Jan 29, 2015Q&A with Jenny Moshak
By Abigail Funk
It isn’t every day a college athletic trainer is heralded in a front-page story on ESPN.com or in USA Today. But Jenny Moshak, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine at the University of Tennessee, recently found herself in the media spotlight as she helped to rehab All-American forward Candace Parker in the midst of the Lady Volunteers’ run to its eighth NCAA national championship last month. Here, Moshak recounts Parker’s injury, what went into her extremely fast rehab in the days before the team’s Final Four game, and how Moshak dealt with the sudden onslaught of interview requests and media exposure.
T&C: What exactly happened to Candace during the regional final game against Texas A&M University?
Moshak: During the first half, she reached for a ball and the force of the player and the ball put her arm into abduction, external rotation, and extension–a classic mechanism for a glenohumeral dislocation. In other words, her left shoulder dislocated. I reduced it on the court first, then brought her back to the locker room where our team physician and orthopedist met us. We evaluated her and found that she had full range of motion and good strength.
I did a series of proprioceptive stabilization exercises and strengthening to fire up the rotator cuff, trying to make sure the muscles would be able to do their job once she went back out there. Unfortunately, Candace convinced us a little quicker than she should have to let her go back in. She probably needed a little more work to get that rotator cuff going. Her shoulder came out again just before halftime, so I put it back in again and we went back to the locker room. Halftime was enough of a timeout to find a brace for her and get her rotator cuff fired up and ready to go. Our orthopedic surgeon said she needed every minute of it, too.
What went into treating Candace’s injury after the Tuesday Texas A&M game and before the Sunday Final Four game against Louisiana State University?
Candace’s range of motion was really very good. The only thing she was lacking for the first day or two was internal rotation, but she got that back fairly quickly as well. I concentrated on getting her symptoms calmed down and maintaining any swelling. Then our focus was on strengthening and scapular stability, which we accomplished through proprioceptive work. We also limited her motion in the classic abduction, external rotation, and extension with a Sully brace.
How difficult was it for Candace to play in and get used to the brace?
There was a little negotiation on the strapping system because you can make a Sully brace as restrictive as you want. We started out with a two-strap system and then ended up just using one of the straps. But our orthopedic surgeon, team physician, and myself were very comfortable with using one strap because it still really limited her. The most important things to limit were abduction, external rotation, and extension, and the one strap did all that. It was a question of, “Can you play or can’t you play with this limitation?” It’s one thing to protect the shoulder and another to protect the shoulder and still be effective in your sport. It was definitely a benefit to us that it was her non-dominant arm. She shoots with both, but is more right-handed than left.
Practicing in it and getting used to it was the other parts of the equation. We put a long sleeve shirt on Candace so it covered the brace. I think it helped for the brace to be out of sight, out of mind–for both Candace and her opponents. The ironic thing is that Candace practiced in a long-sleeve shirt every day anyway, so she was more comfortable wearing the shirt than not. She just preferred to be in long sleeves, and the material wicks the sweat away. We just had to make sure we had one that matched the color of the uniform so it was legal.
How did your schedule change after the Texas A&M game and before the LSU game?
We only had one day back in Knoxville. It was spent getting Candace re-evaluated. She had a couple of academic things to take care of, laundry, packing, etc. We did make time to rehab in between all of that. It was a good thing we got back home so I could pick up some new modalities and get the Sully brace–it was crucial to come home and be able to do that. And then once we started back on the road, Candace and I basically lived with each other. I do think the fast turnaround to getting back on the road was an advantage because we were isolated.
Our biggest obstacle was all of Candace’s media commitments and the awards ceremonies she had to attend. Those interfered with keeping our rehab time consistent. To counteract that, I attended all of those events with her so that if there was a break we could get some work in.
I carried workout clothes in one bag and dress clothes in another bag so that I looked the part as well. I was basically schlepping these big bags of clothes and equipment with me everywhere we went.
Our schedule involved going to the gym early and while we were waiting for the team to get there, we would do some rehabilitation. After practice, we would leave to go back to the hotel, and we’d do some more rehabilitation. Then we’d go out to eat, and as soon as we got back we’d do some more rehabilitation. It was challenging, but as we told each other, it’s a good thing we like each other because we were able to accomplish the goals we wanted to.
