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K-State athletic teams provide practical experience for athletic training program

By Keener A. Tippin II


Shawna Jordan isn't a modern-day version of Dr. Rudy Wells from the classic "Six Million Dollar Man" television show. She doesn't work in a secret government lab, experimenting with bionic limbs eyes, ears and other body parts.

Her laboratory, if you will, is the athletic training room for many of Kansas State University's student athletes. It's a place where, as an athletic trainer, she can help rebuild athletes who have been seriously or moderately injured and make some athletes healthier, stronger and faster than before.

On game days, during Wildcat football, basketball, volleyball and various other sports, nine certified athletic trainers including Jordan, as well as students majoring in athletic training, can be seen on the sidelines, tending to K-State student athletes who may have suffered a serious injury, gotten banged up a little or just dehydrated.

When she is not on the sidelines, Jordan has a different role. She also serves as the director of the K-State athletic training education program.

The field of athletic training has evolved over the years, going from simply putting ice on an injury and sending athletes back onto the field, Jordan said. Athletic training is a combination of domains which include prevention of athletic injuries; recognition, evaluation and assessment; immediate care; treatment, rehabilitation and reconditioning; organizing and administration; and professional development and responsibility.

Over the last three years, the athletic training education program at K-State has evolved, too, going from being an "emphasis program" to becoming a degree program which currently has around 120 students.

The major is offered by the department of human nutrition in the College of Human Ecology. Prior to becoming a degree program, students majored in another area but took course work to complete the requirements needed to sit for the profession's certification exam. Successful completion of this exam allows an individual to practice as an athletic trainer.

Once a prospective student has met the program's entrance requirements, they begin work in practical situations either with the university's teams, local high school teams or with Lafene Health Center through K-State's Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex. Most students begin the practical experience in their second year at K-State.

"We try to give our students enough different exposure and enough variety of things so that they feel really prepared when they get ready to leave school and move into their next endeavor — either in a job or graduate school situation," Jordan said.

In addition to general education courses, students also take courses in biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy and physiology before getting into professional courses that include nutrition, athletic training, kinesiology and psychology, which Jordan said is a vital part of athletic training.

"Counseling is a big part of what we do: understanding the psyche," Jordan said. "It’s really across the spectrum, from helping with coping skills for an injury to performance enhancement."

Jordan said a love for sports, a desire for a career in the medical field and an opportunity to combine both areas is a big drawing card for many to the profession. Despite of that close association with sports, Jordan said that the major is an allied health field. The degree program must follow standards and program requirements that are similar to those of someone going into physical therapy or looking to apply to other professional schools.

"It's recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied health profession," Jordan said. "I think that is one thing students do not realize. They think, 'Oh, I want to be an athletic trainer. I get to see what happens on game days.' They see that side of it, but do not realize that the profession is a lot work and much more involved."

Athletic trainers must have a vast understanding of the human body, physical activity requirements and how the two things work together for individuals.

"You have to understand what happens to the body, what it goes through with injury," Jordan continues. "It's a heavy science degree, but it's no different than if you were going on into another medical field."

It was that same love of playing and watching sports that led Kristin Ross to the major, in addition to the people-oriented and helping nature of the profession.

"I love playing and watching sports and I also love helping people," said Ross, a senior from Horton. "I thought this would be the perfect major as well as give me a great background and hands on experience to prepare myself for physical therapy school."

Ross, who serves as a trainer for the Wildcat volleyball team, hopes to begin physical therapy school in June and eventually work as a physical therapist. She also would like to do some athletic training work on the side in a rural high school setting.

One option for students is to be a teacher and an athletic trainer. This option requires students to earn separate degrees in education and athletic training. Other job possibilities for athletic trainers include orthopedic/physical therapy clinics, junior colleges and universities and colleges. A new area for graduates has been in wellness or fitness centers.

"There are some industrial settings or corporations that have wellness programs for their workers," Jordan said. Professional athletics, military settings and university education also provide job opportunities for graduates in the field of athletic training.

At the end of the day, the work of an athletic trainer is all about the athlete, Jordan said. "We tell people that if we don’t see student athletes with us on the sideline, then we've done our job. It means that we’ve prepared them and they are ready to participate."


Winter 2005