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All-Star Athletic Trainer

UD's Tom Kaminski named top researcher in athletic training field

Program director. Teacher. Administrator. Athletic trainer. Editor. Researcher. That isn’t a list of positions for an entire department; those are the roles performed by one person, the University of Delaware’s Tom Kaminski. 

The kinesiology and applied physiology professor keeps a busier schedule than most in the athletic training field and that’s saying something for a profession known for its long, demanding hours. 

A person would need more than one of those athletics golf carts to track Kaminski down because he is all over the place – on the sidelines, in the classroom, in his office, in the Human Performance Lab, presenting across the country and around the world. 

The intense dedication to his craft has earned Kaminski the highest honor bestowed by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the Medal for Distinguished Athletic Training Research. 

In fact, the honor is so prestigious that the organization doesn’t always give it out; NATA reserves the award for those who sustain a prolific body of work in the field. 

“You look at the previous athletic training researchers to win the award and can’t help but be humbled by this,” said the 2016 honoree, who is extremely proud to join his mentor David Perrin as a recipient. “I’ve been so lucky to work with so many fantastic graduate students at UD. They have really helped me push my research forward.”

Although Kaminski is currently in the spotlight for research on concussions, his work on ankles has driven his research agenda forward throughout the bulk of his career. When amajor position statement on ankle sprains was published in 2013 in the Journal of Athletic Training, it was Kaminski who was the lead author. He also co-founded the International Ankle Consortium. 

He’s worked with companies like Under Armour and Footbeat on shoes and apparel aimed at improving ankle stability and function. 

Kaminski began researching ankle instability when he was at the University of Virginia but when he moved on to the University of Florida, in addition to his substantial research load, Kaminski was on the sidelines for the women’s soccer program, which would go on to win a national championship. 

Working with these female soccer stars sparked his interest in another study area – concussions. He was monitoring, cataloging and analyzing head impacts in soccer matches a decade and a half before the concussion issue was ever a major concern in “the beautiful game.”

In 2003, Kaminski carried that research with him to UD where, as one could guess, he’s published a paper or two. 

Kaminski and UD colleague Thomas Buckley are now involved in the landmark NCAA/Department of Defense CARE Grand Alliance study, which is investigating the longitudinal impact of concussions on an athlete’s health. With 38 million U.S. children playing contact sports and close to 3.8 million reported concussions each year, this research can have an important impact. 

One of Kaminski’s newest endeavors is purposeful heading education in partnership with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. 

Despite all of the research success, Kaminski admits the most gratifying aspect of his job is the interaction with students and preparing them for successful careers. 

Kaminski received the NATA’s highest teaching award back in 2010, and he has guided UD’s Athletic Training Program to impressive heights. 

“The program boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the board of certification exam, which, needless to say, compares very favorably to national averages,” boasts Bill Farquhar, chairperson of the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology. “In addition to being nationally recognized for his scholarly work, Tom is a tireless advocate for the field of athletic training, and our students benefit tremendously from learning from him.”

Kaminski wasn’t the only Blue Hen to receive a prestigious NATA honor. Jeff Driban (athletic training, Class of 2001) won the New Investigator Award. Driban is now an assistant professor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and is currently focused on rheumatology. 

“I've been very fortunate to have the support of the NATA Foundation through their master's grant program and a doctoral scholarship,” said Driban. “I'm grateful for the experiences and support that I received and continue to receive from UD, Temple University and Tufts Medical Center.”

During the upcoming NATA Clinical Symposia and Athletic Training Expo in Baltimore, Kaminski is slated to address the convention. And after his speech, the evening concludes with a UD Athletic Training alumni reunion on the Inner Harbor.