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Back to full strength: Tackling the challenges of rehabbing student-athletes remotely

Man talks with player

Head athletic trainer John Munn has been with Illinois State since 1992.

Head athletic trainer John Munn has been with Illinois State since 1992 witnessing Redbirds turn trial into triumph. Because of the determination he’s been around during his nearly three decades on campus, Munn is confident that people within the Illinois State community will do just that during these trying times.

While he faces an enormous challenge of rehabbing injured student-athletes remotely due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Munn is drawing motivation from all Redbirds who are coming together in the best interests of one another during this unprecedented moment.

“Everybody is all hands on deck in trying to do what’s best for our student-athletes and athletic training staff, as well as other students, faculty, and staff,” said Munn, who has been a staple in Athletics for some time.

Two years after his arrival, he became the men’s basketball trainer. He was named head athletic trainer in 2006 and promoted to assistant Athletics director for medical services in August 2016. He has played an integral part in getting the Redbirds back to full strength, and he looks forward to joining the rest of the campus community in doing the same.

Much of what athletic trainers at ISU do revolves around building a working relationship with the injured Redbird. Munn and his staff are using apps to stay in contact with student-athletes on the comeback trail. Since the virus outbreak, they monitored through video how athletes have moved or progressed and has offered feedback for them to continue making progress.

He is confident they can go forward because of a growing collaboration. Munn has utilized the pipeline of ISU’s athletic trainers, physicians, and therapists throughout the U.S. to help. For example, an athletic trainer in Decatur was able to work with a rehabbing athlete who is confined to the area during the quarantine. “That’s where the Illinois State connection comes in a little bit because our physical training program is vast and has people all across the country,” Munn said.

While this remote setup is far from ideal, Munn said athletic training staff members have an added advantage. During the summer months, some Redbird athletes decide to go elsewhere but still need services provided. He and his staff plan to rely on those experiences while athletes are away from campus.

Even under normal circumstances, rehab and treatment evolve. Munn and his staff are constantly adjusting on the fly in order to improve an athletes’ conditions. They must frequently think outside the box and get creative to get a student back to peak physical shape as soon as possible. Munn believes that mindset will carry over to the new reality.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we have to figure out,” Munn said. “I think our biggest thing is setting up a program, getting in touch with our student-athletes, and making sure they know what they have to do.”