|12-19-2011, 07:29 PM||#1 (permalink)|
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As one of the few deaf athletic trainers, Tanenberg breaks boundries with career and
As one of the few deaf athletic trainers, Tanenberg breaks boundries with career and at San Domenico - Marin Independent Journal
LONNIE TANENBERG runs out on the court and pulls on his gloves. A girl has just collided with another player and blood is gushing from her nose. As a parent shouts and players talk chaotically around him, Tanenberg calmly staunches the bleeding.
Tanenberg can't hear the distractions. He is deaf.
"It's actually easier for me sometimes because I don't hear the background noise," said Tanenberg, who uses sign language, but can also read lips and speak. "I can just focus on the one athlete I'm working with."
Tanenberg is one of fewer than 10 deaf certified athletic trainers in the country. But he hasn't let his inability to hear inhibit his success. Besides working in high school and college sports and as the lead athletic trainer for Team USA in the Deaflympics worldwide athletic competition, the 34-year-old has already worked with four professional teams — as an intern with the A's, as an assistant athletic trainer for the United Football League's Florida Tuskers, as medical staff for United States MotoGP World Motorcycle Racing and with the American Indoor Football Association.
The Marin resident has now taken his skills to the San Domenico School where he is serving three days a week as the school's first athletic trainer.
Over the summer, San Domenico athletic director Dan Gilmartin spoke with Sport and Spine Therapy of Marin owner Steve Thompson about the need for an athletic trainer.
At the time Thompson was in the process of hiring Tanenberg, who has worked full-time at Sport and Spine Therapy for the last three months.
For Gilmartin, having an athletic trainer is a key part to developing a strong athletic program at San Domenico. That Tanenberg was deaf didn't seem to matter.
"I honestly think I would have had reservations only because I've never seen a deaf athletic trainer before," Gilmartin said. "But when Steve said Lonnie had worked for the pros, I didn't question it."
At San Domenico, Tanenberg is working to develop new protocols for the athletic programs, designing the athletic training room, and creating an emergency action plan and injury prevention education. He also works at home games and athletes can come see him whenever they need help.
"To see how he works with these athletes is hard to believe," Gilmartin said. "He is really good at what he does. He is an endless worker and we are very lucky to have him."
In a profession where communication is vital, Tanenberg's inability to hear might seem like an impossible barrier to overcome. Even Thompson admitted that he had concerns about bringing a deaf athletic trainer to Sport and Spine Therapy. But it hasn't been a problem.
"His ability to communicate with athletes about their injuries, even when they're not looking at him is incredible," Thompson said. "He just does a wonderful job of being attentive right on the spot when something happens."
As Tanenberg sits in the training room at San Domenico and jokes with freshman varsity basketball player Aminat Olaeunjoye, it is obvious communication is not a problem.
"I just tell them I lip read and have them look at me when they're talking," Tanenberg said. "When it's a bad situation and they can't just look at me and speak calmly, I'll use my common sense. I'll observe them and figure out what's going on by how they look — are they breathing, if they are lethargic, or any other obvious impressions."
Thompson describes Tanenberg as a "bit of a clown." But it's this light and humorous attitude that draws people to him.
"It's rare to find someone willing to take the extra effort and connect with someone like Lonnie does," said David Greenwald, a patient who has been working with Tanenberg at Sport and Spine Therapy since September. "From the moment I was introduced to him, we connected."
Tanenberg's family is not deaf. He too was born with the ability to hear, but at 18 months he got spinal meningitis and lost his hearing. Yet, Tanenberg never felt like being deaf could hold him back.
"Everybody supported me growing up," Tanenberg said. "Both my parents encouraged me. If I wanted to do something they always told me to go for it."
Tanenberg was always playing sports as a child. In middle school and then high school at Redwood he ventured from baseball, to basketball, volleyball, track and crew. Yet, it was at a basketball camp when he noticed an athletic trainer wrapping an athlete's ankle that he knew he wanted to help athletes in the same way.
"It's nice to be an affiliated health care professional," Tanenberg said. "It's rewarding."
Tanenberg finds it rewarding to work with a wide range of patients — from children, to college students, to professionals, or in geriatrics. Yet, through his work as the lead athletic trainer for Team USA in the Deaflympics, Tanenberg has enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Argentina, Venezuela and, most recently, Taiwan to connect with the deaf community in other countries.
"It was amazing to work in the deaf community and travel with the team," Tanenberg said. "Each country's team is different and it was interesting to be exposed to different deaf cultures all over the world."
Tanenberg also works in the deaf community as a member of the board of directors for the Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency.
"I wanted to be involved in the deaf community because that's who I am," Tanenberg said. "I always see myself as a positive role model for deaf children."
But when it comes to his work, Tanenberg hopes to be seen for his skill as an athletic trainer.
"My patients just see me as another athletic trainer," Tanenberg said. "As long as we are both comfortable, it is not a problem. They know I am Lonnie and I am the athletic trainer."
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller