Collaboration gives compassionate care to student-athletes

Imagine watching a lacrosse player run down the field, trying to get in position to take a shot on goal. She twists her ankle and falls. Athletic trainers run out and help her off the field. To take her back to the athletic training room, they get her into the golf cart where the only way to elevate her injured ankle is to put it on the dashboard.

In the past, that’s how Colorado Academy student-athletes were moved after an injury. Now, thanks to the collaboration between Colorado Academy Athletic Trainer Dr. Richard “Griz” Griswold and CA bus mechanic Willy Cervantes, injured athletes have a safer and more comfortable means of transport.

‘Man, I wish I had one of those’

Griz had the idea of upgrading one of CA’s golf carts to be more comfortable for injured athletes after watching professional football and seeing injured players moved off the field in a mobile cart. His first thought was, “Man, I wish I had one of those.”

“When a student-athlete is injured, we want to get them back to our office,” says Griz. “There are times when it’s best to have athletes lying down when we move them.”

Coincidentally, Cervantes had the same thought as Griz Griswold after watching a soccer game where an injured player was taken off the field in a medical cart. After seeing that, Cervantes realized that CA “might need one of those.”

Cervantes and Griz talked about what they could do help improve the transport for injured student-athletes at CA. They agreed that the solution was a modified golf cart. So, they went to Jesse Schumacher, Director of Operations at CA, to share their idea and early designs and to ask him to greenlight the project.

Schumacher asked Cervantes if he could turn a golf cart into an injured athlete transport vehicle.

“I have the ability, the materials, and the skills to weld it,” said Cervantes, and with that, Schumacher gave the go-ahead.

“Thanks to Jesse Schumacher for supporting this project from the very beginning,” said Griz.

‘I can build it’

Both Griz and Cervantes started by researching different features and designs. Griz’s internet search for “sports medicine golf cart” returned few designs to choose from, but Cervantes’ search for “golf cart ambulance” produced an abundance of ideas and pictures.

With input from Griz throughout the process, Cervantes took ideas from many different layouts and combined them into one master design that included all the features the trainers and athletes would need.

The key features of the design are that athletes can fully lie down, stretching out injured limbs, and still be safely secured by a rail when the cart is in motion. But much like the railing on a baby’s crib, the rail drops down so it’s easy to get the student into and out of the cart. Cervantes even incorporated a salvaged filing cabinet from the Newton Athletic Center that was nearly thrown away during preparation for construction. He cut it down to fit the cart and repurposed it into storage drawers, so CA’s athletic trainers could store and organize their supplies instead of digging through their medical kits.

While he modified the golf cart, Cervantes was careful to get everything right the first time, so he didn’t waste materials. It only took him a little over a month to build it, even with his day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the CA bus fleet operating safely and smoothly.

‘It’s everything we wanted. Willy did a wonderful job’

CA could have bought a kit that would have upgraded the cart, but no kit offered every feature that Griz needed. Plus, they all came with a hefty price tag. By designing and building it in-house, Willy saved the school thousands of dollars and gave Griz exactly what he was hoping for.

Each feature of this cart, which sports a red and white medical symbol painted by Cervantes, helps make it “a much safer and more comfortable mode of transport for an injured athlete,” said Griz. “It’s everything we wanted. Willy did a wonderful job.”

“We have to make sure we’re giving compassionate care to the athlete that is injured,” added Assistant Athletic Trainer Charlotte Webb. “It just makes sense for us to have it.”

Cervantes has been at CA for 18 years and takes pride in his work on CA’s bus fleet. He says that when people see a Colorado Academy school bus on the streets, “it’s not just the bus, it’s all of us.” The same can now be said for the retrofitted golf cart he designed and built: it’s not just the cart, it’s all of us.