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Sally Nogle: Trailblazing trainer

Courtesy of Sally Nogle
Sally Nogle has received several awards for her work as an athletic trainer at Michigan State.

Sally Nogle said she doesn’t consider herself a pioneer, though there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

In her 30 years as an athletic trainer at Michigan State University, the Mountain View native has earned promotions no other woman working for the school – or in the Big Ten Conference – has achieved.

Nogle was the first female athletic trainer for a football team in the conference and in July was elevated to MSU’s head athletic trainer – another first for the Big Ten. A year ago, she was the 12th woman inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.

Nogle (nee Eaves) attended Springer and Covington schools before graduating from Awalt High (now Mountain View) in 1975. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Diego State University and a doctorate from Michigan State. Married with two children, Nogle has been a certified athletic trainer for 32 years.

The Town Crier’s interview with Nogle follows.

TC: What drew you to the profession?

Nogle: My interest in health care and sports.

TC: Were you an athlete growing up? If so, what sports did you play?

Nogle: I played field hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball in high school. I also played volleyball and basketball for two years in college.

TC: What’s the best part of your job?

Nogle: The best part of my job is the people I work with: my co-workers, athletes, coaches, physicians and administrators. It is also very rewarding to work with athletes who are injured and see them return to the sport they excel in and enjoy.

TC: What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?

Nogle: The most difficult aspect is telling athletes they are injured severely enough that they cannot continue to play that season or sometimes ever again. The athletes have worked very hard toward their goals and to have one play shatter their dreams is very difficult for them to deal with.

TC: As head athletic trainer, how many sports do you serve at Michigan State?

Nogle: We have 25 sports at MSU – about 800 athletes.

TC: What’s a typical week like during the football season? And what’s game day like?

Nogle: The football season is a busy time, requiring me to work seven days a week. Mondays are the athletes’ day off from practice and lifting, so we do administrative duties and treatments all day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are practice days. We do evaluations and treatments all morning, tape ankles and do more treatments in the afternoon, go to team meetings and go to practice.

At practice we look at new injuries or help an athlete stretch, tape or brace an injury, then after practice we look at any new injuries and work with our doctors. I also meet with the coaches each day and provide them with an injury report and discuss with them what the injured athletes will be able to do or not do during practice.

Friday is mostly a treatment day, team meetings, and a walk-through practice. The night before a game we stay at a hotel, so we do treatments at the hotel.

On game day we do treatments again and start taping ankles about four to five hours prior to game time. We get to the stadium two hours before the game and tape more ankles and a lot of wrists and thumbs. … Once the game starts we are watching the field, so we can take care of any injuries that may occur. After the game we look at the new injuries and determine if they need ice, wraps, braces, X-rays, etc.

Then on Sunday we again evaluate injuries and do treatments along with covering an easy workout.

Every day we have doctors around in the morning and after practice who we work with, so we spend time taking vital signs, updating medical records and discussing the injury and treatment plan. There are many administrative duties that we work around treatments and practice coverage.

TC: What is the most common injury you see?

Nogle: Ankle sprains and muscle strains are the most common injuries we deal with.

TC: What’s your advice to athletes – from kids to weekend warriors to aspiring pros – when it comes to avoiding common injuries?

Nogle: To avoid injuries, a good core-strengthening program is important. Strength and endurance of the body parts used for the activity are important. A good program with a logical progression is the best way to prevent injuries.

TC: As the first female head trainer in the Big Ten and the 12th woman inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame, do you consider yourself a pioneer?

Nogle: I started in athletic training when the profession wasn’t that old and there were not that many women involved, so I do hope that my career has helped clear the path some for others to get to where they want to go. I have been blessed to have the opportunities that I have had because of my athletic training career, and I hope those who are just starting in the profession have more opportunities because of us older women in the field. So I do not call myself a “pioneer,” and I am very humbled when others say that I am.

TC: What was the Hall of Fame induction experience like?

Nogle: The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Hall of Fame event schedule at our national convention was very special. At the actual induction ceremony, the thousands of athletic trainers who acknowledged me and the other inductees was incredible. The best part was the many members of my family who were there to support and celebrate with me.

TC: You’ve not only worked with athletes at Michigan State, but also Olympic athletes at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Games. What do you consider the highlight of your career?

Nogle: It is hard to pick one highlight. The Olympic games were definitely highlights. Going to the Rose Bowl was a highlight. And the inductions into the Michigan Athletic Trainer’s Society Hall of Fame and the National Athletic Trainer’s Hall of Fame are highlights.

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