Redefining the Classroom

Athletic training students, faculty assist with Special Olympics

Posted: February 26th, 2014

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – For the sixth consecutive year, Lake Superior State University students studying athletic training traveled to Traverse City to assist with the Michigan Special Olympics Winter Games, Feb. 4-7.

Not only did the students serve as part of a team that provided needed medical coverage, but they also participated in continuing education seminars and clinics to further their studies. The group of eight students was led by LSSU athletic training professors Joe Susi and Sarah Ouimette, who are both certified athletic trainers.

“Prof. Ouimette has been taking students down to the Winter Games for the past several years and last year she was asked if there was any way that she could bring the group down earlier to assist with the beginning of the games,” said Susi. The group stayed through the end of the competition.

The students and LSSU faculty were part of a medical staff that included physicians, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and ski patrol personnel. Many of the student volunteers – who helped with everything from equipment, timing, set-up and take-down -- were from Central Michigan University, but LSSU students who assisted the medical staff were the only ones from an athletic training education program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). LSSU is one of 14 such programs in the state.

PUTTING CLASSROOM LEARNING TO WORK -- LSSU athletic training students get their hands dirty while learning about posterior splinting of the lower leg during a continuing education workshop held while the students were assisting with the Michigan Special Olympics winter games Feb. 4-7 in Traverse City. The group of eight students were part of a medical team that provided support for athletes during the event. The students are working here with Kevin Williams MD (l) and Kevin Lee MD (seated, wearing blue/yellow), who were part of the event's medical team. Members of the LSSU contingent in the photo include, clockwise from Lee: Kara Holland, Gaylord; Prof. Joe Susi; Glenn Watchorn, West Branch; Tirzah Morse, Petoskey and Jenelle Spires, Mancelona. (LSSU/Sarah Ouimette)

A print-resolution copy of this photo is available here.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to volunteer for such a great organization,” Ouimette said of why she continues to volunteer and bring students to the event. “To share in the excitement of the Special Olympic athletes is an experience I’ll never forget.”

Ouimette said daily meetings were kept to brief the care providers on their assignments for the day, which may be at one of the competition venues, recreation venues, the medical room, or night duty in lodging places. The Grand Traverse Resort hosted the snowshoe competition and recreational activities for athletes, including broomball, skating, ice bowling, sledding, snowmobiling, dog sled rides, fitness testing and more. Figure skating and speed skating competitions were held at Howe Arena and downhill and Nordic skiing competitions took place at Schuss Mountain.

“Special Olympics is a fun educational experience where we can apply our clinical knowledge and interpersonal skills,” said Rachael Morairty, a senior from Orangevale, Calif. who has volunteered for two years. “It’s something fun and exciting to look forward to every year.”

The students did indeed apply their skills, as unfortunately there were a few mishaps for the athletes, including two broken ankles, a few concussions, asthma attacks, lacerations, medication issues and more.

Morgan Pollard, a senior from Ontonagon, who assessed one of the fractured ankles, said, “You have to be prepared, because anything can happen at any time and you don’t know how you’re going to react until something happens. Our coursework and clinical experiences in our athletic training program prepared me for this situation.”

Because of the volunteers from the healthcare field, the Special Olympians were treated promptly and professionally, Susi said. The students were helped professionally, also.

“This experience helped with my evaluation skills, as we had to develop strategies to communicate with a population we are not normally accustomed to working with,” said Jenelle Spires a senior from Mancelona. “It’s an eye-opening experience to see the athletes and how happy they are to be there competing.”

In addition to providing medical coverage, the medical staff also participated in continuing education activities and presentations given on: Legal Updates Concerning Concussions, Background and Training of the Ski Patrol, and sessions on splinting and bracing. LSSU students Andrew Miller of Sault Ste. Marie, Paul Eberts of Cedarville and Morgan Pollard of Ontonagon presented a session on “Upper Extremity Injury Recognition.”

The LSSU group included athletic training students Glenn Watchorn, a senior from West Branch, Kara Holland, a senior from Gaylord, and Tirzah Morse, a junior from Petoskey.

The LSSU AT program and its students will again be assisting Special Olympics on Feb. 23 when they provide medical coverage for the E.U.P. Special Olympics Basketball Tournament to be held in the LSSU Norris Center’s Student Activity Center.

For more information about athletic training at LSSU, click here. -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315, tpink@lssu.edup; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Prof. Joe Susi, 635-2161,