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Athletic Trainer Spotlight: Joe Davies, ATC

November 6, 2017

Growing up in Westfield, N.Y., Joe Davies was influenced by his father, brother, and uncle, who were committed to volunteer fire service. Joe got involved with this vitally important community service at age 14 through a junior explorers program, and soon realized he wanted to be a doctor or pursue some other healthcare career.

A few years later, Joe learned about the profession of athletic training because his best friend’s sister was an athletic training major at State University of New York (SUNY) in Cortland, N.Y. He recalls, “The career appealed to me because athletic trainers seemed to do a little bit of everything. Then a year or two later, I injured my knee and went through rehab. They got me back to the activities of daily living, but I couldn’t kick a soccer ball or jump really well. I had decided I wanted to be an athletic trainer and was taking a personal health and fitness class that my high school offered. As part of that class, I created a conditioning plan that got my knee back to normal.”

Joe graduated from high school in 1999 and was accepted to SUNY Cortland to study athletic training, adding health education as a second major during his sophomore year. He volunteered for their first responders' program after arriving on campus and soon had his EMT certification. Joe moved up through the ranks of that organization, and by his senior year assumed the role of Chief.

After graduating, Joe decided to return to SUNY Cortland to get a master’s degree in health education. While in grad school, he worked as the principal athletic trainer for the U.S. Women’s Handball team, a rewarding position that provided opportunities to travel to Brazil, Europe, and Canada. Going into his third year with the handball team, Joe accepted a job teaching health and doing part-time athletic training at a local high school, Homer Senior High. “That was a busy year,” Joe says, “but after that, the handball team relocated to Georgia. I could have moved with them, but wanted to stay in Cortland to finish my masters and continue working at Homer.”

Joe stayed at the high school for seven years. As part of his health education program there, he created a one-semester class, Introduction to Sports Medicine, which he taught for three years. During his last year at the high school, he was on the sideline of a football game, with an opposing team that didn’t have an athletic trainer. During the third quarter, one of their players was hurt. Joe ran to his side and immediately recognized the severity of the injury. He rode in the ambulance with the student, who died of a head injury shortly after arriving at the hospital. “It was a very traumatic experience,” Joe says. “Shortly after standing next to a father who had just lost his son, I became a father. I was thrown out of balance, and by the end of that school year I needed to make a change for my well-being.”

After taking eight months off, Joe was offered an opportunity to work as for Onsite Innovations based in Mt. Laurel, N.J. The company provides onsite occupational health care, case management, wellness and ergonomics services, and Joe was hired to work as a subcontractor for a large food manufacturer. Five years later, the industrial setting has proven to be a great fit for Joe. “I’ve been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined,” he says. “I enjoy being out on the floor working with and getting to know employees. I handle wellness programming and treat occupational and non-occupational issues. It’s more of a clinical setting, but if an employee gets hurt I’m right there on the sidelines, so to speak. Sometimes I can identify a potential hazard and suggest a change before anyone gets hurt. It feels great when employees say they’re feeling better or getting more done.

“Athletic training is all about building relationships and trust, whether it’s on the field or on the floor,” Joe continues. “In football, we know how linemen position themselves and how they block and tackle, so we understand what they experience. In an industrial setting, we work right alongside the employees and learn about their jobs--what they do, what hazards they face. I might recommend a change in their grip or posture; identify a tool as simple as a stepstool that will help them reach, or suggest a hoist and trolley system to help with a lift. It’s a wonderful collaboration.”

Joe’s job also challenges him to understand the business side of things, and to search for solutions that provide a return on investment. “When on-site athletic trainers partner with a client’s safety teams,” he says, “we empower each other to create a better work environment for the employees. The result is typically a 30 to 40 percent drop in work-related injuries and a 30 to 70 percent decrease in workers comp costs the first year of the program.”

During his years with Onsight Innovations, Joe has received opportunities to grow along with the company. He was promoted to a management position after eight months, and promoted to director of athletic training services this past April.

One of the best aspects of his job, Joe says, is that the workweek structure allows him to spend time with his wife and boys, ages three and six. “Some of my managers and I were recently talking about how much we love working in the industrial setting. It is very fulfilling and affords us a good work-life balance. This job may not be for everyone, but it sure is a great fit for me.”