Educator Spotlight | Dr. Thomas Kaminski of the University of Delaware

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Credentials: PhD, ATC, FNAK, FNATA, FACSM, RFSA, Professor, Director of Athletic Training Education, Editor-in-Chief, Athletic Training & Sports Health Care

At the University of Delaware, Dr. Kaminski directs the professional Athletic Training Education Program and has recently established the University of Delaware’s entry-level Master of Science degree program. Dr. Kaminski is the only athletic trainer in the United States to simultaneously hold fellowship status in the National Academy of Kinesiology, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, American College of Sports Medicine, and the Research Consortium of the Society of Health, and Physical Educators.

What initially attracted you to athletic training?

The profession has always been in my blood. In fifth grade, I started working as a manager for our high school football team. By the eighth grade, I had learned taping techniques and started getting involved with flexibility exercises and rehab protocols with athletes, something that continued throughout my high school career.   

Every month, my high school football coach received the Cramer’s First Aider.  He would always share it with me, and it was how I started learning about Athletic Training as a career.

What does a day in your life look like?

I left the University of Florida in 2002, and have mostly stepped away from the clinical aspect of athletic training. My days are now embedded in my roles as an educator, administrator, and researcher. I teach upper and lower extremity assessment, which are foundational classes for Athletic Training students. I also teach a course titled Evidence-Based Sports Medicine that is fundamental in teaching athletic training students the importance of evidence in supporting their clinical practice.   

What research are you currently conducting?

My research has been focused on two primary areas: repetitive head impact in sports and ankle injuries.

My research with repetitive head impact has been primarily with soccer, where players can use the head to advance the ball. My primary focus now is with youth soccer players and protecting them from any dangers that may be associated with the purposeful heading of a soccer ball and to eliminate the “Bobblehead Effect.” Additionally, I have worked with the United Soccer Coaches to create an on-line educational program for youth coaches called “Get aHEAD Safely in Soccer”

I have also researched ankle injuries and ankle instability throughout the years. I am the co-founder of the International Ankle Consortium and this year, we celebrated 20 years of the biennial International Ankle Symposium.

Since the start of your career, what are the biggest shifts you have observed in athletic training?

There has been a shift in thinking with injury prevention. Athletic trainers are doing a tremendous amount of work in the area of injury prevention. Evidence has grown so much demonstrating that interventions can be beneficial with athletes to prevent injuries including advanced taping & bracing techniques, strength training, and enhanced performance assessments. 

In addition, there have been shifts in athlete recovery. Years ago, it was all about practice and game repetitions with very little commitment to recovery from training and competition. The aspect of athlete recovery, not just in the athletic training world, but in coaching, has changed and now the importance of recovery and ways that it can be enhanced are practiced and refined.  Athletic trainers have had to expand their toolbox to include evidence-based practices, and apply them to help athletes recover better.

Why did you have your students read Gary Reinl’s book, ICED!?

We need to be practicing athletic training based on the best available evidence. Our profession gains more credibility when we use the best evidence. Now the evidence is showing that icing may not be the best practice in all situations. Gary Reinl has done some remarkable work to raise questions about a treatment that has been a mainstay of the athletic training profession for many, many years.

This work has opened people’s eyes about icing. Gary’s book cuts against just using ice because that is what we’ve always done! From this book, our students learn to look at different perspectives and why we need to constantly ask questions in our line of work.

How has the Marc Pro been integrated into your classroom practices?

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We teach about the Marc Pro device in our Therapeutic Modalities classes and have purchased several units for our students to gain exposure and experience working with them. Our staff athletic trainers are beginning to utilize Marc Pro devices in their acute and chronic injury treatment protocols and their familiarity with the abundance of uses is growing.  We are looking are also looking to integrate the Marc Pro into a clinical trial research project involving the acute treatment of ankle sprains.

What advice would you give students about recovery?

The most important aspect of recovery is understanding the basic physiology/anatomy of how the body works on its own following injury and training to “heal itself”.  When you have a profound understanding, you can apply those foundational concepts to injury and recovery interventions. You can then ask, “What are these devices, exercises, or interventions going to do to supplement, promote, and advance normal healing?”

What is your favorite part about your work?

The relationships you have with your students both past and present. Being involved in the successes (and sometime failures) and watching them grow and mature into heath care professionals is truly enjoyable and special.

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