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Flyers Nikki Patel
As a Philadelphia Flyers athletic training intern, University of Delaware senior Nikki Patel performed rehabilitation as well as strength and conditioning training under the tutelage of Jim McCrossin, the Flyers’ athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach.

Flyer in athletic training

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers

Athletic training student Nikki Patel interns with NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers

University of Delaware athletic training student Nikki Patel had her eye on the National Hockey League for quite a while. As a high school senior, she toured the Newark campus and UD’s highly-regarded Athletic Training Education Program (ATEP). During an undergraduate panel about athletic training, a student chronicled her internship with the Philadelphia Flyers. Patel was enthralled with the experiential learning opportunity.

Fast forward four years later and it was Patel’s turn for a clinical rotation as a college senior. She was determined that opportunity would be in hockey. Doing an internship with the Flyers or another professional sports franchise means spending a lot of time with the team. So Patel coordinated her spring semester classes to fit the team’s schedule. Athletic training program director Tom Kaminski put her in contact with Jim McCrossin, the Flyers’ athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach. Patel interviewed and earned an internship position, which concluded as the Flyers’ 2017-2018 season came to an end in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Hockey is the reason that I wanted to become an athletic trainer,” Patel said. “The Flyers had an internship for undergraduates, which is a unique opportunity.”

Her job involved rehabilitation as well as strength and conditioning training. She’s also been privy to learn more about cutting-edge advances in the sports medicine field.

“I’ve learned how to use blood flow restriction,” Patel said. “It’s a new modality used in rehabilitation and training.”

Her athletic training coursework and clinical experiences have illustrated to her how professionals go above and beyond with their athletes.

“Of course we have the job of physically rehabilitating them, but most people don’t see how ATs take on the mental side, which is so critical in sports,” Patel said. “We pay attention that our athletes are doing well physically and mentally.”

If you ask UD Professor Tom Kaminski about Nikki, he’ll tell you that her attention to detail and compassion make her not only a terrific student, but also a wonderful person.

“She has a tremendous career ahead of her as a dual credentialed athletic trainer and physical therapist,” Kaminski said. “The opportunity with the Flyers this semester has helped to solidify her intent on staying in a sporting environment — either at the collegiate or professional level. Jim McCrossin had a positive influence on honing her clinical skillset.”

After completing her undergraduate work this spring, Patel will go onto UD’s Doctorate in Physical Therapy Program (DPT), the No. 1 ranked program in the country.

“Because I’ve done four years in Delaware, I’ve built a strong athletic training and physical therapy connections; I’ve networked a lot through off-campus clinical rotations,” Patel said. “Going to graduate school at UD will help me keep those connections.”

Much like a top two-way forward in hockey, athletic training and physical therapy degrees will make Patel a double-threat. The combination of those two degrees makes professionals extremely marketable.

Patel will have the chance to work on the sports and orthopedic side of STAR Health’s Delaware Physical Therapy Clinic as well as sports-related clinical rotation opportunities across the country.

“Physical therapists have extremely talented evaluation and rehabilitation skills,” Patel said. “Those are skills that I want to further develop in treating my athletes.”

After her two and a half years as a UD graduate student, she hopes to work in the National Hockey League or for a Power Five collegiate program.  

About the Athletic Training Education Program

ATEP’s mission to prepare students to become competent, skillful and compassionate entry-level professionals in the profession of athletic training. Starting next year, ATEP is transitioning the current undergraduate program into an entry-level master’s degree program that will encompass two consecutive calendar years involving very specific coursework, competitive clinical experiences, and culminating with a full semester-long clinical.

About the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program

DPT is a University-based physical therapist educational program housed within the College of Health Sciences. In addition preparing graduates as entry-level generalists, doctoral students are also capable of pursuing a specialty area within the profession or for further graduate work in a research environment.

About STAR Health

STAR Health is the public-facing healthcare entity of the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences, where combining research and education leads to a new direction in healthcare. Comprehensive clinical services are open to the public, including primary care, nutrition counseling, exercise counseling, health coaching, physical therapy and speech-language-hearing services.

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