James Madison University

Director of Sports Medicine Receives National Service Award

By: Lori News
Posted: November 25, 2014

Tom Kuster, Director of JMU Sports Medicine, recently received the Service Award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Kuster was recognized for his leadership and service to the athletic training profession within the Commonwealth and Mid-atlantic region as well as the innovative legislative work he accomplished during his presidency of the Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association. To be eligible for the award, recipients must be members of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association for 20 years and have at least 20 years of board certification.

PHOTO: Tom Kuster

An avid basketball player in high school, an injury made Kuster realize that he wanted to become an athletic trainer.

“We were fortunate enough to have an athletic trainer, so after seeing what she did I took an introduction to athletic training class to learn more about the body and anatomy and that sparked an interest in a way to blend athletics with medicine and health care,” Kuster explained.

When Kuster began applying to colleges, he realized that JMU was the only school in the state that offered an athletic training concentration at the time.

Kuster earned his undergraduate degree in Health Sciences with a concentration in Athletic Training in 1995. He later received his master’s degree in Athletic Training at West Virginia University.

At WVU, Kuster was a graduate assistant for the undergraduate athletic training program and also served as the athletic trainer for the men's soccer team.

Before returning to JMU as an athletic trainer, he visited the program regularly as a guest speaker. Topics he covered included emergency preparedness and planning, evaluation, and rehabilitation.

“I think when you get into athletic training, it’s a service profession to begin with,” Kuster said. “You don’t do this for the glamour and prestige; you do it to help student athletes and your patients.”

Kuster served as President of the Virginia Athletic Trainer’s Association from 2010-2012. As president of the association, Kuster feels fortunate to meet leaders from other associations across the country, allowing him to “call people for advice that [he] may have never met and take the opportunity to reach out to them for advice.” He also believes that looking for new opportunities allows you to grow as a professional.

Kuster also had the opportunity to work on a concussion bill for the state of Virginia. “Working with lobbyists and legislature to get a bill passed was something that I never thought in a million years I would be involved with,” Kuster said.

In 2010, concussion legislation was starting to become a hot topic across the country and there were not many states that had passed concussion laws to protect student athletes particularly at the high school level. Kuster took part in the drafting committee that developed Virginia’s concussion bill. The main goal was to protect students from concussions and make sure the proper response plans are in place for concussion evaluation and management as well as return-to-play guidelines. The bill was passed in 2011.

When asked what advice Kuster would give to students regarding the need to give back to your profession he says, “When doors are open for new opportunities, it would be foolish to close them. At least step through and see what’s on the other side.”



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