When a soccer player goes down with an injury, Ithaca College alumna Tara Condon ’16 has mere moments to determine if the player can go on or needs to be subbed out. But thanks to research conducted as part of her graduate studies in athletic training, Condon and other trainers may be able to make injuries less likely and keep players in the game.
Tara Condon treats a member of the UNC men's soccer team. (Photo provided)
Condon, who is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, designed a study to see how soccer players’ biomechanics affect how hard they train. She says athletes can be divided into groups of “good movers,” whose bodies move efficiently, and “poor movers,” whose bodies demonstrate weaknesses or immobility. Condon’s study revealed that these poor movers work harder over the course of a season, leaving them more fatigued and at greater risk of injury.
“When your body is tired, it can’t protect itself as well, or it may not be able to react as fast, and that puts you in a situation to get hurt,” says Condon.
Condon used the landing error scoring system (LESS) — which has athletes perform a series of jumps in front of a motion sensor system — to determine which of 14 men’s soccer players were poor movers and which were good. She then tracked their perceived exertion throughout the season during training to see if the poor movers became more fatigued.
The former Ithaca College softball player says there are several strategies coaches and athletes can use to minimize the risk of injury due to poor biomechanics, such as monitoring training loads or teaching proper movement strategies.
Condon presented her research at the Second World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy in Northern Ireland in October 2017.
From South Hill to Chapel Hill
In addition to her studies at UNC, Condon works as an athletic trainer with the NCAA Division I men’s soccer and women’s crew teams. The two-time national championship winning soccer team has made it to the semifinal round of the NCAA championship both years that Condon has been working with them.
Tara Condon (first row, second from the right) poses for a photo with the UNC men's soccer team. (Photo provided)
As a former collegiate athlete herself, she says the most rewarding part of her work is helping others reach their goals. “Even though I’m not on the field or in a boat, when you see someone who you’ve helped get to their goal, you just can’t get that anywhere else.”
Working with some of the nation’s top collegiate athletes took a little getting used to, but Condon was able to lean on her Ithaca College education and experience working with the IC men’s football, basketball and track and field teams.
“When it comes to my skillset, my knowledge, my ideas and my creativity, I owe a lot of that to my mentors at Ithaca College,” she says. “I don’t know if I could ever thank them enough, because they’re the reason I am who I am today, and they’re the reason that I continue to do what I do.”
Condon didn’t plan on studying athletic training when she first arrived in Ithaca, but the treatment she received for an injury towards the end of her high school softball career piqued her interest in the field of study, which would combine her passions for both sport and science.
Despite her enthusiasm, Condon struggled with some of the early coursework, and even considered leaving the program. Associate professor Paul Geisler, the director the college’s athletic training program, convinced her to stay.
“I owe a lot to that man for pushing me past my comfort zone and never letting me settle,” Condon says. “He didn’t let me give up on something that I now can’t imagine my life without.”