All you ever wanted to know about student athletic therapists

You’ve probably seen them running out onto the football field to rescue a player who has just torn his knee ligament; or watching the rugby games, dressed in their black track suits, keeping a watchful eye on the players.

With tape and gauze in hand, they are the saviours to varsity athletes at Concordia, they are the athletic therapists. Each student who chooses to go into Exercise Science at Concordia, and decides they want to become an athletic therapist, has a tough road ahead of them. They must complete 600 hours of clinical therapy and 600 hours of field therapy before they can graduate and take their exam in athletic therapy.

“The students start off their required internship in their second year [of study], with the field therapy. This is where they follow a team around and treat emergency cases during a game. In the third year, the student concentrates on treatment protocols and usually works in a private or public clinic,” said Heather McCoy, the Internship Coordinator for Athletic Therapy.

“In order to become a certified therapist, [a student] must complete these internships, in order to learn both the clinical and field sides of the job. Usually for the field internship, the students will follow a varsity team around,” McCoy said.

Adrianna Shnuriwsky, supervisor at the Concordia varsity athletic clinic said that the students gain valuable experience from the internships.

“With every varsity team at Concordia, there are two student therapists, one second year and one third year, except in football where we have two from each year,” Shnuriwsky said.

“They attend all games and also all practices, so as to get to know the players. They also do a lot of the pre game preparation, like taping and stretching the players.”

Shnuriwsky said that at the beginning of the sports season in the fall, players are usually a little nervous about working with the second-year students, but the students are fully able to handle the problems that could occur on the field.

“If anything serious happens, my partner, Greg Lothian and I are there to help out. The student therapists are never left alone with a player. But as the season goes on, the players become more comfortable with the student therapists, so Greg and I act as supervisors,” Shnuriwsky said.

“You’ll always get that one player who treats the students badly, but we usually keep the players in check. They know that the therapists are doing this work for free, and is part of their education, so they usually are sympathetic,” she said. Every year, around 55 students do the internships in order to get through the Exercise Science program, which is not easy in itself.

Shnuriwsky graduated in 2000 and remembers the work she had to do.

“For every class you had, you also had a lab, which is where you put the theory you learned in class to practice. It was a lot of studying of the anatomy and knowing the way the human body functions and how to cure problems in a full bodied way,” she said.

When a player gets injured, for example, they hurt their back; the student therapist must not give the player a one-time cure. The player will often return to the varsity clinic multiple times. The therapist would help the player work their abdominal, do exercises to improve their back strength, help improve their flexibility and pay particular attention to their balance and muscle strength.

According to Shnuriwsky, on the field, it is usually the third year student who will be the one in the position to assess a player.

The ‘charge person’ will be the one who will tell the other student therapists what to do and will designate specific tasks to the students.

“When the team goes away to another city, it will almost always be a third year in the ‘charge person’ position, as the students travel with the teams, otherwise it will be Greg or myself at the home games,” said Shnuriwsky.

“They [the students] put in a lot of hours, but they learn a lot out on the field and in the clinic, that lends itself to the job,” Shnuriwsky said.

*For more information on the Exercise Science program at Concordia, call 848-3327. To reach the Concordia varsity clinic, call 848-3864.


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