The Giants’ new superpower gets players acquainted early on and into better shape to prevent injury

Olivia Brekhus

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Every time you participate in soccer practice or a basketball game, you run the risk of injury. It’s just like driving. Every time you get behind the wheel, the probability of getting in an accident skyrockets. In competitive leagues with highly-skilled players training every day to be the best, injury is inevitable. However, with the arrival of some outside help, athletes are hoping to reduce those odds of injury.

Danielle Sartori, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at The Knee Joint in Corte Madera.

Courtesy of The Knee Joint Danielle Sartori is Redwood’s new strength and conditioning coach.

This year, Redwood welcomed her to the athletic staff in order to ensure stronger support system for all sports teams. Sartori helps clients between the ages of 10 and 90 years, treating everything from growing pains to sport-induced injuries. When Sartori proposed the new position to Redwood, not only did they offer her the job, but the Booster Club provided funds and new weight equipment to help kick-start her training programs beginning this year. These currently include working twice a week with the boys’ soccer and basketball teams, as well as twice a week with the girls’ softball, volleyball, water polo and basketball teams. 

“[As a specialist], I can look at the movements they need to be able to do and the muscles that get overworked with certain things that they do,” Sartori said. “I try to do exercises to either undo what gets overworked or challenge muscles that I often see in my clinic that are weak to prevent injury.” 

Sartori is often outside the weight room with athletes doing exercises with ACL bands, because she frequently sees patients with injuries ranging from ACL tears to runner’s and jumper’s knee. 

Sartori’s career in sports medicine and physical therapy at The Knee Joint stemmed from her personal experience as an injured student-athlete. When she was younger, she hurt her shoulder, and to this day, it still impacts her. Now, she shares this experience with her patients and explains the importance of being patient to ensure proper healing. 

“I understand, as an athlete, the frustration of wanting to be better yesterday in order to play sooner, but I’m not there yet,” Sartori said. “I get that rush and need to get better, but also now that I have gone through school, I know that some [injuries] just take time and healing.”

Jump-starting their season, senior captain of the girls basketball team Yessenia Mendieta and her teammates encourage each other to show up to strength and conditioning.

Her training has also given teams pre-season opportunities to become acquainted with new players and build chemistry. Sartori explained that many freshmen come out to the training and practice, providing them with the opportunity to become familiar with a team’s environment prior to the season. 

According to girls’ varsity basketball player junior Brooke Strodder, most returning players are encouraged to attend the training and take advantage of the sessions.

“[Sartori] helps us with endurance and becoming stronger and more prepared for tougher teams we are going to play. Our goal every year is to win MCAL’s and beat [Marin Catholic] and I think Danielle is going to play a role in that. We have never done this before, where we start months before tryouts and are already in shape,” Strodder said.

 

With the newly renovated weight room open for athletes and unused by many sports, Sartori encourages more students to experiment with strength and conditioning. 

“We are giving sports that don’t normally have a chance to do strength and conditioning to get in the weight room. So now it’s not only ‘football’s up here and the other sports are down below.’ So we want to get higher numbers out here and not have so many kids scared of lifting weights,” Satori said. 

It’s no secret that Redwood athletes love to dominate on the field, but Sartori wants athletes here to understand the short and long-term effects of pushing past limits, especially after an injury. 

“I have a kid right now who’s been asking me, ‘Can I go back [to playing]? Can I go back yet?’ So I had him do a one leg hop on his injured leg and one leg hop on his good leg. It was a difference of ten centimeters,” Sartori said. “He was like, ‘Woah! I didn’t think that the difference would be that big.’ And I said, ‘Yeah. You still don’t trust that leg.’” 

Hoping to prevent future injury, the weight room is packed with student athletes.

As a member of the athletic staff, Sartori gives the advice to athletes that she wishes she was given herself. Senior Stanley Gaither is a four-year varsity athlete competing in soccer and lacrosse. He has struggled with back and knee injuries, but with Sartori’s help at The Knee Joint and at Redwood he has persevered. 

 “I’m stoked for this season. Thanks to Danielle we are healthier and stronger than ever. My hope is that all the sports teams at Redwood get the chance to work with her,” Gaither said. 

With the time and energy put forth by students, Satori hopes that there are fewer kids on the bench with ice packs and more kids out there playing on the field.