By Rick Assad
By any and all measures, Nick Cascelli and Christina Gallo are truly invaluable.
What each does for their respective high school – Burbank and Burroughs – is that they are athletic trainers who help athletes stay on the field or court.
“Being an ATC for Burbank High School keeps me very busy. We have 24 sports programs in total and a large student athlete population on campus,” Cascelli said. “I am always in my clinic after school and open for all athletes to come in and get their injuries evaluated and get a plan going forward of what they should be doing to continue their athletic participation.”
Cascelli, who received his undergraduate degree from Cal State University Northridge in Athletic Training and then passed the BOC to be a Certified Athletic Trainer, also attended Cal State Long Beach where he completed his master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology, is seemingly always available.
“If I am not in my clinic working on rehab, then I am at a game on the sidelines ready for any emergency situation or to support the teams as they compete,” he said.
Likewise, Gallo, who attended Saugus High and College of the Canyons where she learned about being an athletic trainer, is also super busy throughout a day.
“My day typically starts when school ends and practices begin. My room functions like a walk-in clinic without a front desk, so the first few hours can be hectic,” she said. “It’s first come, first served, but I try to select who gets treated first based on practice start time. Later in the day when it’s less busy, athletes can come in for rehab where I can take more time to evaluate their injury, provide them with therapeutic exercises, and establish a plan of care for the week.”
Gallo went on: “If we also have games that day then I am prioritizing game setup for multiple facilities, hosting visiting teams, and getting the athletes with games ready to go first. Once games start, I am out covering games,” she added. “I rotate between the in-season sports for game coverage so even though I’m not able to be at every game, each team and each level gets the same opportunity to have a medical provider at their games. And of course, there is always the possibility of a new injury occurring, changing the trajectory of my day at any time.”
For Cascelli and Gallo, their career paths were determined when they are quite young.
“I found my passion for athletic training as a senior in high school at St. Francis through the Sports Medicine Program and my mentor Eli Hallak,” said Cascelli who’s been at Burbank High since March 2021 and works out of Providence Hospital as part of the Community Outreach Program. “I remember sitting in his class around the third week of school and we had just started learning about the ankle anatomy and some of the specific skills that Eli used to evaluate injuries, and I realized that this was what I wanted to do for my career. Throughout that year I continued to intern with him and really solidified my passion for AT. I was an active kid growing up playing all kinds of sports but always had a passion for medicine and healing. When I found AT, I realized that it was the perfect career to blend two things that I felt very strongly about.”
A former high school soccer player at Saugus High, Gallo also knew at a tender age she wanted to help people.
“I knew I wanted to do this in college. When I had my knee injury, I didn’t know what an athletic trainer was at the time,” she noted. “I wish I would have had that resource. It wasn’t until years later when I took athletic training classes that I realized there was a way to provide support for athletes and that some of these injuries keeping athletes from reaching their potential were manageable.”
Because Cascelli and Gallo, who later transferred to CSUN where she received her bachelor’s in athletic training and in 2013 passed her board being a certified athletic trainer, deal with many sports and have to be prepared for any type of injury.
“I would say the two sports that I work with at BHS that can be the most trying are football and wrestling.” he said. “The programs are great and the coaches are amazing but the sports in general are unpredictable and tend to have higher chances for more serious long term injuries. I really do commend both coaches and programs because they do a lot of work trying to prevent injuries and teach their athletes proper techniques to accomplish their athletic goals without risking their health.”
Cascelli continued: “I always love my non-contact/high skill sports like tennis, track, and golf because the injuries are usually easier to deal with, but the real challenge comes in the evaluation process where we break down their form and technique and try to find faults in those areas that could be causing their pain,” he said. “Really taking the time and breaking down step by step is something that I enjoy doing and helps the athletes understand all of the different parts of their technique and what factors may be contributing to the improper movement patterns that are causing them pain.”
For Gallo, who has experience working as a graduate assistant trainer at Syracuse University helping the women’s volleyball and women’s rowing teams and worked at Simi Valley High until being hired by Providence Hospital to be athletic trainer for Burroughs in 2018, she evaluates the injury and assesses what should be done.
“Each sport brings their own challenges to the table (type/severity of injuries they tend to sustain or the volume of athletes with injuries). I don’t think they are comparable in that regard,” she said. “To me, the easiest teams to work with are those where I can collaborate with coaches, athletes, and parents to create and execute a plan of care.”
Being an athletic trainer requires long hours and dedication is paramount.
“I would recommend being an athletic trainer at a high school because at the end of the day it is very rewarding to see what type of impact you can make in a lot of these young people’s lives,” Cascelli said. “Being able to break down what’s going on inside their body when they are injured and the healing process in general can help them understand not only their injury now but if they get hurt in the future, they know what’s going on and how they can work on it on their own. My favorite thing is when students come back to BHS to tell me how they used my rehab program from their previous injury to help them with a current injury or issue. Or when they come back and talk about how they are pursuing Kinesiology as their major because they were inspired by the things they learned during their injury process and want to help others through that process in the future.”
Gallo is in the same boat as Cascelli when it comes to recommending being an athletic trainer.
“I would recommend being an athletic trainer for the mentorship, education, and medical access you can offer athletes and their families,” she said.
Cascelli and Gallo are glad they chose the medical profession because it helps people and is rewarding.
“In five years, I hope to see a successful Sports Medicine program at BHS similar to the one that inspired me to be an AT in the first place,” he said. “I hope to have student interns who can graduate from my program being first aid and CPR certified and with a greater knowledge and honed skills to enter the medical field at a step above some of their peers.”
Cascelli went on: “In ten years I hope to be working my way into the Team USA program to help some of our Olympic athletes compete for the highest awards and competitions,” he said. “I also hope to be running my own business more full time as a Mobile Athletic Trainer and working with all types of athletes from youth to the professionals.”
In a quarter of a century, Cascelli wants to have built a solid reputation for being a leader in the field.
“In 25 years, I hope to have established a name for myself in the Athletic Training Community through my business and have been able to participate in helping our Olympic athletes for Team USA,” he said. “I also hope to provide an educational outlet for people to learn more about AT as a career path and the amazing services we provide. Along with that I hope to mentor students as they cultivate their knowledge and help guide the next generation of AT’s to even greater success.”
Gallo also wants to take steps to being a leader in her profession.
“I’m hoping my role with athletic training and sports medicine grows with time. I am currently back in school, retaking some prerequisites and preparing for my MCAT so I can apply to medical school,” she said. “So, in five years’ time I am planning to be in medical school. In ten years, I would like to be back in the community as a physician. We have team physicians who do tremendous community work to keep our athletics programs going, but what they can offer is limited at the high school level. I would love to transform that system so we can bring more of the care we see at higher levels of athletics to the high school setting. Hopefully I can be a part of establishing that change 25 years from now.”
Right now, one thing is for sure and that’s that the male and female athletes at Burbank and Burroughs are in good hands.