JanTerm opens students’ eyes to Sports Med


Westminster’s newly founded tradition JanTerm continued on its second year, offering students a unique way to intensively study any subject of their choosing for three weeks. In particular, the “Sports Medicine” JanTerm, taught by faculty members Donna Hays and Sandi Penn, immersed students in the study of sports injuries and their corresponding treatments.

Sports medicine is certainly not a small category, as its wide scope extends from the players on the field to the doctors in the hospital. One of the prime focal points of this course was to educate students about the large variety of professions that are encompassed in the field.

“Our focus is to educate students on what sports medicine is and every profession that is involved,” said Hays. “Who makes up the team? That would have to be the coach, the athletic trainer, and the parents. On the peripherals, there are the doctors, orthopedists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, and the list goes on and on. Essentially, all these professionals come together to take care of the athlete.”

After being exposed to all these different jobs, and the responsibilities that come with them, students realized the true complexity of the world of sports medicine.

Extending outside the classroom, the class included numerous interactive aspects, such as field trips, expert guest speakers, and projects. During the second week, Hays and Penn assigned students specific injuries to research, along with possible treatments.

“These injury research projects covered all parts of the body,” said Penn, “giving students a more diverse look at common and uncommon injuries.”

In addition, the class had two orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Jonathan York and Dr. Samuel H. Payne, come in to talk about their work. Their presentations showed students certain parts of the body, such as knee and nerve cells, from a different approach and perspective than the traditional models and diagrams found in textbooks.

“We can look at all these models and things in books, but what does a real knee or an actual nerve look like?” said Hays. “Dr. York gave us a perspective that only years of expertise could show. The other surgeon, Dr. Payne, further allowed us to really get into the nitty-gritty details of surgery. He explained to the class about how he would go about transplanting and reconnecting nerves. Both their speeches were truly amazing experiences.”

With today’s rising concerns about concussions and their negative impacts on athletes, Penn and Hays especially emphasized the importance of understanding this head injury.

“Someone could fall down at home, hit their head, and not know why they are not feeling very well at school,” said Hays. “This reason is why the awareness about concussions and its gravity are extremely pertinent.”

To try and find a method that teaches the seriousness of concussions, the class went to see the new film, Concussion, starring Will Smith, which follows a doctor as he discovers the negative effects of repetitious head trauma commonly found in contact sports, such as football.

One of the main reasons for why this year’s JanTerm selection included this class was to offer students an opportunity to access a thorough curriculum for an compelling topic, such as sports medicine, that the they would find both interesting and relatable.

“As a math teacher, I wanted to teach something different,” said Penn. “I was hoping to find something that the kids would really enjoy but also learn a lot from. What works great with this class is that nearly everyone taking the course is an athlete and that really helps them connect to the subject.”

Penn and Hays stressed the importance of their JanTerm as it promotes better awareness of sports injuries among student athletes, while also exposing them early to jobs in the medical field.

“With a school like Westminster, there are so many athletes, and every single one of them most likely has been injured at least once in their lives,” said Penn. “I think that the more you know about injuries, the better you will be able to treat them. A lot of Westminster students might also be interested in going into jobs involving sports medicine, and this class gives them a first-hand look at what these professions entail.”

Sophomore David Edmiston had nothing but positive comments about this course.

“The class was extremely fun and interesting, and I think that Ms. Penn and Ms. Hays did a great job of presenting the material in engaging ways,” said Edmiston. “I’m really glad I took this class because now I know techniques like how to properly wrap an ankle, which can really come in handy later on. If you are unsure about which JanTerm to take next year, I would highly recommend considering Sports Medicine.”