Jan 29, 2015Rising to New Heights
At the professional level, athletic trainers have become recognized as crucial members of their organizations. Few, however, have the clout of Ronnie Barnes, the New York Giants’ Senior Vice President of Medical Services.
How much clout, exactly? In a recent profile of Barnes in the New York Observer, former wide receiver Phil McConkey said, “If they had an organizational chart–a real organizational chart–there’s ownership, and then there’s Ronnie Barnes.”
Barnes, who was the subject of a 2012 blog on Training-Conditioning.com, began his career at East Carolina University. In 1975, he became the first certified athletic trainer to graduate from the school and in 1977, got a master’s degree from Michigan State University. By 1980, he had joined the Giants as Head Athletic Trainer, where’s he’s expanded his role ever since and earned numerous accolades. The NATA has twice named him their National Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year and he was named Athletic Trainer of the Year by NFL Physicians in 2002. He’s also a member of the East Carolina, Michigan State, and NATA Halls of Fame, and has a scholarship in his name at East Carolina.
Early in his career Barnes developed a reputation as an athletic trainer who couldn’t be pressured by his coach. Former Giants running back Joe Morris recalled a 1985 incident where he sustained a concussion during a game and was removed, but Head Coach Bill Parcells wanted him put back in:
“Bill goes, ‘I need him back in the game.’ And Ronnie just goes, ‘No, he goes into the game when I say he does and when the doc says he does,'” Morris said. “Now, you gotta have a set of stones to tell Bill Parcells that.”
Barnes’ relationship with the team extended into the owner’s box as well. When former owner Wellington Mara was diagnosed with cancer, Barnes was a constant fixture with him in the hospital. “I went with him to all of his appointments and radiation,” Barnes told ECU’s East Magazine in 2006. He was in the hospital for 30 days and I probably spent 25 of those nights with him. For him to want me there was a wonderful opportunity, and a tribute.”
Despite his integral role on the Giants, Barnes has continued to give back to the profession. He’s a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee and Return-to-Play Subcommittee.
But mostly he’s there for his athletes–throughout their lives. Several former players still turn to Barnes when they or their family members have needed to find a doctor or get help with a medial issue. “I know instances where he’s pulled strings for guys who aren’t covered by insurance,” McConkey said. “Me and hundreds of ex-players will be forever indebted to him.”
Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning