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Tough, Intimidating Look Is Mostly a Facade : Trainer Helps the Healing Process

August 20, 1987|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — For a person who helps heal, he is intimidating.

He is larger than many of the football players he treats. His thick legs descend from gray corduroy shorts to sockless ankles. His blue shirt holds a muscular chest, his cheek a tobacco wad, his unsmiling lips a toothpick. The fluorescence of the room he works in is reflected in his creased skull.

But this tough look, as the athletes who put themselves in his sensitive hands know, is mostly a facade.

"At times I have to be intimidating," said Dan Bailey, head trainer at California State University, Long Beach. He had just probed and massaged the sore lower back of a woman volleyball player after gently explaining to her his plan for treatment.

Bailey, 40, spends much of his time in a room full of tables, tape, whirlpools, exercise machines and devices labeled "bone-healing systems," but he is most visible when he goes onto a field or court to aid an injured player. In that emotional moment--when the player is screaming and rolling around in pain--Bailey knows that intimidation and callousness can be necessary.

"Over the years, you try to develop a professional attitude toward injuries, so you don't get involved with an athlete while doing an evaluation, even if he is a close friend," said Bailey, in his 15th year as 49er trainer. "You have to be downright forceful at times. You have to tell them to shut their mouths, shock them back to reality to get some information out of them."

A doctor normally is not present at 49er football or basketball practice sessions, and Bailey, although his years of experience have given him some diagnostic abilities, does not pretend to be one.

"One of the first things you learn in this business is that you don't play doctor," Bailey said. "(But) after a while you get such a feel (for the seriousness of an injury) by just looking or by talking to the player. I just make an observation, an assessment to help the doctor make the diagnosis."

But sometimes Bailey will immediately tell a player that surgery probably will be needed.

"If I don't know him well or I think he's going to freak out, I won't tell him and I'll let the doctor handle it," Bailey said.

"It's the same with coaches. If I don't know a coach well or respect him, I won't tell him. That may be bullheaded, but that's the way I am."

Dr. Clifton Rose, who resigned this year as the 49ers physician, praises Bailey: "He's excellent on injuries; his assessments are usually pretty accurate. I had complete faith in him."

Rose refers to Bailey as a diamond in the rough. "He's big and lumbering, the kind of guy you don't expect to have the knowledge," Rose said.

"But he'll surprise you. He's very intelligent, very competent in everything he does."

Coaches tend to have less patience than Bailey with injuries.

"Coaches always put pressure on a trainer," Bailey said. "They want to know, 'Why is this person not playing?' and 'How long will he be out?'

"A trainer can have a real problem with a coach when he can tell the trainer the way things are," Bailey said. "Then, a trainer can be gone if he doesn't agree with the coach enough times. I answer directly to the athletic director, not a coach."

Robert Donlan, the senior associate athletic director, said Bailey "makes sure athletes are well-healed before he puts them back on the field or court. "He won't take a chance of risking injury."

Bailey grew up in Wales, Utah, in a family that luxury never visited. His father was a dirt farmer and a coal miner who died in a mine when Dan was 11.

"We ate bread and milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner sometimes," Bailey said.

He played defensive end and was a wrestler at the University of Utah in the late 1960s. His vocation was born when the Utah trainer showed him how to tape his teammates' ankles.

Bailey, who has a certificate in physical therapy from USC, is co-owner and president of the Long Beach Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy Center, but his 49er job is what fills his time as well as most of his heart.

"With a healthy, motivated athlete, generally you see improvement weekly," Bailey said. "That's one good reason for working here. You tend not to get burned out so quickly."

The 6-foot-2 Bailey takes on other challenges besides rehabilitating body parts. He has climbed Mt. Whitney three times. In 1986, he ran the Long Beach Marathon.

"When I walked off the football field in '69, I said I'd never run again," Bailey said. "I didn't for 15 years."

His weight, now 220, reached 265.

"I had to do something," he said, "because I enjoy taking a beer now and then."

Started Running on a Bet

Bailey started running when a friend bet him that he could not run the Catalina 10-K race in less than an hour. He did, then began training for his first--"and last"--marathon.

"My running's gone to pot," Bailey said last week. "Yesterday I did three miles for the first time in three weeks."

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