Athletic Therapy students top of mind for experiential learning

Dennis Valdez, instructor and field coordinator for the Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy in Physical Education and Recreation Studies at Mount Royal University, often relies on a network of Athletic Therapists who have graduated from the program to help him place current students in the field for practical experience.

Last month, a rather unique opportunity was presented to Valdez when Mount Royal alumni Brandon Thome and John Reinbolt organized coverage for the World's Longest Hockey Game, which took place in Chestermere, AB.

The game lasted 246 hours, set a new Guiness World Record and raised over $1.5 million for the Pediatric Cancer Patients Ward of the Alberta's Children Hospital.

World's longest hockey game
The world's longest hockey game held in Chestermere, AB.

Thome and Reinbolt are Certified Athletic Therapists (ATs) that have opened a clinic in Calgary called Prairie Therapy.

Athletic Therapy students in high demand

When Thome decided to support the event, MRU students were top of mind as very few institutions in western Canada offer the Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy.

"The only other schools in western Canada are the University of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba, and Camosun College; so almost all ATs and student ATs in Calgary either went through the program at MRU, or are somehow connected to it," says Reinbolt.

"Brandon and I both went through the program at MRU, and I am on the AT Alumni Association Board, so it only made sense to see if the students were interested, as well as offer them a chance for some experience in the field, benefiting a great cause."

During the ten day event, eight current MRU students participated by supporting a total of 15 ATs, all of whom had gone through the program, according to Reinbolt.

The ATs on site were responsible for clinical treatment of the athletes as well as some field coverage at the rink.

Athletic Therapy an important component

In the sports medicine community those that perform clinical work are usually physiotherapists, massage therapist, etc. Those that work in the field are the nurses, EMTs and paramedics. Athletic Therapists lie somewhere between the two and are often pulled in both directions.

"They had a clinic set up in the arena … one of the students said they would just do massages all day because of how sore [the athletes] were," says Valdez.

"Clinically [the ATs] assessed injuries while the [players] had some time off, treated them as best they could in their short breaks, advised on different techniques to try and keep ongoing injuries under control, taped, braced or supported injuries, helped with return to play decisions and one of the biggest responsibilities over the 10 day event was wound and/or blister care," Reinbolt says.

He adds that field work was very similar in that the students assessed injuries on the bench to help with return to play decisions, taping and bracing to keep the players on ice and advising on how to keep everything working for the marathon.

"There was also a team of Nurses and Paramedics on site at all times; all three of these teams worked together to help the athletes with all of these issues," says Reinbolt.

Valdez says that students in the Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy program are required to log 1,200 hours (600 clinical and 600 field) before they write their certification exam.

That's why a very active network of alumni is critical to his ability to provide practical experience for his students.

"We try to find alumni that are certified and are working events like this," says Valdez.

And Thome and Reinbolt are planning to continue to do their part.

"The students graduating from the AT program at MRU are going to be the next wave of Athletic Therapists looking for work,"Reinbolt says. "At Prairie Therapy we are always looking for students interested in working with us in the clinic and the field."

- Fred Cheney, June 7, 2012