Taking Athletic Training Overseas

By Josephine Sepel ’21, May 10, 2019
A unique opportunity awaits athletic training majors selected to study in Ireland.

In January of 2015, two new students came to Ithaca’s campus whose arrival was different from the hundreds of others who come to South Hill every year. They were the first students to take part in a newly established exchange program set up between Ithaca College’s Athletic Training (AT) program and the Athletic Therapy and Rehabilitation program (ARTI) at the Institute for Technology in Carlow, Ireland.

The exchange program, now in its fifth year, was the brainchild of Paul Geisler, professor and program director of the college’s Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. Because Ireland is one of the few countries outside the United States to use athletic trainers — in other countries, physical therapists or physicians fill those roles — study abroad opportunities are severely limited.

“It’s always been very hard for one of our students to go abroad, and it’s almost been impossible for them to go abroad and do something related to the AT major so that they can graduate in four years,” Geisler said.

Despite limited options, Geisler was constantly looking for opportunities. One day, he saw in an online newsletter that Seton Hall University had an agreement with the Institute of Technology in Carlow and was immediately intrigued.

Upon doing more research, Geisler found that the Irish institution’s Athletic Rehabilitation Therapy program — a blend of physical therapy and athletic training — aligned well with Ithaca College’s AT program. He inquired about setting up an exchange program, and before long, an agreement was signed.

The program allows two senior AT majors from Ithaca to study in Ireland during the fall semester and for two 4th level ARTI students from Carlow to study in Ithaca during the spring semester. Students are selected by faculty, not only based on their classroom grades, but engagement and work ethic.

The arrangement benefits students by expanding their knowledge base. In Ireland, Ithaca students take sports medicine classes, do clinical work, and gain exposure to sports specific to Ireland such as hurling—called camogie for females—rugby, and gaelic football. While in Ithaca, Irish students get to work with lacrosse and baseball teams.

Other differences serve a similar purpose. Because Irish clinics don’t use a lot of therapeutic modalities like ultrasound and electric stimulation, students from Carlow gain valuable experience with them, while IC students become much more dependent on using their hands to provide care.

In addition, in Carlow, the patients are mostly people from town, a huge contrast to working on a college campus, where patients are student-athletes. Janie Kleinberg 19 says that these new experiences have had a major impact on how she approaches athletic training. “I’ve become a much more exercise oriented clinician,” she said.  “And I feel more confident in my diagnosis and assessment abilities thanks to the classes."

Kleinberg highly recommends the program to rising seniors. “You will get to meet so many incredible people, experience another culture and gain a new perspective on clinical practice,” she said.

Geisler adds that the program benefits even those unable to take part. Students and professors at both schools are exposed to different social and professional cultures and are given the opportunity to make international friends, creating, as he put it, a “mushroom family” — one that he hopes will keep on growing.