Q&A: Former Tennessee Lady Vols trainer Jenny Moshak on the state of the NCAA & injury prevention

Photo by Patrick Murphy Racy.

Former Tennessee Lady Vols trainer Jenny Moshak chatted with Swish Appeal about her book, the state of college athletics and the prevention of concussions and ACL injuries.

Swish Appeal: When did you come to the decision to move on from University of Tennessee?

Jenny Moshak: “I’m not sure I can really discuss a lot of that with you from the advice of counsel.”

SA: Elaborate on your book and what did you want people to get from reading your book?

JM: “My book offers a lot of different things; it’s a very unique book because it offers a different perspective on sports. First it takes a look at youth sports and really the issues of youth sports today. It gives perspective from the coach’s point of view, from the parents, what they need to look for and really just some sound advice. Some of things that I’m seeing today (are shocking) -- so that we can prevent ACLs; so that we can prevent overuse injuries; so that they can have sound nutrition; so that they don’t go through phases of burnout from playing one sport year round continuously starting at a young age - and playing competitively. I think we’ve got to look at the issue of play, free play because that’s a lost art.

“Another aspect of the book is looking at Title IX, and where we are today -- and equity issues which is some of what I was battling with University of Tennessee. The fact that 40 years later, after Title IX, we’re still dealing some of the issues that should’ve been taken care of with that legislation -- and it just seems that we can’t break through. I also take a look at as I mentioned some of the injuries; I’ve got a good hard look at concussions, ACLs, the female athlete triad. As I mentioned (earlier), overuse injuries, burnout and the media in relation to athletics -- because that drives obviously a lot of dollars.”

SA: You have been in athletics for decades, what are some of the things that frustrate you the most when you look at today’s athletics?

JM: “I think it’s driven by money and television; and I’m not so sure there not so sure they are looking at the welfare of the student-athlete all the time. So for example, you’ve got seasons that are going way too long. You have games that are played started at 9 EST, finishing close to midnight, and then they get on an airplane and fly back -- or worse get on a bus (and) drive back and then have to attend an 8 o’clock class the next day. You are looking at travel schedules for some of these conferences for they’re missing a lot of school. Where’s the student-athlete in this equation?

“They had to go in and regulate practice hours because they were practicing too much -- and they’re still pressing that envelope. Now coaches can practice with women’s basketball through the summer and men’s basketball, which was a rule instilled last year. So they’re not even getting a break from the coaches in the summer. It’s almost becoming a pro-like business, yet the athletes aren’t getting anything out of it -- their physically sacrificing themselves; their academically having to find ways to succeed. And I’m questioning whether the NCAA, necessarily, is really putting student-athletes first."

SA: What are your frustrations with seeing female athletes being pushed like male athletes -- especially when you know better than most that a women’s body is different from a male’s?

JM: “They really are [being pushed too much], and they’re actually grinding the male athlete as well. I mean, there are a lot of overuse injuries. The female athlete is more susceptible to the ACL; but concussions happen to both genders, although they are finding with some of the research and the clinical studies that females respond differently to the recovery of a concussion. A lot of times it’s a little more challenging for a female to recover because they are also more susceptible to migraines, and there seems to be a correlation to that.

“I mean the grind on the athletic body as a whole, and then there are just some different nuances between the female and the male athlete. Both genders are experiencing overuse injuries that are off the charts: your chronic tendonitis, your back pain, (and) your arthritis. Those types of conditions that you wonder, ‘What the body is being put through -- and at what cost?"

SA: Based on your experience, could a lot of these injuries be prevented? If people took more preventive measures -- what do you feel about doing more preventive type things to curtail the injury epidemic that is going on in athletics?

JM: “Absolutely! I think we got to take a serious look at the concussions, at the number of contact practices in football that at even whether we should be heading in the sport in soccer. Or what age of when kids should start tackling each other. I think we’ve got to look at from an ACL perspective, including more preventative programs at a younger age. We do a lot of stuff on the collegiate level, but they’re already developed bad habits by the time they get to us -- we need to interject those in middle school. But then the question is: ‘You got to wonder whether we’re having kids playing too young for when their bodies is ready to do that?’ There’s a proper development time frame that’s not being adhered to; and it’s when competition should start?

“There’s a term called Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), that’s in the book, and it’s devised by a gentleman named Dr. Balyi. He’s a Hungarian physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, and his time frame of when youth should be doing things and at what percentage of competition vs. training, I think is spot on -- so that their body is developed to handle the demands that we’re asking it. And one way you can see this is how it’s not working in Little Leagues. We’re having kids in baseball way too (early), pitching way too much, lying about ages, falsifying birth certificates -- ridiculous type stuff for Little League Baseball! Yet literally baseball is being televised on ESPN all the time. So that’s the driving force for some of this -- pushing these kids and for some of the cheating that’s going on.”

SA: How do you feel about seeing cheating on the youth level, and how it's translating to the professional ranks - where these athletes still feel compelled to beat the system and cheat?

JM: “Absolutely, look at the cycling world, look at Major League baseball, look at football and now the penalties are getting stiffer -- we’ll see what happens with (Alex Rodriguez’s) appeal, but that’s a pretty stiff penalty there. But obviously, the risk reward benefit ratio is high enough to where they are taking that chance. So…$250 million dollars versus getting caught? They’re pushing that envelope. I also think it’s the demand of television and the fans, you know? Maybe we have maxed out what the human body can do, so now you just have to say, ‘Alright, do we change it through drugs or do we change it through genetics -- or do we have a major rule change to have more records broken?’

“Maybe they go to Aluminum bats, which I think will start killing people -- particularly pitchers. If fans want to see more home runs, if fans want to see more action and we’ve reached the potential of what the human body can do, then it has to be altered (by) someone(or) someway to get that result. Is the crime $140 million dollar stadiums, and $120 ticket prices, so that it pushes these athletes to constantly perform because the owners are saying, ‘We have to reap back our money.’ And the taxpayers are saying, ‘We have to get our money out of the stadium.’ Or is it just the cost of the entertainment today? But then what is the entertainment? Is it the joy of watching these fabulous athletes perform or do they have to break records all the time? They have to bat .400 (because) .300 isn’t good anymore or whatever the criteria is that’s driving some of these athletes to do the things that they do -- and it’s probably salaries. It’s kind of spent of control if you think about it.”

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