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Penn State Athletic Training Club Helps Get THON Dancers Back On Their Feet

by on February 23, 2014 2:15 PM

Located in the snaking hallways underneath the stands in the Bryce Jordan Center lies the training room, which is normally reserved for treating the Penn State men's and women's basketball teams.

During THON weekend, it serves as the center for healing a dancer's aches and pains.

Run by the Penn State Athletic Training Club, the training room allows dancer's to walk in and receive treatment from a staff of eight to ten club members at a time. About sixty people are enrolled in the athletic training program at Penn State.

"Whatever complaint the dancer comes in with, we try to treat it," club member Dillon Kapp.

The most common complaint is foot and knee pain, mostly caused by swollen joints. If it's something worse, the club is instructed to contact nursing staff.

Through a combination of ice baths, heat therapy, and ankle and arch taping, dancer's are sent back on their feet in a matter of minutes.

"A lot of people come and say, 'my ankle is really swollen,' or 'my knee is really swollen - what do I do? And basically we wrap them up and ice them, and that's really it," says Kapp.

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Shifts are divided based on points, which you earn from doing THON related activities like canning. Everyone in the club signs up for a four-hour shift, but some taken the liberty of assisting for more than 30 of the 46 hours.

Kapp mentioned the club has two THON weekend leaders, who typically work upwards of 30 hours during the event, sleeping only once or twice.

"They're pretty much here the whole time," says Kapp, who himself will be at the BJC between 16 and 20 hours. "They're here almost around the clock."

When dealing with the emotional and often fragile psyche of dancers who have been up for close to two days, Kapp says it's very important to be nice and ask the right questions. He says the club is instructed before the weekend of what to say, and what not to say.

"Instead of just basically, 'how are you feeling?,' it should be more, 'can I help you with anything?," says Kapp. "Because if you ask someone how they're feeling, they're probably feeling pretty crappy at this point."

After the pep rally on Saturday night, Kapp says the dancer's will power starts to deteriorate, and come into the training center in droves.

"The first 24 hours, it's not too hectic," says Kapp. "We'll get waves of people. It's kind of like word of mouth. When people hear about taped up ankles and arches, they want that done too."

"But then it just hits them," he continued. "They turn into zombies."

However, Kapp says the dancer's are always thankful to the club staff, a sentiment he takes pride in.

"Everyone says 'thank you', and 'I appreciate it', and things like that," he says. "Whatever pain they were feeling, even if it's only temporary, we like to think that they feel better when they leave.

"Even if they're coming back for an hour, they're very thankful for what we do for them."

C.J. Doon is a frequent contributor to Onward State and is a former intern. A Long Island native, Doon is studying print journalism at Penn State.
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