Helping Everyone Out

From athletic training to research and Web projects, Michael Goldenberg is making his mark.

By Jim Catalano

Jim Catalano is an Associate Editor at Training & Conditioning.

Training & Conditioning, 11.4, May/June 2001,

With 61 interscholastic and 30 intramural teams, Michael Goldenberg, MS, ATC, would appear to have his hands full as the Head Athletic Trainer at the Lawrenceville School, a private academy in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from contributing to the lives of his students in numerous other ways. Nor has it prevented him from becoming heavily involved in his field at the state, district, and national levels.

In fact, Goldenberg’s colleagues marvel at his ability to juggle so many tasks. “He gets it all done,” says Rusty Hlavacek, who recently stepped down after 10 years as Boys’ Head Lacrosse Coach, “yet he still does a lot of things that make him better as an athletic trainer—attending seminars and conferences, giving talks, and other professional development activities. That’s what sets him apart.”

Goldenberg’s outgoing demeanor has enabled him to come into contact with nearly everyone involved with Lawrenceville. “He’s universally known as ‘G’ or ‘Mr. G’, among all one thousand people who work, live, and go to school here, and it’s for a good reason,” Hlavacek says. “He does a nice job blending professionalism with the human element, which is sometimes hard to do. He encompasses both in a really nice balance.”

For his outstanding service to the student-athletes of Lawrenceville, as well as his efforts to expand and improve the field of athletic training, Training & Conditioning is pleased to honor Michael Goldenberg with the May/June 2001 Above the Call Award.

Goldenberg started his trek to athletic training while an undergraduate at Plymouth State College. “When I got there, I was the manager of the football team, where I got a chance to see first-hand what student athletic trainers did—and I was hooked,” he says. “So I applied and was accepted into the student athletic training program the second semester of my freshman year.”

After graduating from Plymouth State in 1984, Goldenberg landed a job as Head Athletic Trainer at the Brewster Academy, a private school in New Hampshire. After three years there, he went to earn his master’s at the University of Buffalo before moving to Lawrenceville in 1989.

He quickly made his mark on the school, helping to establish a state-of-the-art athletic training program. “We use all kinds of modalities on our kids, including ultrasound and stim, and he keeps up to date with new rehab treatments and integrates those into what we’re doing,” says Robin Karpf, MD, Lawrenceville’s Medical Director for the past seven years. “He’s an excellent athletic trainer, both on the field and in assessing injuries. He also has great skills in rehabbing injuries of all kinds—from very serious ones to routine ones like pulled muscles and sprained ankles.

“Without him,” Karpf continues, “it would be difficult for us to do what we do medically, which is to get to kids quickly, stabilize and treat them, and follow up on injuries. He’s an integral part of the medical program here at the school and has done a lot to enhance our services while maintaining quality.”

For example, Goldenberg was instrumental in helping the medical staff establish a concussion evaluation program a few years ago. “He’s been very supportive and helpful in getting that program off the ground and on the field,” Karpf says. “The assessment tools we’re using have been standardized and he’s done a lot to facilitate their immediate implementation across the board. For instance, we do baseline testing—both neurological and sideline assessment tests—so that we know where the kid was before he was injured. And he’s been very helpful in collecting that information and getting it coordinated with the medical team.”

But Goldenberg’s forte is dealing with the students. His outgoing personality enables him to deal with just about everybody, even those who typically shy away from medical staff. “Michael is effective in dealing with kids who are more emotionally fragile,” says Karpf. “He’s been willing to learn some techniques that work with kids who aren’t typical go-get-‘em athletes. My background is in psychiatry, and when we’ve talked about some kids who are not moving along in their rehab, he’s been very interested in trying some different things. He’s very open minded.”

“Athletes are very responsive to him,” Hlavacek adds. “He has a very engaging personality and becomes just as much a part of the athletic family as the coaches and managers. But he’s really careful not to favor one group over another. It’s important to him to provide the best possible athletic training for everyone, from the freshman team to a marquee varsity sport.”

Providing the best possible learning environment is also important to Goldenberg. Lawrenceville’s athletic training student aide program, which Goldenberg started, is unique in that its participants write online curricula for class use. “I try to teach things they can do on the field—taping, fitting crutches, and other hands-on skills,” he says. “And one of the class projects is for students to build a Web site about a particular topic, say taping or how to use a first aid kit. Once they put up the site, it’s available for other students to study from their dorm room before we go over it in class. We have six classes online right now.”