How did your prior relationship with Candace during her knee rehab help through this stint?
We got to know each other very, very well her freshman year with her knee rehab, especially because she ended up redshirting that year. When you spend three to four hours a day together every day for a year, you really get to know each other. We developed trust, a great line of communication, and a great understanding for each other. I know what makes her click and she knows where I draw the line. I think that allowed us to complete this on a positive note.
Were you at all surprised the rehab ended up working out in such a short amount of time?
There’s always a chance that it won’t, but our attitude was, “We’re going to give this the best opportunity that we can. If it was meant to be, it’ll be, and if it isn’t, it isn’t, but we’re going to go down with the ship trying.” Candace is a great individual to work with, she’s very in tune with and understands her body. She communicates well and she’s very mature and a hard worker, so really all the tools were in place for it to be successful.
How would Candace’s rehab have been different if her injury occurred during the regular season?
She probably wouldn’t have even played. We wouldn’t necessarily have taken the risk. But what you do in this situation is weigh the risks and benefits, the goals and challenges, and then get everybody on the same page understanding all of that and go for it.
How did your life change during that week?
I was just in athletic training mode. Some of my family was at the Final Four and it’s a very good thing they understand what I do because they really didn’t see me. I felt like it was just rock and roll the whole time.
With the media, I wanted to make sure that the right message was getting out there. First of all, we were not going to jeopardize Candace Parker’s career, her livelihood, or her physical health in any form or fashion. I wanted to make sure people knew the right things were being done. A lot of times when the medical staff doesn’t release information, speculation occurs. So I wanted to make sure the correct information was coming out.
The other thing I realized half way through the process was, “Wow, this is an opportunity for people to really understand what athletic trainers do–that we don’t just tape and hand out Gatorade.” So I was adamant about ESPN using the correct terminology, I was correcting reporters and radio people and media outlets that when they say the word “trainer,” that is not our name. We don’t want that confusion. We are licensed, certified professionals bound by medical ethics and take our profession very seriously. I wanted to make sure the proper and positive message was being displayed on that level as well.
How did you manage your time with all the interview requests?
It was hectic, but our media relations department does a very good job of funneling questions to the right people and finding out from my own or Candace’s schedule as to what is a good time and what isn’t. I think prepping beforehand, knowing who’s going to answer which questions helps as well.
The other thing I wanted to do was try to speak for Candace so she wasn’t put in awkward situations. Sometimes reporters will ask the same question 50 different ways just because they don’t like the first answer they received. So I was trying to take some of that pressure off of Candace because she needed to focus on getting well and winning a championship. So sometimes she’d just say, “I don’t know. Go ask Jenny.” It’s hard for an athlete to necessarily articulate what’s going on when you’ve got all these emotions involved.
We read that you were presented with a Mercedes at the championship celebration back on campus!
I was! It was a complete surprise, and it was such a special moment to be appreciated and recognized on that level. I was honored. The whole ordeal was breathtaking, I was speechless, my team was jumping up and down, it was quite an event. I have been driving it around–it’s a little Mercedez Benz convertible SLK 280, so it’s pretty sweet. It’s white with cream interior. Really, I couldn’t work for a better program. It’s amazing here, and I’m so happy to be honored like that.
Has anything else changed now that you’re settling back into your regular routine?
It hasn’t been a regular routine at all. Between all the e-mails, letters, the flood of support and appreciation and well-deserved comments–which is just fantastic, I’m not used to that–it has been overwhelming. I’m trying to respond to every one of them because if they took the time to contact me, I want to take the time to respond back. So I’ve spent a few extra evenings writing thank-you notes and e-mails. I’m just so appreciative of everyone that has recognized what has happened.
Unfortunately we’ve had to hit the ground running after the season here with Vicki Baugh tearing her ACL in the championship game. We just had one of our other athletes, Angie Bjorklund, get her nose fixed from when she broke that in the Mississippi State game during the year, too. The other thing that has been keeping us all very busy is getting the five seniors who were all drafted working with the WNBA and getting their records together and sending them off with what they need. We’ve all been saying good-byes and so it’s really been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s now tying up all these loose ends and getting started on new tasks at the same time.
Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.