They’re on the sidelines of every high school football game. Ready to spring into action at a college soccer match. Working with service members at a military base, or preparing dancers before a performance.

Athletic trainers are the medical professionals on the front lines of athlete health and safety, working long nights and weekends in our communities – no matter if it’s a middle school game or the NBA playoffs.

And many of them are trained right here at UNC Greensboro.

Photo of student taping another student's ankle

MSAT students practice taping ankles and wrists in a newly-opened campus facility shared by the MSAT program and UNCG Athletics.

UNCG’s Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) program was founded in 2003 as the first entry-level master’s program in the state. With new standards for the profession requiring undergraduate programs to transition to the graduate level by 2022, many universities are looking to UNCG’s MSAT program as a model. It’s easy to see why.

“Real time, real patients,” says Dr. Aaron Terranova, associate professor and clinical education coordinator for the MSAT. That’s the focus of the program, and it starts day one.

“Our students begin the program in the summer with two courses and a pre-season clinical rotation with college and high school athletics,” he says. “We make sure they are competent in the classroom and in the lab, and then we put them in the field. We’re all about real time, not simulations.”

Photo of UNCG student applying bandage to athlete's leg

Brittany Martin attends to a high school football player during a pre-season clinical rotation.

The two-year program includes coursework, four clinical rotations (in addition to the pre-season rotations) and a capstone in which each student takes a real patient from surgery to “ready-to-play.”

When MSAT students talk about their experience, they emphasize the hands-on nature of the program.

“This program gets you ready for whatever may happen on the field,” says Brittany Martin, a second-year student. “UNCG is definitely preparing you for the real world.”

Photo of student cutting T-shirt off football player mannequin

MSAT students practice equipment removal techniques for equipment laden sports with Dr. Scott Ross (far left).

Martin’s ultimate goal is to work for the Carolina Panthers. Fellow second-year student Sydney Neighbors is interested in collegiate baseball. Both have tailored the program to line up with their interests – Martin has worked with high school and collegiate football, while Neighbors has worked closely with UNCG Baseball.

Other students have worked with a dance school and a local CrossFit gym. As the profession has expanded to encompass not just athletes but all physically active individuals, UNCG has evolved its clinical rotation program to offer a variety of opportunities for students.

Group photo of faculty, students and preceptor on football field

UNCG faculty, students and preceptor at a high school football jamboree. From left to right: Dr. William Adams, Samantha Milbourn, Sydney Neighbors, Northern Guilford High School Head Athletic Trainer Justin Swenson and Dr. Aaron Terranova.

It goes beyond the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. According to Dr. William Adams, MSAT program director, athletic trainers can make a lifelong impact on young athletes.

“The athletic trainer has the opportunity to be a good role model and resource – to educate young people on the importance of proper hydration, nutrition and sleep habits. We hope that the work of athletic trainers helps individuals develop healthy habits that continue into adulthood.”

The faculty’s passion for the profession shines through, and it trickles down to the students. UNCG’s program isn’t just preparing students for their first job – it’s helping shape them for a lifelong career.

“Our alumni stay in the field, and they stay active,” Terranova says. “They’re sought after and they’re offered good jobs. We’re proud to have that kind of reputation across the state.”

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications