Melissa Nelson

NVOT’s dedicated athletic trainer

April 6, 2023

Whether it be to get an ankle wrapped, make a bag of ice, or buy a protein bar, most NVOT athletes have visited the athletic trainer’s office at least once during their season. But the dedication of Melissa Nelson, the NVOT athletic trainer, is more than just setting up the occasional ice bath. “She goes above and beyond for our teams and athletes,” said girls volleyball coach Melissa Landeck. 

Nelson’s passion and commitment as athletic trainer can be tied to her lifelong connection with athletics. Playing soccer, softball, and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball throughout her childhood and high school career, sports have always played a huge role in her life. “[I] learned many life lessons and made some of my closest friends to this day on the basketball court,” she said. 

Nelson’s athletic career was not free of challenges, as she suffered two major injuries throughout high school. While playing goalie her freshman year, Nelson sustained a concussion, nasal fracture, and cheek fracture after being knocked unconscious. Not only was this a major injury that required surgery, but there was no trainer at her school to assess the injury. Nelson continued playing and finished the game, unaware of her injuries: “After the game my coach just let me go home. My parents found me blocks away from the field still in my jersey covered in blood.” That was only the start of Nelson’s injuries, as she faced a severe ankle injury her junior year that ended her basketball season. 

Though this was a difficult time for Nelson, it opened her eyes to a career possibility. “Meeting my athletic trainer on the court [the day of her ankle injury] and spending subsequent time with him opened my eyes to a profession that I thought would be pretty cool to pursue,” she said. And this interest is what eventually brought her to NVOT as the athletic trainer.

Nelson’s experiences as an athlete and getting injured continue to influence her life, especially when treating athletes. She understands the struggle of being injured and the risks or rewards of playing through an injury as opposed to rest. This is why putting limitations on an athlete’s activity is the hardest part of the job for Nelson. “It is difficult to have to look an athlete in their eyes and tell them that their season and/or career is over,” she said. Nonetheless, it is one of the most important parts of an athletic trainer’s job; “a successful season for me is not the number of wins but how many teams are healthy in the postseason.”

So, if you are an injury-prone athlete who finds themself disagreeing with Nelson’s restrictions, remember that she has only your best interest in mind. “I cannot be swayed or change my medical decisions just because it has upset or angered an athlete, parent, or coach.” And yes, putting your season on hold because of a seemingly small injury may be tough, but it would be even more tough if that injury developed into something bigger. “Part of my job is to protect the athlete from those who don’t have their best interest [in mind,] including the athlete themselves,” Nelson said. 

This mindset has helped countless NVOT athletes remain healthy in both short and long terms. “From fractures to concussions to all kinds of cuts and bruises, Melissa has always been there to get me through anything I show up in her office complaining about,” said sophomore athlete Brenna Delaney. Delaney is one of the many athletes whose injuries have brought her to Nelson countless times. And no matter how big or how small, Nelson always treats injuries with care and compassion. “I can’t even begin to describe how dedicated [Nelson] is, and how much she has done for me and all the other athletes in Old Tappan,” Delaney said. 

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