Athletic Training Career of Emily Meeuwsen Johnson Launched at NDA

Ellen Meeuwsen, Staff Writer, Journalism I

Emily Meeuwsen Johnson, Notre Dame Academy class of 1997, has gone from sitting on the sidelines in high school to running a concussion clinic. 

Johnson’s passion for athletic training started at a young age. She would go to UWGB women’s basketball games and watch the athletic trainers help the injured athletes. She became interested in their job and “wanted to know what they did, so my mom said to write a letter to the trainer, and I did.” 

Johnson wrote letters to the head athletic trainer at UWGB and was invited to work at summer camps all through high school, which allowed her to gain experience and learn more about the profession. 

Johnson attended NDA for high school where the students and staff were very supportive of her wishes. While here, she worked closely with the athletic director about pursuing more experience in athletic training. 

The NDA athletic director connected Johnson with the athletic booster club who encouraged and supported her and gave a small donation to paint and set up a training room. 

Coach John Nowak allowed Johnson to volunteer by helping take care of football boys during games. The teams and coaches were “always really encouraging,” said Johnson. 

Johnson remembers feeling “accepted and part of the team” when she worked basketball and football games at NDA. The athletes appreciated that she was there, and the coaches were thrilled to have someone take care of everyone. 

Johnson got her undergraduate degree at Valparaiso University. They offered an athletic training program that stressed hands-on experience and traveling with teams right away as a freshman. Johnson believes she “got to travel early on in my college career due to the experiences that Notre Dame gave in high school.” 

Johnson’s first professional athletic training job allowed her to return to where it all started, UWGB. She was “really excited about getting the job not only because it was in my community but it was also Division I athletics.” 

Johnson’s job description included preparing the athlete for practice and taking care of their health needs after games as well as “providing preventative care and education.”

During 13 years of working at UWGB, she covered almost all the sports but primarily worked men’s soccer and women’s basketball. She was required to attend every practice and game for the sport she was assigned to. 

Johnson also got to travel with the teams. When she worked with UWGB, traveled overseas twice and visited almost all the states in the country. 

Johnson left UWGB to work at the sports medicine clinic at Prevea. Her role at the clinic allows her to “continue to be an athletic trainer, just in a different way.” 

Johnson’s role at the clinic was very undefined, so she has really enjoyed creating a position over the last five years that allows her to deliver very personal patient care. 

Johnson’s title in the clinic is physician extender. Her favorite part of this position is that she is “really in charge of creating the relationship and connection with the patient.” Her roles include a lot of patient education work, brace fitting, casting and home exercise programs. 

Johnson has been able to maintain a connection with NDA as Prevea provides athletic training for NDA. She has worked with the current athletic trainers to help get athletes the care they need at the clinic. She has even been able to come back and sit on the sidelines and cover a few games as the athletic trainer.  

In Johnson’s opinion, her “greatest accomplishment while at Prevea has been the development of the concussion clinic.” The clinic serves “everybody and anybody that may have sustained a concussion, not just athletes.” 

Recently, the clinic had a two-year-old and 94-year-old being evaluated for a concussion in the same week. 

Johnson’s immediate goal for the concussion clinic is to “continue to expand and develop our concussion team in Sheboygan and northern parts of Wisconsin.” 

Her long-term goal is “to have our very own concussion center where the entire team is housed in the same location.” 

Johnson’s advice for people who want to become an athletic trainer is “to have empathy, passion and a really strong work ethic. You have to make connections with people and maintain those connections. You have to be willing to work long, hard hours. You have to be able to think on your feet and be creative. The rewards of being a part of the team/ family can be the best part of the job.”