Physical Therapy Students Work with Olympic Field Hockey Athletes

A physical therapy student works with a member of the USA women's field hockey team

Research projects are a part of college life at LVC. Some projects are more hands-on than others, and then there are some that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Four LVC physical therapy doctoral students experienced the latter as they collaborated on an Institutional Review Board-approved research project involving the USA women’s field hockey team. The students teamed with Dr. Stan Dacko, chair and associate professor of physical therapy, and Dr. Michael Lehr, clinical associate professor of physical therapy, as part of their capstone course. 

The LVC group traveled to the Olympic team’s state-of-the-art training facility at Spooky Nook Sports in nearby Lancaster County for the data collection phase. During the visit, students and faculty evaluated the athletes for injury risk utilizing various movement screening techniques.

“To see the facilities they get to work with and meet and talk with the athletes was amazing,” said Tori Stramara ’15, D ’17. “They were really fun to work with—really competitive with each other—and turned each station into a contest.”

Sarah Wannlund ’14, D ’17 echoed that sentiment and shared that the athletes were very personable and down-to-earth.

Once the evaluations were completed, the LVC team shared their data with the sports medicine team contracted by Team USA. The LVC students also conducted analysis of the project that they translated into two posters that they presented at a meeting of the South Central Region of the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association.

Ines Antensteiner ’15, D ’17 double majored with sociology and is familiar with research and poster presentations. Her poster focused on how the existing literature on injury prevention matches with what the students found working with the field hockey athletes. The other poster talked about the literature and what is commonly found in that population.

Craig Miller ’15, D ’17 shared that other physical therapy programs would be hard-pressed to find an opportunity as collaborative as this experience. At the end of the day, while the project had a wow factor, this immersive experience also exposed the students to future career opportunities.

“This project opened my eyes to the opportunities available in research,” Stramara said. “I would be more willing to get involved and start my own research in the future after participating in this project.”

“As primary investigator of this study, I found it very rewarding to team up with Bill Cheek, from Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster,” said Dr. Lehr. “The collaboration gave us this unique co-curricular research collaboration–in which the students were key contributors to this project, while providing a valuable service to the team. We are always looking for ways to cultivate our clinical partnerships–especially when it can enhance the learning opportunities for the most important person in this process–the student.”