Alumnus Bob Smetanka '69 Donates to Improve Athletic Medicine Program


Playing sports is more than gameplay and strategy; student-athletes who are injured need a certified athletic trainer and program to assist them in their recovery and return to competition. 

Bob Smetanka, ‘69, who worked as a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist for 45 years, understands the need for prevention and care of injuries for high school student-athletes. His recent donation to the DLS athletic medicine program will help to improve their health and injury care.

As an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Good Counsel Grade School, he was unable to participate in football due to a health issue. However, his school’s football coach, Carl Bolchi, persuaded Smetanka to assist the team as a student manager. 
That experience helped him as he moved on to De La Salle, where Br. George Synan asked him to also be a student manager. Br. Patrick McNally, track coach and football moderator, also enrolled him in a high school student athletic trainer course so he could offer even greater assistance to the track and football athletes. 

“I really enjoyed learning how to prevent and care for athletic injuries,” Smetanka said.

Upon graduating from DLS in 1969, he joined the athletic training staff at the University of Michigan as a student athletic trainer where he spent 20 hours a week assisting athletes of all sports. He decided on a degree in physical therapy and eventually worked in a number of health arenas including university athletic training rooms, sports medicine clinics, industrial and university health clinics and a hospital specializing in orthopedic surgeries.
“When you retire, you can’t help but reflect upon your career…did you do what you were meant to do?” reflected Smetanka, 72. “Br. Pat and a number of brothers, coaches and athletes were instrumental to my successful and gratifying career.
“It is time to help our student-athletes to a greater understanding of the prevention and care of their athletic injuries,” he added. “Maybe they will also be inspired to  enter a medical field.”

He wants to provide the necessary tools for the athletic trainer to give the best possible care to the student-athletes.

Nicole Zarucki, certified athletic trainer at De La Salle, is extremely grateful to Smetanka and also shares his sentiment to help other student-athletes learn and benefit from their injuries.

“He was very generous,” she said. “He wants to take care of our athletes and to further the profession of athletic training and sports medicine. Bob wants kids to have that experience of learning in the training room and wants to promote a possible future career in sports medicine and athletic training.” 

Zarucki has been putting the equipment purchases for treatment, recovery and education to great use this season and student-athletes from all sports are benefiting from it, including:
  • Marc Pro Plus electrical stimulation unit, used for pain and swelling
  • LaserTouchOne cold laser therapy unit for pain relief
  • NormaTec air compression sleeves for arms and legs which aids in injuries, swelling and recovery, and 
  • Suji blood flow restriction therapy unit used for rehab 
His donation also allowed for giant ice tubs, which student-athletes use for a bath to help blood circulation, as well as a sideline tent used for games.
Because of Smetanka’s generous donation, the athletics training room now has quality anatomical models for teaching reference, which are a great visual tool for athletes to better understand their injuries. 

Smetanka has more goals in mind for his alma mater, and added, “My goal for De La Salle is to assist in making it the best athletic medicine program, not only in our league, but the state…there is more to be done. 

“We want parents and students to be proud of this program,” he added. “We want it to match the high academic ideals of De La Salle. My story can be the story of a current student…and, hopefully, he will also remember the importance of De La Salle in his life and contribute appropriately.”
Athletic Medicine

Alumnus Bob Smetanka '69 Donates to Improve Athletic Medicine Program
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