New athletic training program approved for Western Carolina University

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will begin offering a new bachelor’s degree program in athletic training beginning next fall to help meet a growing demand for skilled athletic trainers in North Carolina and across the United States.

Establishment of the new program, to be housed in the health sciences department of Western’s College of Applied Sciences, was approved during the September meeting of The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The U.S. Department of Labor has projected an increase of between 10 to 20 percent in demand for athletics trainers by the year 2010, said Christine Stevens, head of Western’s department of health sciences. The agency also lists athletic training as one of the nation’s fastest growing occupations.

“Athletic training has proven to be of high interest to prospective students from across Western North Carolina,” Stevens said. “The program will complement other health-related majors in the department and serve as a natural entry point for students interested in the master’s degree program in physical therapy here at WCU. It will help meet the needs of the people of the Western North Carolina region, as there are no other programs at public institutions in this area.”

Heading up Western’s new program is James Scifers, former program director of athletic training education at Salisbury College in Maryland. Scifers holds a bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, master’s degree in physical therapy from Emory University, and doctorate in orthopedic physical therapy from the University of Maryland-Baltimore.

“Certified athletic trainers are highly educated and skilled health care professionals specializing in the prevention, recognition, management and rehabilitation of athletics-related injuries,” said Scifers. “They work in cooperation with physicians and other allied health personnel to ensure the health of physically active individuals in secondary schools, colleges, universities, sports medicine clinics, professional sports programs, industries and other health care settings.”

The new program will consist of approximately 51 semester hours of course work in such areas as anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, prevention and treatment of injuries and illnesses, therapeutic modalities, rehabilitation and radiology.

The full-fledged degree program replaces a 21-hour concentration in sports medicine offered previously through the sport management program. Western is upgrading its academic program in athletic training to ensure that its graduates are able to meet the more stringent requirements for professional certification that go into effect in January, Scifers said.

For more information about Western’s athletic training education program, contact James Scifers at (828) 227-7113.