When the women gymnastics team perform flips, tumbles, and spins during meets, it’s easy to overlook what they do outside of gymnastics.
But six out of the 14 gymnasts are majoring in the same subject: kinesiology, the official scientific study of human movement.
Most athletes that suffer injuries have to go through physical therapy to get their previous movement back and return to action. During this process, their interest in kinesiology sometimes rises.
“Growing up being a gymnast, I’ve always been interested in the way our body moves and getting injuries growing up, going to see a physical therapist,” senior Sharaya Musser said.
The gymnasts studying the subject have an instant connection to others that have seen a physical therapist for injuries.
“I know how to deal with injuries and with all my years of gymnastics, I’ve been through a lot,” freshman Kelsey Kreider said. “I think I can relate pretty well.”
Athletes even develop a fondness for physical therapists and use them as a benchmark for their future plans.
“I like physical therapists because they’ve helped me a lot during my gymnastics career,” junior Sidney Sanabria-Robles said. “I want to do the same for other people eventually.”
The Penn State kinesiology program has four branches: athletic training, health and physical education, movement science, and fitness studies.
Some of the gymnasts have an initial interest in science and use the major to expand on it.
“I’ve always been very interested in the sciences,” sophomore Alex Witt said. “This is a cool way to interpret my love for sports and science into a major.”
For the Florida native, there weren’t many schools with that option. When she found out Penn State had it, she decided to take advantage of it.
There are a variety of options a student can pursue after college with a kinesiology degree.
Schuchert said the possibilities include nursing, physician’s assistant, athletic training, physical education instructors, coaching and medical school.
Schuchert said a student would most likely have to go through two years of graduate school or three years in physical therapy school.
Some of the gymnasts have a set idea of what they want to do after college.
“My ultimate goal is to do something in the physical therapy field,” Musser said. “I’m going to take a year off from school after I graduate and go from there.”
Others are still weighing their options.
Witt is considering being a physician’s assistant, doctor in Osteopathy, or going into chiropractics.
“It’s a lot to think about, going to medical school or physician’s assistant school,” Witt said. “You only have to go for two years of school to be a PA rather than four for medical school.”
Sometimes, seeing a loved one experience physical therapy can provide inspiration, such as freshman Sammie Musto’s case. Musto said a physical therapist worked with her grandfather when he was sick, helping his health improve.
“I wanted to be one of those people that changed people’s lives in that way,” Musto said.
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