If you’re a sports physical therapist, you’re in luck: you’re in demand. Less than two percent of all licensed physical therapists (PT) in the U.S. are board-certified specialists in sports physical therapy. And, if you are studying to become a physical therapist at NIU’s program, you’re in luck again: a new mentorship program aims to prepare you for this specialty.
NIU Physical Therapy Clinical Assistant Professor Brynn Nahlik, along with two NIU Department of Physical Therapy (DPT) alumni, have begun a yearlong, intensive mentorship program for several PT students who are interested in pursuing sports physical therapy.
“One of the goals of the mentorship program is to increase the amount of sports-related content for students. We want to enhance this avenue and better prepare our students who will work with this population,” said Nahlik.
Other goals of the program include preparing students to be competitive when applying to physical therapy sports internships, providing intensive professional development opportunities for students and building a community of NIU sports physical therapists for networking and community involvement.
Interested DPT students had to pass a rigorous application process to participate. Selected students will take part in didactic learning, lab learning, journal clubs, student-led professional presentations and community engagement activities, Nahlik said.
Jake Awender (’15), a board-certified sports physical therapist and alumni mentor, said specialized care can leave athletes in various age groups and activity levels surprisingly underserved. This mentorship program aims to address that.
“This education-focused mentorship will ultimately lead to an improved ability of the students to evaluate and appropriately rehabilitate a more athletically inclined patient base,” Awender said.
Kayla Eppersen (’17), an alumni mentor for the program, said she believes this will be a rewarding experience for all involved.
“This is a program that I wish was available when I was a student so that I could gain more exposure to sports specific rehabilitation and athlete management,” Eppersen said.