One of the pioneers in the field of Athletic Training in Ireland has hailed the steps being taken in the discipline over the past number of years.
James O’Toole, who has the distinction of being the first practicing Athletic Trainer in Ireland when he started in 1991, believes that huge improvements have been made since then.
The man, who works from his Sportsmed West base in Galway City, can see a bright furture of the discipline given the high quality courses now being offered at the likes of DCU and Carlow IT.
“There is a huge difference in the way the treatment of injuries is approached now compared to when I started first. We now have excellent graduates who have been studying injuries for four years and are getting valuable experience.
“They also get the opportunity to go to America and it is great to have links over there because they are five years ahead of the rest in terms of dealing with injuries. Getting three months exposure to real sports medicine which will be invaluable to them”, explained James.
“The likes of DCU and Carlow are doing brilliant work and Athlone IT are also making positive strides, while there is great work being done by ARTI to promote athletic training around the country”, he continued.
James is fully aware of the value of exposure to the American system given that he trained in the States and worked there for seven years, before brining his experience home.
“After graduating in Boston in 1984 I worked in Harvard for seven years and during that time Dr Tony O’Neill from UCD came over to see what was being done. He was in the process of setting up a sports progamme and wanted to base it on the model in America.
“He offered me a job in UCD and I decided to take a sabbatical for a year, but I didn’t go back”, explained the Galway man who has worked for various colleges and teams across many sports over the years.
The first thing that struck James was the huge gulf between what was being done in America and the practices in Ireland, but he welcomes the fact that things have improved dramatically since then.
“There was a massive difference from what I left in the USA but the likes of Tony O’Neill helped raise the standards and as a result UCD were competing in the League of Ireland and had some of the country’s top athletes such as James Nolan and David Matthews on their books”, he explained.
That work has continued through the introduction of new top-level courses and the efforts of ARTI and James believes that such developments will prove to be a massive benefit to athletes.
Although he concedes that in the current climate the lack of resources are holding up the pace of development, James believes that the future is bright for Athletic Training.
“With the quality of courses on offer, young people now have a great opportunity to learn and should consider themselves very fortunate. I would encourage graduates to get as much experience as possible before opening up their own practice as you just can’t beat learning while on the job.
“I also feel that in terms of the overall development of the treatment of injuries, there needs to be a multi-disciplinary approach. The more people share knowledge they have, the more they will learn, and ultimately the athletes will benefit”, explained James.