The contract formalizes the Fellowship Program relationship between the university and WMI, official medical provider for the Summer and Winter Dew Tour events. Several WSU students and alumni have received training and worked for WMI at Dew Tour competitions since 2007. The contract also calls for WSU faculty and graduate students to be involved in research into Dew Tour athletes’ injuries.
At a typical Dew Tour summer tour stop, extreme-sports athletes perform tricks and stunts on skateboards, bicycles and motorcycles. That means WSU students working for WMI are exposed to a volume, variety and seriousness of athletic injuries far worse than at a “regular” sports event.
“It’s great training for them because they have to deal with trauma in sports anyway, but you could work in football for 10 years and maybe see one cervical spine injury, one subdural hematoma, a really nasty concussion, and one or two organ lacerations. And there (at the Dew Tour), they’re going to get several of those in a four-day period,” said Valerie Herzog, WSU associate athletic training professor and director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program. “So the students get amazing experience managing trauma. It’s a way of preparing a whole new crew of medical staff to deal with new types of injuries.”
Students also face the challenge of providing advanced emergency care in sometimes-extreme conditions. Herzog recalls one student at a winter event who had to manage an athlete suffering with a cervical spine injury, convulsions, unconsciousness and vomiting, all while trying to keep both from sliding down the steep, snow-covered hill.
In addition to the event medical care, students are among physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and athletic trainers participating in daily morning training sessions at Dew Tour stops.
A new element of the WSU-WMI relationship is WMI opening its injury databases to WSU faculty and graduate students as it looks for ways to prevent athlete injuries. “We are very fortunate to have access to such a rich source of data,” Herzog said.
WSU’s involvement will include measuring various biomarkers in the blood following concussions, evaluating the mechanisms of injury through video analysis, and epidemiology on organ lacerations, concussions and cervical spine injuries. If enough research is completed in time, WSU representatives might present their findings at a WMI conference next year in South Africa, and the research could lead to improvements in the design of helmets or other protective equipment. The ultimate goal is to help athletes prevent serious injuries “so they can have a good quality of life beyond the age of 30,” Herzog said.
The Dew Tour activities are among options for athletic training students to complete a service-learning component of their WSU degree program. Herzog has made a habit of calling organizers of events coming to Utah — figure skating championships, winter and summer Xterra competitions, marathons, triathlons, Special Olympics — to see if WSU students can help, and learn.
WSU student Eli Kassab said he jumped at the Dew Tour opportunity and was able to network with industry experts, build up his resume and references list, and assess and treat “athletes who are on a ramp, all twisted up.”
A senior in the athletic training program, Kassab has worked at the Dew Tour since summer 2010, with two summer tour stops and one winter event.
“As far as athletic training goes, it really prepares you for the emergency response aspect of it,” said Kassab, of Los Angeles. “With the Dew Tour, you have athletes who are 20 feet in the air who come down on their head. You don’t really get a basketball player who comes down that far. This experience is very unique for an athletic trainer to have because you don’t get that sort of experience just doing football, basketball or baseball.”
Herzog described the WSU-WMI relationship as a “win-win.” It allows students to gain medical care training, build their networks and enhance their resumes and job opportunities — for example, one WSU graduate is now a full member of the WMI staff. Meanwhile, WMI gains some extra manpower, and WSU’s Athletic Training Education Program gains “a level of prestige,” Herzog said.
“Half or more of our graduate students come from out of state, and they want to know what’s different here. We’ve got internships and affiliations with the Dew Tour, Real Salt Lake, Major League Soccer, Minor League Baseball teams, club and varsity sports, high school sports, the chance to see orthopedic surgeries and work with athletic trainers who work for orthopedic surgeons,” she said. “This just adds to the package of ‘look at all you can do here at Weber State.’ There are amazing opportunities for students to grow, mature and become a professional and leave with amazing resumes and varied experience.”
WSU’s Department of Health Promotion and Human Performance offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in athletic training. Both serve as educational routes to eligibility for certification.
In addition to the Dew Tour, Colorado-based WMI provides medical and rescue services at boat races, BMX events, Mui Thai boxing tournaments, volleyball tournaments and water skiing championships. It has fellowship, residency and medical professional training operations programs with several universities, including Brown University, UCLA, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.