Although Goldenberg is busy with athletes and students, those on campus aren’t the only ones to benefit from his educational efforts. Goldenberg has also worked hard to improve the quality of knowledge in the field of athletic training. For example, when he arrived at Lawrenceville, Goldenberg embarked on a project to research injuries in women’s lacrosse. “When I got here, there was a controversy over whether girls should be wearing helmets for lacrosse, so I started looking into whether there was any research on head injuries,” he says. “I called the Women’s Lacrosse Association and they didn’t have much there. So with the school’s support, I did a national study on women’s lacrosse injuries that was published in the Journal of Athletic Training.”

Goldenberg has also worked to improve athletic trainers’ understanding of wound care. This curiosity was piqued when he served as a consultant for ConvaTec, a division of Bristol Myers Squibb, to look into how the company’s products could be used in sports medicine.

“I had never been taught about moist wound healing, so I asked the company what research they had,” he says. “What they showed me did not match what I had learned in school regarding wound care. So I sampled a few hundred ATCs and the curriculum directors of all the athletic training programs around the country about what they used or taught for wound care.

“I found they weren’t really up to date with what the proper techniques were,” he continues. “The people teaching this stuff were passing along the outdated information they had been told themselves and didn’t know about moist wound care, so they just continued the cycle. I got a lot of positive feedback on that study and some athletic trainers have changed their wound care treatments because of it.”

Goldenberg has also sought ways to keep athletic trainers better informed at the regional level. Sensing that the Internet offered a valuable new resource to athletic trainers, he plunged into making the Web more accessible by creating home pages for the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, the NATA’s District II, and the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association. “Lawrenceville got all this new computer equipment and offered a two-week class in the technology, which I took,” he says. “It really clicked with me. After I had built a Web site for our school’s athletic training program, I offered to do a site for the ATSNJ. That led to the other two sites, as well.”

This year, he formed an NATA committee called the Webmasters Advisory Group, which has four components: to 1) Serve as an advisory body to the webmaster of the NATA; 2) Plan and coordinate an educational program that will enhance the technological skills of the Web masters at the national, district and state levels; 3) Plan and coordinate, with the NATA Annual Meeting Program Committee, a workshop or minicourse on Web development at the NATA Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposium; and 4) Study and establish guidelines for athletic training Web sites at the national, district, and state levels.

Seeking to create a vehicle for high school athletic trainers to exchange ideas, Goldenberg also created an online discussion list. “It started with 30 people, and now it’s up to 600 people in just a few years,” he says. “I got the idea when looking at the general athletic training discussion list, and I realized there was a big difference when it comes to treating a 14-year-old versus a 22-year-old. So the high school athletic training discussion list is a way for people to talk about high school athletic training issues. I’m also hoping that athletic training student aides eventually start using the list to ask each other questions, too.” (To join the list, send an e-mail to “LISTSERV @LVILLE.PVT.K12.NJ.US,” leave the subject line blank, and type in the message “SUBSCRIBE HS-ATC.”)

As far as his future goals, Goldenberg would like to stay as involved as possible to help his profession. “I really enjoy serving on the executive council of the ATSNJ and to have the opportunity to offer ideas about where we should go,” he says. “It’s been a joy to be part of athletic training at that level.”

As for Lawrenceville students, they, clearly, are thrilled to have his talents and services at their level. In fact, one of Goldenberg’s proudest moments came when he was honored by some of his students, who endowed an award in his name that is given after each sports season to the most deserving athletic training student aide.

“It made me cry—I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he says. “I’m a day advisor for kids who commute here, and two of the classes donated money out of their pockets to start that award. During an assembly, two of the girls got up to announce the award, and I was totally surprised. It was a very gratifying and moving experience for me.”

But despite the adulation of athletes, colleagues, and students, Goldenberg says his greatest reward is seeing his former students entering the sports medicine field. “I just saw a former student who told me he’s now in his last year of medical school,” he says. “If he goes on to be an orthopedic surgeon, comes back to the area to work, and operates on one of my athletes, that will complete the circle.”