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Athletic Trainer Karen Karlson Gets Zamberletti Award!

Articles for Athletic Trainers and News StoriesOn a regular Wisconsin day in seventh grade in Lake Mills, young Karen Karlson found herself confronting a horrifying sight in her PE class – a classmate's dislocated thumb. Unlike her peers, she remained composed and promptly escorted the injured student to the nurse.

Karen Karlson Her calm demeanor in the face of a crisis did not go unnoticed. Mr. Mulderink, the gym teacher, recognizing her innate ability to handle emergencies, introduced her to several camps.

From then on, Karlson's journey to athletic training began, a journey that has now spanned over 16 fruitful years with Mahtomedi High School in Minnesota.

Recently, her dedication and passion were acknowledged as she became the recipient of the distinguished Fred Zamberletti Award.

Beginning her training endeavors in eighth grade, Karen was immediately captivated. She was an active volleyball player, but her growing interest in training led her to make a significant decision: she gave up playing volleyball and embraced the role of a 'student trainer' from freshman year at Lake Mills. This was particularly significant as Lake Mills lacked a dedicated Athletic Trainer.

Looking back, she humorously remarked:

“I guess I’ve been doing this since I was 13 years old.”

Affectionately called “TK” (short for “Trainer Karen”) by her students, Karlson has always believed in a holistic approach to her job. For her, it isn’t just about treating physical injuries.

“Kids aren’t always looking for someone to fix them; they’re looking for someone to listen.”

In her office, she maintains a warm and inviting atmosphere, complete with snacks and puzzles, symbolizing her genuine care for her students beyond just their athletic capabilities.

The Zamberletti award, named in honor of the legendary Vikings Athletic Trainer who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is annually presented to a standout high school or college AT.

Learning about her selection for the award in May, Karlson felt profoundly honored, particularly since she is only the second female recipient.

Todd Fultz, president of the NFF Minnesota chapter, lauded Karlson for her consistent commitment to "ensuring that hundreds of athletes are healthy, safe, and staying on the field." He highlighted the numerous positive remarks from the school community about the "meaningful impact she makes on the lives of many students.”

Aaron Forsythe, Mahtomedi's activities director, further added to the accolades, emphasizing her exceptional skills in "preventative care, daily maintenance, and rehabilitation." He compared her proficiency to those working at collegiate and professional levels and acknowledged her unique rapport with students, families, and colleagues.

Before her tenure at Mahtomedi, Karlson’s expertise took her to various esteemed institutions, including the University of Minnesota, where she pursued her masters in Kinesiology, followed by stints at Blaine, Concordia-St. Paul, and the University of St. Thomas.

Karlson's journey, from assisting an injured classmate in middle school to being celebrated with a prestigious award, is a testament to her passion, dedication, and the profound impact she has had on countless students and athletes over the years.

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