Gaining hands-on athletic training experience
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March is commonly known as "March Madness" on the hardwood, but it's also "National Athletic Training Month," which is a month used by those in athletic training to promote the profession.
Athletic training is considered an allied health care profession, amidst the likes of physician assistants, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Athletic trainers have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, they pass a stringent certification exam from an independent governing body, and usually have post-graduate degrees.
Senior athletic training student Colin Malanaphy works on junior Gabriel Olaseni prior to Iowa's game vs. Purdue. Photo by Matt Weitzel.
At the University of Iowa, students have the opportunity to gain hands-on athletic training experience through a three-year program. According to assistant athletic trainer Brad Floy—who works with the men's basketball program and has supervised undergraduate students for 12 years—Iowa's program accepts about 16 new students each year.
"When our students are done with the program they are eligible for a national certification exam," says Floy. "The program consists of clinical rotations that take them with the athletic teams on campus, area high schools, and sports medicine clinic. They work daily with staff athletic trainers, team physicians, and other health care professionals.
"During their final year, they are assigned one team for the entire year. They attend every practice, competition, and travel with the team. They get an invaluable learning experience, while at the same time helping our student-athletes compete at their best."
Floy says that students in this program have a job placement rate of virtually 100 percent. He went on to say that most continue their education pursuing a master's degree, while others enter the workforce in high school or clinical settings immediately after their undergraduate studies.
"Our graduating class last year had a 100 percent pass rate on the first attempt at the national certification exam," says Floy. "This is well above the national average."
Floy noted that other health care professionals who have worked with athletic training students coming from our program have been impressed with their skills for an undergraduate degree.
Senior Colin Malanaphy is in his final year of the program and has worked extensively with the men's basketball team this season. Malanaphy praises the program for its detail-oriented structure.
"This program has done more than enough to prepare me for a future as a Certified Athletic Trainer," says Malanaphy. "The way it's set up allows an individual to gain as much information or knowledge as they want if they are willing to put the effort. The hands-on experience is invaluable in this profession."
Two days before the season started, junior guard Josh Oglesby broke a bone in his right foot. Floy says that Malanaphy was involved from start-to-finish—referring for an X-Ray, observing surgery, doing pool workouts, and more.
"Being there for every step, I took it upon myself to be a calming influence during the initial process and then a guiding force toward his return to play," says Malanaphy. "Having the opportunity to develop his rehab program, under Brad's supervision, allowed me to gain knowledge and understanding of a difficult process, which will mold my future thoughts toward such a process. Hands-on experience and learning from my own mistakes and success is a huge determining factor of my future in this profession."
Malanaphy encourages those who are interested to apply for this program.
"The people involved, from top to bottom, are some the best in the business," says Malanaphy. "They not only are there to help you succeed, but also are there to build the profession to the highest level. Gaining respect throughout the country and beyond is high priority and those within the program strive for that every day."
Floy added that in this era of changing health care practice, athletic trainers are emerging as a valuable and cost efficient provider in a variety of settings.