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Time with world-class athletes shapes UW-Eau Claire professor's work with Blugolds

| Alison Wagener

The last time Dr. Robert Stow volunteered with the U.S. Olympic Committee sports medicine division as an athletic trainer, he adopted an approach to his field that now guides the entire athletic training program at UW-Eau Claire. This fall, he has the opportunity to volunteer again.

Stow, director of the athletic training program and assistant professor of kinesiology at UW-Eau Claire, will work alongside a team of other highly qualified sports health professionals at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., from Sept.18 – Oct. 2.

Utilizing his experiences as a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist, Stow will serve on a multi-disciplinary team of chiropractors, physical therapists, physicians, massage therapists and other athletic trainers. Together, they will treat athletes in residence as they participate in weightlifting, men’s gymnastics, modern pentathlon, triathlon, shooting, Greco-Roman wrestling, men and women’s freestyle wrestling and Paralympic swimming programs.

The purpose of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s volunteer program, Stow said, is to give sports medicine professionals the opportunity to work with Olympic programs as well as national governing bodies of various sports as they prepare their athletes to compete in national events.

“Not only are we working with each other, but we’re working with the staff and the governing bodies and bringing in some knowledge from our area that will hopefully help them continue their development, and they can turn around and share their knowledge and their resources with us, Stow said. “That will hopefully help us enrich our programs and our own professional development.”

Stow was inspired to apply for the program in graduate school after hearing about the experiences of several of the staff in his program at Indiana University – Bloomington. After sending in his application and gaining the prerequisite five years of experience in his field, he was selected into a pool of volunteers for the program.

Stow had his first opportunity to work with the program in 2000, when he was sent to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. While in Lake Placid, he was exposed to a philosophy of athletic training that has since shaped his work in the field: manual therapy.

“Some of the staff members that we had [in Lake Placid] did some advanced training in soft tissue mobilization and manual therapy, and that’s something that we kind of shared with each other while we were out there,” Stow said. “We had the opportunity to spend some time working with them and seeing, observing what they were doing, being informally trained.”

After volunteering in Lake Placid, Stow pursued additional training in manual therapy methods and began applying the techniques to his own work with athletic training patients, which he said produced great results. That’s when he decided to incorporate the philosophy into the classroom.

“That kick-started a lot of what I do now, and I’ve kind of followed through with it. So I’m interested to see what I pick up in Colorado and what I can bring back from there,” Stow said, later adding, “I want to go into it with an open mind. The intriguing part will be who I’m with, and I won’t know that until I arrive out there.”

 At UW-Eau Claire, Stow teaches kinesiology classes in soft tissue manipulation, therapeutic modalities, anatomy and applied nutrition. His research interests include the use of manual therapy and its use in the rehabilitation process, and fermoroacetabular impingement, which involves dealing with soft tissue damage in the hip joint.

 “I’m really excited to go,” Stow said. “My students are excited for me to go. They can’t wait to hear about the experiences, the information I’ll bring back.”

Stow added that while he hasn’t yet had a student go on to work with the U.S. Olympic Committee sports medicine division, several of his current students are already in the process of applying to be volunteers.

In addition to his volunteer work with the U.S. Olympic Committee, Stow occasionally works with the USA Hockey governing body. He said he’s excited at the prospect of applying his experiences to a future career with the U.S. Olympic Committee sports medicine division full time.

“Hopefully someday my name will come up, and I’ll get on the Olympics or something along those lines,” Stow said. “That would be exciting to do.”