Setting a new standard

Indiana State’s premier athletic training program gets another boost — this time in the form of a doctorate program. Experts hope the additional credential will increase compensation in the growing field.

While athletic training was not officially recognized as a health profession until the 1990s, the practice has been around for more than a century. In that time, Indiana State University has secured an esteemed place in history — one that made the university the No. 1 school to attend for Amani Jackson.

Jackson, a senior from Flossmoor, Ill., discovered her passion for athletic training after she broke her hand playing basketball in high school. Experiencing the care and treatment from an athletic trainer interested her in learning more about the field. When it came time to apply for colleges, Indiana State was at the top of her list.

“Indiana State was the first in the nation to have an accredited bachelor’s and master’s program in athletic training,” Jackson said. “Now, we are the first have a Doctorate in Athletic Training program. We are the pioneers for the profession, and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to be part of the tradition of excellence here.”

State is also among the best programs, turning out graduates who regularly help their teams win championships. Dice Yamaguchi, ’05, helped lead the San Antonio Spurs to an NBA title in 2014 — the same year head athletic trainer Chris Kingsley, GR ’95, helped the Los Angeles Kings hoist the Stanley Cup. (Actually, it was the second time in three years they’d won a championship.)

Amani Jackson decided to attend Indiana State because of its athletic training program's reputation.

Amani Jackson decided to attend Indiana State because of its athletic training program’s reputation.

Indiana State’s history with athletic training began in 1962 when the university hired its first athletic trainer, Mel Blickenstaff. Not only was the university the first to offer accredited undergraduate and graduate programs in athletic training, but also it was the first to graduate a woman into the profession. In 2016, Indiana State continues that legacy with the new doctorate — bringing with it hopes to raise the salary for athletic trainers.

“The biggest problem in athletic training is that the need is growing, but the salaries are not,” said Program Director Lindsey Eberman. “Right now, about 70 percent of athletic trainers have their master’s degree, but they are not necessarily gaining advanced practice skills or clinical expertise in those programs. What we are trying to do with our new doctorate is drive the skill set and leadership up to drive the value and worth of athletic trainers up.”

The Doctorate in Athletic Training is a 24-month continuous enrollment program that requires students to complete 57 credit hours, two research projects and clinical experience. There are currently 41 students in the program, and it maxes out at 50. Currently, only about half of applicants are accepted into the program.

“Some of the most influential people in the athletic training profession have graduated from Indiana State,” Eberman said. “These are the people who are pushing the profession forward by developing certifying exams and conducting research about the field. It has been really cool to be a part of that history.”

Jackson hopes to one day be a part of that history, as well. With her passion and an education from what she believes is “the best in the country,” there is no limiting her potential for success.

“She has demonstrated some serious passion for the profession — seeking out internships and trying to find ways to expose herself more in the profession,” said Eberman. “I think she represents future leadership, particularly as it relates to the diversity of our profession. The field is not necessarily diverse. Less than five percent of athletic trainers are not white.”

Jackson was awarded the John A. Mayes Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee Scholarship by the National Athletic Training Association in May. This scholarship provides an annual scholarship of $2,300 to a qualified entry-level athletic training student from a diverse ethnic background.

“I was so honored and proud to receive this scholarship,” Jackson said. “John Mayes doesn’t know me personally, he just knows what I wrote on a piece of paper, but he felt strong enough to invest in me and encourage me to stay the path, even if I am the minority in the field.”

Jackson plans to further her education by obtaining a master’s and doctorate in athletic training. She has a special interest in studying aquatic therapy, foot and ankle pathologies, as well as the role of nutrition in healing. Food has an impact on injury prevention, performance enhancement and injury recovery, she says. Jackson’s dream clinical setting would be in women’s collegiate athletics, but she also wants to be open to other opportunities.

“Because I go to Indiana State and I feel that I am getting the best education in the world,” Jackson said, “I feel like there is no limitation to what I could do.”

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