New program will train the trainers

2:25:55 PM CDT - Friday, March 11, 2005

By Shannon Littlejohn

When WSU suspended its athletic training emphasis within its exercise training program in 2000, it wasn't because of declining student interest or job opportunities, which continued to be strong. It was because the emphasis couldn't meet new accreditation standards that had been set for athletic training.

Two years ago, Rich Bomgardner was hired to start working on getting accreditation for a bachelor of arts degree in athletic training, and last month, the Kansas Board of Regents gave WSU the OK to offer the degree program.

While there's some overlap in the coursework for WSU's exercise science and athletic training degrees, each program prepares students for different kinds of training. The exercise science program basically prepares personal trainers to work with the more sedentary public; athletic training covers the health and health care of athletes.

But if students want to become certified athletic trainers they have to study in an accredited program or one that's undergoing the accreditation process, according to background material provided for the program's justification.

Bomgardner, a WSU alumnus who helped get accreditation for a program at Angelo State University in Texas, is confident that WSU's program will be accredited. He'll apply for candidacy status in September through the Joint Review Committee of Educational Programs on Athletic Training, he said.

He hopes to have the site visit for accreditation by fall 2007 or spring 2008, so his first-year class can graduate ready to take the national certification test for employment.

"The first-year curriculum is under way," said Bomgardner. "We're looking for new students to come in now to complete the second-year class."

While there are currently four students in the program, advisers for WSU's kinesiology and sport studies department said that students have continued to ask about an athletic training degree since the emphasis area was suspended in 2000.

One of those four students is Leslie Gilmer, a former gymnast and cheerleader who said she is enjoying the program.

"I'd like to work at the college level but will probably end up doing high school for a while," said Gilmer, a senior in exercise science who is extending her college years for the athletic trainer degree. "I love being around sports."

Statistics from the National Federation of State High School Associations and the NCAA indicate that participation in sports is up on both the high school and college levels.

Nick Bohanon, another exercise science senior going for the athletic training degree, said he'd like to move through the ranks to the professional sports level.

"The majority of an athletic trainer's work involves evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of a sports-related injury, and reconditioning of the athlete to get them back to the field of competition," said Bomgardner. "We oversee, underneath the direction of a physician, the process of returning that athlete back to full capacity."

Graduates' options are many, including post-graduate studies, work as a graduate assistant or employment through a medical center or sports medicine clinic.

"Our profession has really expanded over the past 10-15 years," said Bomgardner. "We're getting into more corporate and industrial-type settings in which trainers at larger companies will do rehabilitation and ergonomics, physical training and those sorts of things."

The program isn't easy, as students note. It requires three years of clinical rotations at 20 hours a week, along with a tough course load that includes human anatomy, physiology, nutrition and pharmacology in the 34-hour core curriculum and 44-hour core kinesiology curriculum for athletic training students.

Nine schools in Kansas have athletic training programs, with five already accredited, but with WSU's location in a major city and the state's largest health care community, WSU has an advantage, Bomgardner said.

The program already uses the new Via Christi Sports Medicine Complex at Koch Arena for classes and will work with Via Christi Sports Medicine to find more testing and clinical sites for students.

Contributing to this article: Amy Geiszler-Jones

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