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K-State Today Student Edition

May 1, 2012



A new type of training: Partnership helps athletic training students learn in a military setting

By Communications and Marketing

A new, first-of-its-kind undergraduate athletic training program at Kansas State University is helping students experience a different part of the profession: working with active-duty soldiers.

The university is in the first semester of a partnership between its athletic training education program and nearby Fort Riley. The partnership gives students a new kind of experience in a military setting as they work with soldiers in seven battalions in the 4th Brigade.

The partnership involves five athletic training undergraduate students: Mariana Redden, senior, Canton; Breanna Hamilton, sophomore, Clearwater; Drew Mueller, junior, Iola; Mackenzie Smith, senior, Wichita; and Katie Christensen, senior, Plano, Texas.

Although a few universities have similar military athletic training programs with graduate students, Kansas State University's program is the first of its kind for undergraduate students. Morgan Campbell, instructor of athletic training and a certified athletic trainer, helped to develop the military program framework during the fall semester. The partnership was established through the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families and the leadership of Briana Nelson Goff, professor and director of the institute, and Shawna Jordan, assistant professor and director of the athletic training education program.

While most athletic training undergraduate students work with a university or high school sports team for several semesters, Campbell wanted to help create a program that lets students apply their classroom learning to a different type of athletic training experience.

"I am a huge believer of athletic trainers working in new and exciting settings," said Campbell, a 2005 Kansas State University athletic training graduate. "We're venturing out to a new setting where we can be useful to people."

The military setting is different from the athletic setting, Campbell said, because each athletic team has its own certified athletic trainer. The students work and learn under this athletic trainer. But when working with the military, the athletic training students are supervised by medics, physician assistants and physical therapists.

"It's a lot of real-life experience, especially for the athletic training students who are graduating and preparing for their national certification exam," Campbell said. "It helps to re-emphasize the skills that we have taught them. They have to learn to trust themselves, which builds their confidence."

Three of the undergraduates in the program -- Redden, Smith and Christensen -- travel to Fort Riley each morning and help injured soldiers with a physical training program that is suited to their injuries. The other two students -- Hamilton and Mueller -- help with physical therapy education and exercise clinics.

During their time at Fort Riley, the students assist with sick call in the early morning. They perform initial interviews with injured soldiers and divide them into groups based on injuries. Soldiers with lower body injuries are placed in a physical training group that focuses on upper body training and vice versa. Students then help medics run the soldiers' workouts by correcting form or modifying workouts to make them more challenging.

"The students are working one-on-one with the soldiers who are doing the workouts," Campbell said. "It is also their responsibility to progress the workout every three weeks so that it is not the same for too long and that it fits the needs specific to that battalion."

For example, members of an infantry battalion need to be able to run for long periods of time while soldiers in an artillery battalion need to be able to lift heavy objects.

For students Christensen and Redden, the daily morning workouts give them the opportunity to apply their athletic training skills in a different professional setting. Both students graduate in May and will soon take their national certification exams.

Christensen works with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. She has developed workout routines for soldiers and has helped with orthopedic evaluation of injuries.

"That's been really helpful because I have seen our doctors and certified athletic trainers do the evaluation for sports teams, but now I am able to actually apply what I know," said Christensen, who has previously worked with the university's football, women's tennis and women's basketball teams. "It has been a great experience for me."

Redden has worked with the rowing, track and field, and cross country teams at Kansas State University as well as Manhattan High School athletic teams. Her work with three battalions -- 4-1 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 701st Brigade Support Battalion and 1st Engineer Battalion -- provides a chance to explore her interest in working as an athletic trainer with soldiers.

"This has been a great real-world setting," Redden said. "By working with 4th Brigade, I'm more of a medical professional and it provides hands-on testing of my skills and knowledge."