Parting ways: Athletic trainer Dee Mahoney to retire, reflects on time spent at Westfield High School

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For athletic trainer Dee Mahoney, the key to effectively treat an athlete’s ailment is trust. From working with professional USA Track & Field athletes in the 1990s to high school athletes at Westfield High School for the past 25 years, Mahoney has had a full and rewarding career.

She plans to retire  at the end of 2018-19 school year.

“I knew in high school I wanted to be an athletic trainer. I’m a jock,” Mahoney said. “Sports are my life. I never saw myself wearing a suit and pumps. I always saw myself in comfortable clothes and helping others. I love sports. I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete, and athletic training was a door to be involved and help people, so it was a perfect profession for me.”

Mahoney played NCAA Division I softball at Oregon State University. She graduated in 1985 and completed graduate work at the University of Miami (Fla.). She then began her career with USA Track & Field.

Mahoney met her husband, Duffy, through working with USA Track & Field. When she returned from a work trip to Europe in 1992, she discovered that Hurricane Andrew seriously damaged her Miami home, which eventually paved her way to moving to Indiana.

Dee Mahoney, left, is inducted into the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 2018 with IATA President Tim Drudge. (Submitted photo)

“I meet this great guy and then hurricane Andrew put me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I moved into my office because I couldn’t live at home.”

Mahoney and Duffy moved to Indiana and got married.

Mahoney began working with Methodist Sports Medicine, where she worked as a researcher in the mornings and did outreach at schools in the evenings. She visited different schools each week to conduct injury checks and was a contracted athletic trainer at home games.  But she after a period of time, she decided she wanted to have a permanent working home.

“If nobody knows who you are and this strange person comes up, do you think someone is going to tell you, ‘This hurts?’” she said. “There was never a relationship. I did that for a little bit over a year and I thought, ‘This is not how I roll,’ so I applied for some jobs.”

Mahoney was hired at Riverview Hospital as the sports medicine coordinator. Mahoney encouraged the hospital to place an athletic trainer at every school it serviced. She placed herself at Westfield High School because the school’s mascot is a shamrock and she’s Irish. WHS also was the closest school to her house. That was in 1994, and she’s been there ever since.

“The quality of care depends on the relationships you build with the student-athlete,” she said. “(Students) have to believe what you say. They have to believe, even though you may be sore, it’s OK to play. Our job is to try to get a kid back on the field or the court as soon and as safe as possible. We are going to do everything in our power to get you on the field safely, so whatever brace, tape, whatever I give you to prepare you for it, you can do this.”

Mahoney is a parent. She said she never crafts treatments plan or makes doctor referrals for  students if it wouldn’be the the same choice she would make for her own child in the same situation.

WHS junior Eli Patchett plays varsity football and basketball. He said he and his teammates visit Mahoney often and trust her treatment methods.

“For me, personally, I got banged up a lot this year. I had two sprained ankles, dislocated my thumb, and two days after that, I was playing,” Patchett said. “She’s like a miracle worker. It’s awesome. The average player comes in here three times a week to get stretched out or help with tweaks and stuff like that. It helps tremendously.”

Mahoney and her husband plan to move to Ft. Collins, Colo. after she retires. WWS plans to hire another athletic trainer for the 2019-20 school year. 

Mahoney was recognized durning the Jan. 18 boys and girls home basketball doubleheader.

Dee Mahoney tapes a student’s ankle. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

A hands-on approach

Dee Mahoney’s athletic training office at Westfield High School is full of tape, splints, foam rollers and other treatment items. Most of all, she said she does a lot of manual therapy to help students return to action.

“I don’t even ice that much anymore. I use it for pain management, but (for treatment) I use massage and manual therapy tools and things. I use my hands,” she said. “I use my hands to release tissue and change tissue type to enhance healing and performance. Manual therapy is what I do the most, and I think it has reaped the most benefit.” 

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