WALNUT—When stepping into the sports medicine classroom at Walnut High School the space is filled with padded therapy tables, rolling stools, skull and skeleton displays, muscle and tissue charts, a variety of cool gadgets, and state-of-the-art medical equipment.
This is hands-on learning at its finest.
Students are actively engaged learning therapeutic treatment and intervention skills to help patients feel better, perform better, and improve movement.
ROP teacher Elva Salcido has led the advanced Therapeutic Exercise and Rehabilitation course, known as Ther-Ex, for the past year.
This month, 11 seniors will be completing the rigorous three-year career technical education (CTE) pathway.
They will proudly be wearing sports medicine sashes during commencement to mark the accomplishment.
“All these students have chosen to pursue physical therapy or other careers in the medical field,” Salcido said.
“That’s the goal of this program!”
There are currently 160 students enrolled in the CTE sports medicine pathway.
During the first year, sophomores learn about anatomy, common injuries, how to spine board and splint, and become certified in first aid and CPR.
In the second-year assessment and evaluation course they “really dig deep practicing in their evaluation and hands-on skills with patients,” Salcido said.
The teens learn to take patient histories, use observation skills to assess injuries, and utilize palpation skills while using their hands to assess.
“Medical professionals see with their hands, not as much their eyes. You can get a better feel for what’s going on beneath the skin,” she said.
The third year is where students put all the learning together.
“We have a small group of students in this class because we want to offer a personized experience for those going into this field,” Salcido said.
“They are passionate about it and want to help people in the community.”
“We’re using all the tools you’d see in any PT clinic that help athletes get back on the field or track,” said senior Edmund Garcia who has racked up about 200 hours volunteering with the school’s certified athletic trainer.
All sports medicine students are required to complete mandatory work-based learning hours.
“I like to expand the classroom learning and apply it to real-life situations,” Garcia added.
“Everything here is part of the big picture.”
Last semester, the teens had the opportunity to work with the Walnut Walkers senior citizens club.
They were able to see first-hand how the treatments and interventions helped the patients.
“It really opened their eyes and was a rewarding experience,” Salcido said.
On Thursday, the professionally-dressed group was eager to demonstrate some of their training.
“We’ve done a lot of therapeutic modalities this year– the muscle re-education techniques used to break down scar tissue and help mobilize patients,” said senior Jasmine Perez.
At one station, senior Justin Shen administered a flexibility test using a goniometer to measure range of motion on hamstrings.
“Then it’s a leg raise, stretch, foam roll, and then we test again,” he explained.
“PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches are not passive, but moving and activating muscles into a deep stretch,” Garcia said.
During another modality, the deep muscle stimulator, teens used a power tool known as the “human jackhammer” to break down any spasm in muscles that restrict range of motion.
Jason Shen and Lawrence Liu showed the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) medical grade machine that uses electrodes for pain relief.
“We’ll be doing it for about 10 seconds and then combine with a heat pack. If it’s too much the muscle jumps,” Shen said.
One team wrapped and taped ankles and used the Gameready icy cryotherapy machine.
“The compression will reduce swelling,” said Christian OCompo.
Perez partnered with Sunny Savarius to demonstrate how traditional Chinese medicine cupping technique can be used to break down scar tissue and increase circulation.
The forearm skin quickly puffed up and turned red as it was suctioned under the clear device.
“If you get a dark color it’s a good thing – that indicates stagnation and there will be more blood flow,” Savarius said.
Aspiring pediatrician Melissa Flores credits the sports medicine pathway and dedicated teachers for her decision to go into the medical field.
“During these past three years, I have learned and had the chance to experience so much. I know I am better prepared for college and everyday life!”
“We are the students we are today because of the passion they share for sports medicine.”