Sara Koski, North Central’s head athletic trainer, has only been on the job for about six months but her experience teaching and mentoring students and expertise in concussion treatment has brought fresh knowledge to the College’s athletic department.
Koski brings extensive education and experience to her position, including time as head athletic trainer at Albion College, where she directed medical services for all student-athletes. She shadowed athletic trainers and experienced hands-on medical work throughout her time at Albion, discovering the value of learning through practice.
At North Central, students enrolled as athletic training majors have the opportunity to join Koski in the athletic training room for observation and hands-on experience as she prepares them for the day-to-day life of an athletic trainer after college. This, according to Koski, is a perfect example of learning through practice. “It’s invaluable,” says Koski. “The goal is that (the students) leave North Central College prepared to pass the Board of Certification exam for athletic training and to have the skill set to carry out their knowledge and help patients and athletes.”
Koski attended Oregon State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science in 2001. She later earned her master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from Western Michigan University in 2004. That year, Koski began working at Albion College and was named head athletic trainer in January 2006. North Central College welcomed Koski during summer 2013 and she has been aiding injured athletes, developing treatment plans and working closely with students and staff in the athletic training department.
“I applied for the head athletic trainer position at North Central College because of the proven success of the athletic department, health and physical education department and athletic training program,” says Koski.
“We are excited Sara joined the North Central College athletic training family,” says Heidi Matthews, professor of health and physical education and director of the College’s Athletic Training Education Program. “(She) brings a wealth of experience to the clinical education program and our overall athletic training program.”
This experience is vital to the health of athletes and the development of students, according to assistant athletic trainer Taylor Arman, who works in the athletic training room alongside Koski.
“Sara brings a different point of view and background to our students, which is always beneficial for their learning,” says Arman.
Part of Koski’s skill set and an area of her research is the treatment of concussions. Her concussion management policy is a treatment plan she developed while working with the athletes of Albion College. “Concussions are dangerous injuries and need to be taken seriously,” says Koski. “Concussion protocols should always consider the health and safety of student-athletes and align with the team physician.”
Koski's concussion management policy outlines the symptoms of concussion-related injuries and provides a detailed protocol of identifying and treating athletes with this condition. Additionally, Koski’s policy suggests a seven-step plan to get injured athletes back on the field, as well as a system for accommodating academic issues associated with concussions.
Arman says that concussions have always been treated seriously at the College. “We keep our policy updated as new evidence comes out to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” she says. “We developed our concussion protocol as an athletic training staff in conjunction with one of our team physicians, Dr. Brian Babka of Cadence Physician Group.”
The concussion management policy is just one example of how Koski combines research, classroom knowledge with hands-on experience. She uses her knowledge of the human body and transforms it into a practical tool designed for daily use—the kind of pragmatic education that Koski encourages all of her students to practice.
“I supervise, educate and mentor athletic training students on a daily basis,” says Koski. “It’s my responsibility to give them a realistic idea about the profession of athletic training and provide them with opportunities to learn, grow and gain experience.”
(By Troy Kelleher ’16, English journalism major)