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Arnold School of Public Health

Graduate to use degree from No. 1 exercise science Ph.D. program in the U.S. to develop injury prevention and treatment strategies for youth and adolescent athletes

December 18, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

During the 14 years Amanda Arnold played competitive fastpitch softball, she witnessed a lot of injuries. “While I never suffered any major setbacks, I was always curious why some of my teammates and competitors sustained injuries while others did not,” the December Ph.D. in exercise science (EXSC) graduate says. “My high school coach suggested that I combine my love of sports and science and pursue a career in physical therapy. It turned out to be great advice.”

Originally from Dallas, Arnold attended nearby Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas for her undergraduate degree in kinesiology. After earning a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree from the same institution’s Dallas campus, Arnold gained experience as a clinician at Harris County Hospital District in Houston before completing a sports physical therapy residency with Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine in Fort Worth.

When she began looking at doctoral programs, Arnold knew that she wanted to research upper extremity injury risk and rehabilitation in sports. She was particularly interested in working with overhead athletes, like those she played alongside and against during her softball days.

I was impressed with the flexibility in USC’s curriculum that encouraged students to work with industry partners to develop and produce research that directly impacted clinical measures and outcomes.

-Amanda Arnold, Ph.D. in exercise science graduate

Arnold’s residency director introduced her to Arnold School of Public Health EXSC adjunct faculty members Ellen Shanley and Chuck Thigpen, who offered insight into the nation’s No. 1 Ph.D. program. “I was impressed with the flexibility in USC’s curriculum that encouraged students to work with industry partners to develop and produce research that directly impacted clinical measures and outcomes,” Arnold says.

After joining the program, the Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow found mentors in DPT/EXSC faculty members Stacy Fritz and Paul Beattie. “Dr. Fritz’s compassion, integrity and communication skills positively impact everyone around her from her students to her colleagues; working with her has shown me the type of mentor I will strive to be in the future,” Arnold says. “Dr. Beattie’s passion for producing and disseminating quality research with solid methodological choices has taught me to examine clinical problems from a researcher’s perspective and be more critical of what I read and write.”

She also worked closely with health services policy and management professor and SmartState Chair of the Center for Effectiveness Research in Orthopaedics John Brooks. “Dr. Brooks’ grasp of statistics is unparalleled,” says Arnold. “He taught me to start with theory because in the end, the numbers and statistics should tell a story that answers what clinicians and patients want to know: How does this research apply to me?”

This month, Arnold departs UofSC with four-peer reviewed publications and expertise in injury risk and performance in youth athletes, upper extremity injury risk, prevention and treatment strategies in overhead athletes, and health literacy and physical activity in children. She will build on these research interests with her new role as an assistant professor in the department of physical therapy at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans.

Long term, Arnold plans to collaborate with community partners and healthcare practitioners to create injury prevention tools and programs geared specifically toward youth athletes. Her central goal is to promote physical literacy and active lifestyles in these populations.

“Know what you want and know what your professional goals are,” Arnold advises future Ph.D. in exercise science students. “Make sure that the degree, the program and the faculty mentor you choose can help you reach those goals.”

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