By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun
Anyone interested in the success of Sheridan College's athletic therapy program need look no further than Canada's pro sports teams: they all employ at least one Sheridan graduate.
Athletic therapists, Cory Mosorka and Chris Jackson, both Sheridan alumni, demonstrate their skills on the field. Jackson teaches at Sheridan College.
Not everyone who aces the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association certification exam following graduation will end up working with a Maple Leaf or an Alouette, of course. And not everyone who applies for entry into Sheridan's still-new degree program will be accepted, either.
Kirsty McKenzie, an athletic therapy instructor and director of the Sheridan Sports Injury Clinic, says last year there were 550 applicants for just 42 places in the four-year program.
Sheridan introduced the Bachelor of Applied Health Sciences course in 2003. It began as a two-year diploma program in 1973 that was later expanded to three years before moving to degree status.
Linda Love, dean of the School of Community and Liberal Studies at Sheridan, says there were several reasons for the change. More sophisticated treatment is one; a second is that eventually CATA will require athletic therapists to have a degree. A degree, furthermore, provides considerably more flexibility than a diploma, particularly for students who want to test the waters in the United States, she adds.
Applicants to the program at Sheridan theoretically need only high school graduation, says McKenzie, but practically speaking, the more education the would-be therapist has, the better.
"Prior to (the introduction of) the degree -- and also about 50% of the class currently -- because it was so competitive, everyone pretty much had university degrees already. With the current students, half are out of high school and the other half either have completed university degrees in a related field or at least have partial degrees," McKenzie says.
The age range of her students, she says, runs largely from 18 to the mid-20s. International students don't much figure in the athletic therapy course. But that doesn't mean there's a GTA homogeneity found in the classroom, McKenzie points out. She has students from Newfoundland, B.C. and other provinces. The gender split has been about 50-50 for the last two years, she adds. Tuition is about $5,000 a year.
| LINDA LOVE
In their first year, students study physiology, biology, nutrition and so on as well as taking certain electives. McKenzie characterizes that first year as an introduction to basic science. Then follows the meat and potatoes of the program, split equally between field practice -- assessing and treating an injured hockey player at the rink, for example -- and clinical practice, where a student treats an injured athlete in a standalone or multidisciplinary clinic.
Work placements are also an integral part of the program at Sheridan, ensuring students acquire the 600 hours of field practice and 600 hours of clinical practice they need before they can write the CATA exam, McKenzie says.
Unsurprisingly, students in the program tend to the active and athletic. Second-year degree student and UBC human kinetics grad Al Ezaki, says he ran track, played soccer and other sports growing up, and knew he wanted a hands-on profession that helped athletes. Eventually he'd like to open his own clinic.
The athletic therapy degree program at Sheridan is still new but there is strong competition for admission.
Applicants need only a high school diploma but many of them have degrees or some university education.
Students from across the country apply to the Sheridan program.
Classes are split about 50-50 male and female.
Employment prospects for athletic therapists are exceptionally good.
Scarborough's Darryl Gomes graduated from U of T and is in the third and last year of the diploma program. He too loves sports, and says the therapy program allows him to combine that and two other interests: helping others and solving problems.
One problem neither Gomes nor Ezaki will face is unemployment. Love says 100% of her students are employed by the September following graduation and a successful CATA exam.
Entry level pay starts at $35-$40,000, McKenzie says, with established athletic therapists in private practice able to earn much, much more than that.
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