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Lonnie Tanenberg, Certified Athletic Trainer

As one of the few deaf athletic trainers,

Tanenberg breaks boundaries with career and at San Domenico

By Jamie Goldberg, Marin Independent Journal 12/18/11

Lonnie Tanenberg runs out on the court and pulls on his gloves. A girl has just collided with another player and blood is gushing from her nose. As a parent shouts and players talk chaotically around him, Tanenberg calmly staunches the bleeding.

Tanenberg can't hear the distractions. He is deaf.

"It's actually easier for me sometimes because I don't hear the background noise," said Tanenberg, who uses sign language, but can also read lips and speak. "I can just focus on the one athlete I'm working with."

Tanenberg is one of fewer than 10 deaf certified athletic trainers in the country. But he hasn't let his inability to hear inhibit his success. Besides working in high school and college sports and as the lead athletic trainer for Team USA in the Deaflympics worldwide athletic competition, the 34-year-old has already worked with four professional teams — as an intern with the A's, as an assistant athletic trainer for the United Football League's Florida Tuskers, as medical staff for United States MotoGP World Motorcycle Racing and with the American Indoor Football Association.

The Marin resident has now taken his skills to the San Domenico School where he is serving three days a week as the school's first athletic trainer.

Over the summer, San Domenico athletic director Dan Gilmartin spoke with Sport and Spine Therapy of Marin owner Steve Thompson about the need for an athletic trainer.

At the time Thompson was in the process of hiring Tanenberg, who has worked full-time at Sport and Spine Therapy for the last three months.

For Gilmartin, having an athletic trainer is a key part to developing a strong athletic program at San Domenico. That Tanenberg was deaf didn't seem to matter.

"I honestly think I would have had reservations only because I've never seen a deaf athletic trainer before," Gilmartin said. "But when Steve said Lonnie had worked for the pros, I didn't question it."

At San Domenico, Tanenberg is working to develop new protocols for the athletic programs, designing the athletic training room, and creating an emergency action plan and injury prevention education. He also works at home games and athletes can come see him whenever they need help.

"To see how he works with these athletes is hard to believe," Gilmartin said. "He is really good at what he does. He is an endless worker and we are very lucky to have him."

In a profession where communication is vital, Tanenberg's inability to hear might seem like an impossible barrier to overcome. Even Thompson admitted that he had concerns about bringing a deaf athletic trainer to Sport and Spine Therapy. But it hasn't been a problem.

"His ability to communicate with athletes about their injuries, even when they're not looking at him is incredible," Thompson said. "He just does a wonderful job of being attentive right on the spot when something happens."

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