"I haven't gone back and counted, but I think this has, unfortunately, been the most injury-prone season we have had," said Meador who is the Head Men’s Basketball Athletic Trainer as well as the Coordinator of Athletic Training Services at West Virginia University. "My motto has been for a long time that no business is good business, but I have been busy this year."
From before the season, when Juwan Staten sustained a sprained ankle and BillyDee Williams a fractured orbital bone, up through the Buffalo game, when Devin Williams sprained and ankle and Jaysean Paige suffered an apparent elbow injury that kept him out of the second half, Meador has perhaps been the busiest man in the Mountaineer program. Planning treatments, evaluating and testing responses and getting players back into playing form as quickly as possible have taken up more time this season that any time in his career.
While Meador maintains an ultra-professional outlook on his work, he'd have to be a robot to not be affected by the human side of the injury parade. For example, he cites West Virginia's senior night, when neither Browne nor Staten could play, noting that he couldn't remember such a circumstance in his career. But while he wants to get the players back on the court as quickly as possible, his first charge is to make sure they are healthy enough to do so.
"My job is to make sure they get back in a healthy status, or to tape or brace or protect them in a manner where they won't suffer further injury," Meador explained. "Those are all things we work on and communicate with the coach with. Of course you want to get those players back, but you have to do it when the time is right."
To that end, perhaps Meador's toughest job is saying "No" to those who want to return to play, but aren't ready to do so yet. While the perception is that coaches would be the ones applying pressure to get their players back, he notes that is not the case at all at West Virginia. Instead, he puts some pressure on himself, as he wants to help everyone achieve their goal of getting back into play. But it's the players that are often the final challenge.
"Some players are more cautious and aware and don't want to hurt themselves any further, but some, especially if it's their senior year or their last chance, they want to play. And you have to tell them 'No, you aren't ready yet'. It upsets them, and it upsets everyone. But we have to do what is best for them.
To help the injured get back to full strength, Meador brings a variety of equipment with him on the road in order to rehab any possible problem. He notes, though, that it's more difficult to achieve top results away from the familiar area of his space in WVU's basketball practice facility. For example, West Virginia's team hotel in Columbus does not have a pool, which is an important tool in therapy and rehabilitation."It is definitely easier to treat everyone at home, because we have the resources, and they are more convenient," he explained. "Some of the [gear] we travel with is portable and it's good, but it's not as good. But we make do."
Meador also has support from the NCAA and from the host school, both of which help stock the training area at the arena and provide any additional resources required. As the host school, Ohio State can also make medical and therapy equipment and services available if needed.