Valley College Athletic trainer moonlights for the NFL and has the power to stop games.
By Savannah Simmons, Staff Writer
Dennis Mestas can’t change the course of mighty rivers or bend steel with his bare hands, but Valley College’s head athletic trainer can stop the NFL.
Mestas is a substitute spotter for the NFL, and can be found at many Chargers home games. Spotters sit in the press box and keep an eye out for injuries on the field. The NFL added a second spotter this year, one for home and one for visiting teams, and Mestas spotted his first contest in a pre-season game when the Chargers faced the Seattle Seahawks.
“I used to tell my class when we would learn about spotters, that I wish I could be one. Now,” Mestas said, holding his hands out as if to say look at me.
In his day job, the kinesiology instructor helps students work through many different types of injuries, and more importantly, helps them through recovery. Now, he takes that experience to the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Chargers.
During the game, he is looking for an injury, a concussion, or a player that needs medical attention. His view from the press box gives him a better vantage point than the training staff on the field. In addition, he has access to replay monitors to determine if a player needs to be removed from the game.
If he spots something, Mestas can contact the trainers on the field, but also ask the referees to stop the game. All injuries are recorded and put on a flash drive for the team to analyze the mechanism of injury or the MOI. The data is used to determine if the injury was a result of field conditions, equipment, or another player. A committee also studies the data to come up with safety suggestions for the league.
In the Chargers home opener, and Mestas’ first game as a spotter, there were two injuries on the SeaHawks side. One was a shoulder injury where wide receiver Paul Richardson walked off of the field himself, and the other was safety Jordan Simone, a knee injury, who needed assistance.
“The players don’t always come out of the game when they’re injured,” said Mestas. “It’s their job, they’re making money.”
The doubling of spotters in the NFL may have been the result of the number of concussions NFL players have been suffering and the publicity that has come along with it. Concussions come from blows to the head causing the brain to swell, and multiple concussions can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. Many former NFL football players have suffered from CTE. The disease slowly kills brain cells over time causing headaches, memory loss, dementia, speech impediments and depression.
Mestas’ next spotting assignment is Sept. 17 when the Miami Dolphins visit the Chargers. Mestas is hoping to bring a little bit of the NFL back to Valley.
“I’d love to eventually have our own spotters at Valley.” said Mestas. “It could even be someone from our own athletic training staff up there in the press box.”