Song of the unsung heroes

By Sean Nyilassy

“The quarterback takes the snap. He takes three steps back. He’s looking way up field… Whammo! Man what a hit. He’ll be feeling that one in the morning.”

Footballers are hit by 300-pound behemoths. Basketballers take nasty fouls. Volleyballers dive with no consideration for their limbs. Wrestlers are forcefully contorted like nobody should be. While the list goes on, these accidents happen in any sport at any level.

For the Dinos, it’s the athletic therapists who come to the rescue. These hard working students put all they’ve got into assisting Dinos teams to glory. The Athletic Therapy Program is a joint program offered through the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology and Mount Royal College. Along with academic experience, students have two terms as an athletic therapist on a Dinos team.

“They’re a very integral component to what we do,” commented women’s basketball Head Coach Shawnee Harle.

The skills they learn include injury prevention and helping athletes remain healthy and competitive all season. As well, they learn injury assessment, treatment and rehabilitation to allow athletes to return to their passion as quickly and safely as possible.

“They are instrumental in helping with some of the rehab programs we have,” said football Head Coach Tony Fasano.

“Their most important function is helping to keep players healthy and ready to compete,” added Harle.

Along with field time with the team, students gain clinical experience as well. While at the U of C, most students spend about 800 hours working with a team on the field as well as nearly 600 hours in a clinic.

Upon graduation, students receive their BSc in Kinesiology and often go on to obtain national certification from the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association. This requires at least 600 hours on the field and in a clinic before writing a test. Many students already have the required hours thanks to their time here at the U of C. Such a program exists at few Canadian universities, but it is very beneficial to students, athletes and coaches at the U of C.

“Student therapists are essential for varsity sports here,” said Fasano.

But the program is no walk in the park. Athletic therapists’ time commitment is comparable to the athletes’ during each team’s regular season.

“It’s a huge commitment of both time and energy, so you have to love it to be that committed,” Harle said of the therapists’ passion for what they do.

The students learn to make professional relationships with the athletes, and although many would like to spend both terms with the same team, it is important for them to take advantage of the variety of experiences offered in their program. The more diverse their experience, the easier their certification test becomes.

While the U of C is one school offering a joint athletic therapy program with MRC, the University of Alberta and University of Regina also accept students from MRC’s program. With only 10 student therapists accepted at the U of C each year, they are a small but elite group. Without them, things would be a lot more difficult for our Dinos teams.

“They are extremely and unbelievably important,” Head Athletic Therapist Bonnie Sutter enthusiastically noted. “The teams wouldn’t be able to operate without them.”

And coaches agree. The time they save by having student therapists care for injuries is invaluable. So next time you’re at a Dinos game chanting your favourite player’s name, throw in a hip hip hurray for the therapist that keeps them on their various playing surfaces game after game.

To further show your support why not hit their cabaret at the Den Thu., Apr. 7 for a few brews? Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door.

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