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Good medicine

BURBANK -- Claudia Alvarez realizes she has chosen a profession where

she must deal with pain, injuries and occasional setbacks.

As a former competitive athlete at Bellarmine-Jefferson High and

Glendale Community College, Alvarez has experienced her share of

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bumps and bruises, strained muscles and ligaments and other various

damaged body parts during her playing days.

However, instead of nursing her own injuries, Alvarez now helps

and treats players with injuries as an athletic trainer.

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Along with interning with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and

working in the sports medicine program at Glendale Adventist Medical

Center, Alvarez has helped take care of sports teams at Burroughs and

GCC.

Coming from an athletic family -- her brothers Albert and Andrew

played soccer and football at Bell-Jeff -- and being a three-sport

athlete, Alvarez has a unique perspective about what a player is

going through when he or she is sidelined with an injury.

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“That is one of the great things about Claudia,” GCC football

Coach John Cicuto said. “Being a former athlete, she has the

perspective and knows what the player is going through with an

injury.

“She also deals with coaches very well and she realizes what a

coach needs to know concerning an injured athlete, and what is needed

to get him back in the game.”

Cicuto said when it comes to dealing with athletes, Alvarez brings

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a great deal of knowledge, a caring attitude and pleasant demeanor to

her work.

“I think she has been working with our [football] program for

seven years now,” Cicuto said. “We feel very lucky to have Claudia

with our program. She does so much for us and she does a great job.”

Another person who has seen the benefit of Alvarez’s skills is

Burroughs boys’ soccer Coach Mike Kodama. Kodama said the long hours

and tireless work that has been put in by Alvarez to hone her craft

is evident when one of his players goes down with an injury.

“Everyone who deals with Claudia can see what a talented

individual she is working with the athletes,” Kodama said. “You can

tell she likes what she does and she is dedicated to getting the

athletes healed and ready to go.

“But more than just treating injuries, Claudia is very good and

helping players rehab their injuries and she is there for all the

follow-ups. You won’t find many as good as Claudia.

“The other great thing about Claudia is that she is so easy to

work with. She is just great to be around.”

*

Spreading herself thin is a sacrifice Alvarez has had to endure to

gain experience and learn all she can about athletic training.

Along with working with college and high school programs, and

working several internships, Alvarez also has to fit in a challenging

school schedule. Alvarez is attending Long Beach State and is

finishing her master’s degree in sports medicine.

It was when Alvarez was at Bell-Jeff that she first became

interested in medicine. However, she found herself becoming less

interested in the possibility of becoming a doctor, and more focused

on the sports medicine field.

“I didn’t like the clinical side of medicine,” said Alvarez, who

lettered in girls’ soccer, volleyball and basketball at Bell-Jeff.

“Plus, I didn’t like the amount of years I would have had to put in

to become a doctor. So that’s when I decided to go a different

route.”

After graduating from Bell-Jeff in 1995, Alvarez still had some

competitive drive left in her. She continued her athletic career by

playing women’s volleyball and basketball with the Vaqueros.

It was then when she began working with GCC teams.

“I have been able to learn a lot working with the high school and

college teams,” she said. “It is important for me to be out there

working with the athletes during games and practices. The hands-on

experience is very important.”

In addition to preparing athletes for games and practices, Alvarez

is also in attendance at contests to help treat injuries. Along with

the GCC football games, she also attends almost every Burroughs

football game at Memorial Field.

But her work doesn’t stop there.

She makes it a point to check up on injured athletes to monitor

their progress, and helps them get back on the road to recovery with

their rehabilitation. She also keeps office hours for athletes who

might have questions about injuries or injury prevention.

“For me, the most rewarding part of my work is getting a player

back and healthy after an injury,” said Alvarez, a Sun Valley

resident. “It’s nice to see an athlete who has been injured work hard

in rehab and be well enough to play again. That makes it rewarding

for me.”

Although she works mostly with athletes who play contact sports,

Alvarez said she is available to help players from sports like

cross-country, tennis and baseball.

However, she said the most challenging sport to work in is

football.

“It’s more challenging with football because you see so many

different types of injuries,” she said. “There are also a lot of

athletes you have to work with.”

After she completes her degree, Alvarez said she would like to

continue to move up in the field of sports medicine.

“I would like to work full time for a college sports program,” she

said. “I just want to keep learning and dealing with athletes.”

For coaches like Kodama, they wish they could have Alvarez around

forever.

“Not many programs are lucky enough to have someone like Claudia

to work with their athletes,” Kodama said. “With all she has to

offer, she is a person you want around as much as possible.”


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