A certain Hardwood Injury Bug (Basketius gauchitis), a mysteriously aggressive creature that has plagued the UCSB men’s basketball team this season, may have met its match on campus.

With just seven players healthy enough to suit up for each game these days, it seems unthinkable that there’s a job more challenging than Head Coach Bob Williams’ mission to win basketball games.

Keep in mind, of course, the formidable task undertaken by UCSB’s athletic training staff.

The Gaucho athletic training staff has been working overtime, trying to safely heal Santa Barbara athletes this winter. Players on the men’s basketball team have been frequent visitors to the training room in Rob Gym over the past few months. Freshman forward Chris Devine, sophomore forward David Kennedy and junior guard Cecil Brown will miss the remainder of the season due to injuries to their knee, leg and ankle, respectively. Senior forward Casey Cook and junior forward Cameron Goettsche are trying to make comebacks this season after injuries to their foot and groin, respectively.

“It is very important that we keep in mind the safety and well-being of our athletes and that we don’t concentrate entirely on injuries and illness,” UCSB Head Athletic Trainer Leroy Heu said. ” It’s frustrating to see these injuries but you must consider the safety factor and the long-term health of our players.”

Serving as the men’s basketball team’s personal trainer, Heu has worked 70-hour weeks this season in an attempt to help rehabilitate injured Gauchos. Heu works closely with each injured basketball player and establishes a separate rehabilitation program and timetable for a given athlete and injury. Scheduling becomes one of the most difficult aspects of the healing process, considering that injured athletes attend practice and are full-time students. To ensure a timely and complete recovery, the training staff gives its basketball players exercises that they can do at home to regain strength and mobility.

“We give core balance and stabilization exercises that can be very effective,” Heu said. “For many of these injuries, you have to consider the time factor and not rush anything though.”

Since Cook went down in the first half of the Northridge game, the Gauchos have squandered three consecutive losses. Combining Goettsche’s nagging injury with Cook’s six-week setback, Santa Barbara is without its two most potent big men for the start of conference play, forcing the coaching staff to go with four-guard sets and play inexperienced reserves.

“We don’t do anything that increases the speed of the injury because the body does that on its own,” Assistant Athletic Trainer Chris Ritter said. “Every situation is different, but we usually concentrate on things like pain control and swelling. As the body heals, we will progress them from there.”

For now, the athletic training staff primarily works out of Rob Gym with a satellite facility next to the locker room in the Thunderdome. The training staff utilizes the satellite facility for practices and game night services. The six-person athletic training staff, comprised of four full-time and two part-time staffers, will eventually move into a new facility located on the northeast corner of the nearly-completed RecCen II building.

In addition to the athletic training staff, the UCSB men’s basketball team utilizes student interns and gets professional care from doctors at the UCSB Student Health Center. Dr. Rod Hamer, UCSB’s team physician, attends each contest, including road games, and is on-call for players requiring immediate medical attention. In fact, Heu and Hamer are the first ones onto the court when a Gaucho goes down in pain during games.

“We have a good working relationship with the players and Coach Williams,” Heu said.

To get back onto the court after an injury, athletes need a medical clearance from Hamer. From there, Coach Williams makes the final decision to let players participate in practice and ultimately compete in games. Heu said that Williams always factors in the player’s judgment into his final decision.

While Williams searches to find ways to get the best out of the players that are healthy, the UCSB athletic training staff will be tirelessly working to rehabilitate physically tattered Gauchos.