From athlete to athletic trainer, Eli Mansfield has turned a love of sports into the beginnings of a career in sports medicine. He's off to a stellar start. The senior in health and kinesiology is a vital part of the Purdue men's basketball team. Working alongside head trainer Chad Young, he's learned to turn hotel rooms into training rooms, taping players and offering pre-game treatments on the road. And he's excited about the road ahead of him, which could lead to a job as head trainer at another Division I university, a professional sports franchise or even the rodeo circuit.
- On the Boilermaker bench
For Eli, discretion is the better part of valor during timeouts at Purdue basketball games. That's when the athletic trainer scans all five faces in the huddle to see if the players need anything. "There's always a camera on you," Eli says, "so I may check for blood on uniforms and spray them off with peroxide real quick. I've also got contact lenses, mouth guards and inhalers on hand." He might also subtly run interference with a referee who could be trying to hurry the team out of the timeout. It results in lot of whistles blown in his ear, he says with a laugh.
- Brain injury investigations
Eli lent a hand in data collection for the renowned Purdue research that's exploring concussions in sports led by engineering researchers Eric Nauman and Tom Talavage, along with Larry Leverenz, clinical professor of health and kinesiology and the curriculum director for athletic training. For Eli, the contribution is personal. "I got into sports medicine after seeing a traumatic brain injury to one of my close friends in high school," he says of Cody Lehe, his former football teammate. "After a CAT scan, Cody was cleared of a concussion and then suffered what is known as second impact syndrome. He was in a coma for about nine months and to this day is still struggling."
- NFL experience and world travel
In the summer of 2011, Eli spent a summer internship at the training camp of the Detroit Lions. The seven-week period was a baptism by fire, he reports, but invaluable experience for an athletic trainer in training. Last summer, he traveled with a study abroad group to the Beijing Sports Institute in China. There, he toured the Olympic Village, as well as the Water Cube, the Bird's Nest and the other phenomenal sites of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
- PBR wishes and cowboy dreams
After graduating in May, Eli hopes to land in graduate school, where he can pursue a master's degree in sports administration or health and kinesiology and have an opportunity to teach at the same time. Though he's grown fond of the travel, his biggest dream could take him back to his true cowboy roots, where he rode horses in Brookston but never quite got parental consent to ride bulls. "It would be ideal to be an athletic trainer for the PBR (Professional Bull Riders)," he says. "I've always loved the rodeo and the bull riders are some of the toughest guys you'll ever meet."