MU athletic training degree moves to state board for approval

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU students will soon be able to major in athletic training, a program predicted to attract more potential students to the university.

The degree program, unanimously approved by the UM System Board of Curators on Thursday, will now go to the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education for approval. 

The board should approve the program by February 2012, said Richard Oliver, dean of MU's School of Health Professions. Incoming and current students should be able to begin applying for the degree the following spring semester.

According to MU Office of Admissions data, one of the most requested majors not available at MU is sports medicine and athletic training. 

Some potential students chose other universities because MU lacked the degree program, said Jim Spain, vice provost of undergraduate studies.

"The School of Health Professions analyzed the future of careers that the athletic training program would prepare students for, and the projection was great," Spain said.

Brain injuries, especially in high school and college athletes, are a big issue in sports right now, Oliver said. He said there are new guidelines for athletes that try to make sure they can go back on the field after a head injury.

"Education has gotten more specialized because of traumatic brain injury," Oliver said.

Sixty students are needed to enroll as athletic training majors to make the program financially and academically viable.

The anticipated popularity of the major exceeds this cap, and revenue from students in the program would outweigh expenses, according to the proposal that went to the curators. Oliver said the major would lose money the first year or two, but it would eventually bring in about $400,000 more than it costs.

"Even after we take off money off the top for scholarships, the business plan is very sound," he said.

Senior health sciences major Joe Moore said he would have liked if the degree program had been offered when he applied to MU, but it didn't keep him from enrolling.

"Getting an athletic training degree program would've been an added bonus," Moore said. "But I knew I wanted to be a physical therapy major from the start, so it wasn't a huge deal."

Moore is involved in the student trainer program. He assisted the Missouri football team last year, and the Missouri basketball team during his senior year. The help student trainers provide to prevent and treat injuries for Missouri athletes is very similar to what friends do as athletic training majors at other schools, Moore said.

Starting in spring 2013, freshmen would be admitted to MU as pre-athletic training majors. Most students would begin the three-year athletic training professional phase of the program their sophomore year.

Anatomy, physiology and psychology of sports injuries are some of the general education classes the students would take. Applied courses are another part of the proposed curriculum, where students would help treat or manage athletics injuries, Oliver said.

The professional phase would accept 40 students per class, totaling 120 students in the three-year program. Given the demand, Oliver said those spots would be fairly competitive.

Because the program would be housed within the Physical Therapy Department, athletic training majors and faculty would work together with physical therapy majors and faculty once the degree program is implemented.

Students aren't projected to graduate with athletic training degrees until 2016. Only after the first class has graduated can the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education accredit the program.

"With an emphasis on wellness in our society, and more demands being put on colleges and high schools to make sure their athletes stay healthy ... I think their futures are bright," Oliver said.

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