KINGSTON, R.I. – March 16, 2015 – Casey Hill wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a physical therapist for college and professional athletes, but after visiting hockey and baseball training camps in Florida she has no doubts: You bet.
Hill was among 11 physical therapy students at the University of Rhode Island who spent 10 days in Florida during the winter break as part of URI’s J Term, or January, offerings.
“It was a fantastic trip,” says Hill ’15, of Randolph, Mass. “I got tons of practical and hands-on experience. And the networking was invaluable.”
J Term started last year as a way to create new educational opportunities for students during the winter break. Sessions are held in the United States and abroad, as well as on campus.
The program was a big success this year, with a surge in enrollment, from 404 students to 606. Students explored the politics and culture of Cuba, participated in the Charlie Hebdo rallies in Paris, studied civil engineering in Korea and helped out at a prenatal clinic in the Dominican Republic.
And in Tampa, Fla., they got a behind-the-scenes look at sports medicine.
Over 10 days, they visited the spring training baseball camp of the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros; met with staff of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team, even talking to Brian Bradley, former NHL all-star; and volunteered at one of the National Wheelchair Rugby Paralympic tournaments, where they met Joe Soares, of Providence, a former all-star wheelchair rugby player for the United States who later coached the Olympic team.
The students also trained in an underwater treadmill at the University of South Florida; toured the Kennedy Space Center, where they got a look at a health care area for astronauts; visited IMG Academy, an elite private boarding school for athletes; and talked to Sheila Nicholson, a malpractice lawyer and physical therapist who is on the executive board of the American Physical Therapy Association.
“The main goal of the course was to expose students to aspects of sports physical therapy beyond what a traditional curriculum offers,” says Jeff G. Konin, chair of the physical therapy department, who accompanied the students on the trip. “All of the professionals we visited were extremely generous with their time and sharing of their knowledge, offering the students a peek into their world of working with athletes.”
Hill says she had such a good time it’s hard to pick a highlight. As far as her career goes, she says the opportunity to network and make contacts was immensely important.
“Everything was amazing, but networking with all the different people was so helpful,” she says. “I’m graduating in the spring and appreciate all the connections I made.”
She also enjoyed talking to the athletic trainer, also a physical therapist, for the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. “He provided us with great insight on how he worked with the athletes. We got the inside scoop on the relationship between athletes and trainers.”
Also, she liked experiencing the underwater treadmill at the University of South Florida. “It was so different,” she says. “In class, we learned about buoyancy. It was cool. But there you could have athletes jumping, skipping and running forward and backward at different speeds.”
Paige Madison ’17, of Virginia Beach, Va., liked being part of the medical staff at a marathon at Disney World. “The runners were so appreciative to have someone take care of them.” Also, seeing the boarding school for athletes, which costs up to $90,000 a year, made her realize that “if you have money you can go anywhere in the athletic world.”
“Overall, it was a great trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone,” she says. “It’s a wonderful way to spend the winter break.”
The tour of the Kennedy Space Center was special for Marissa Smyrski ’17, of Ira, Vt. She says she was surprised that staff and astronauts do physical therapy. She also enjoyed the wheelchair rugby games.
“It was definitely a great trip,” she says. “I haven’t gotten to see much of the sports side of physical therapy. There are so many opportunities you can get going in the direction of sports medicine. The trip opened my eyes to see what’s out there in that field of PT.”
Click here for more information about URI’s physical therapy program.
Pictured above: URI physical therapy students during a J Term trip to Florida over winter break. Photos courtesy of Casey Hill.