keep the guys healthy.”
Iida is a member of the Club’s high performance staff, which deals with the many challenges of keeping the team as mentally and physically prepared as possible for matchdays. For Iida, collaborating with the other members of his department is one of the higlights of the job.
“Being part of a team and working together to achieve the same goal is something I really enjoy,” said Iida. “Even just within our high performance department, we have medical, performance, sport science, analytics, nutrition, and sports psychology. Everyone has a different discipline and expertise but at the end of the day we’re all trying to optimize players’ health and performance.”