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Head Athletic Trainer serves Olympic-level fencers at national competition

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In January, Head Athletic Trainer Jen Krug (’93) served on the sports medicine staff for The North American Cup in Louisville, Ky., a competition for the United States Fencing Association. She also had the honor of awarding medals to the Division 1 Men’s Sabre winners; one of whom was Jason Rogers, a silver medalist in the Beijing Olympics.

As one of only three national events for this year's Division 1 and Junior Division (under age 20) competitors, the Cup brought together more than 1,600 fencers, all vying for points. The fencers need these points to qualify for the USA teams for the World and Junior World Championships and the next Olympic Games Team.

For all 1,600 athletes, Krug was one of only two sports medicine staff members. She worked 12-14 hour days for four straight days of competition.

The most common treatments were for hand injuries, hamstrings, and ankles. Krug reported she was constantly handing out Band-aids, especially to fencers who had blades glance off their bodies to strike their trail hand. Also, she saw 15-20 major injuries each day, and everything in between.

When the work wasn’t as demanding as when fencers lined up each morning in preparation for their events, or when someone was injured during contest, Krug focused on preventative-care training. “That was fun to educate them,” she relays. “We’re not always going to be there, so to teach them how to exercise, stretch, and help keep themselves from further injury was great.”

Professor Peter Harmer of Willamette University, a mentor and colleague of Krug’s, was the other athletic trainer at the event; he invited her. Harmer is on the Medical Commission of the International Fencing Federation and is also Chief Medical Officer of the U.S. Fencing Association. He facilitates the sports medicine program that he developed for the national level. This means he’s responsible for assigning athletic trainers like Jen to the national events, and, from that group, selecting the sports medicine staff for world events.

Harmer was happy Krug agreed to the trip. “I’ve observed Jen’s work for more than 12 years now. I’ve been impressed with her professional development…and how she’s built up the program at Corban.”

Krug says the most rewarding part of her experience was the opportunity to learn a new sport. “It took me a while to figure it out,” she confesses. “At first I didn’t understand the point system.”

With three events (foil, epee, and sabre) with different scoring techniques, offered for both men and women across the two divisions, and a varying point system depending on the round, it’s not surprising it took some time to learn. Throughout the four-day competition, however, Krug not only gained a basic understanding of the rules, she excelled in the reason she came: to treat injuries and teach fencers how to care for themselves.

Harmer states, “Jen is inquisitive, enthusiastic, and extremely well-versed as a certified athletic trainer. At the competition, she showed me some new skills that were really beneficial to me.”

Krug is looking forward to working another national competition this April in Portland. As Portland is the home base for the U.S. Olympic Women’s Sabre Team, she expects that two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, among other medalists, will be fighting for a championship there.