Athletic therapy: The newest addition to the student health plan

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Implemented in September of the 2015-2016 school year, UW students covered under the Feds health and dental plan are able to receive the benefits of athletic therapy as a part of their coverage.&nbsp;</p>

The clinic offers evaluation and management of orthopedic injuries, musculoskeletal injuries, and concussions. It also provides manual therapy, exercise, return to function, and modalities such as ultrasound, laser, electrotherapy, heat, ice and stationary bikes. Bracing and support options are also covered.

The plan covers 80 per cent of the initial cost of the assessment and ongoing treatment up to a cap of $400 annually. Along with financial benefits, students do not need to see a physician to obtain a referral to an athletic therapist as they are able to contact the athletic therapists at CIF directly and book an appointment.

Headed by Prof. Robert Burns, the athletic therapy department decided to approach Feds about adding their services to the student plan due to the volume of non-varsity students they received.

“Most of our users in terms of athletics are actually not varsity,” Burns said. “Most are intramurals, gym users, clubs or fitness users … so we felt like there was a bigger group of students who we could potentially service.”

A long time coming, Burns had previously approached Feds a few times with the idea of adding athletic therapy to the student health plan to no avail. However, this past April, representatives from Feds and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) decided to approve it as changes were made to the cost of the health plan and some of the existing plans, such as dental, were reduced. 

“Last year the cost of the health plan increased for one term from $51.25 to $55.00 and the dental plan decreased from $46.51 to $45.00. The projected cost increase of adding athletic therapy was $1.84 per undergraduate student per term … The decrease in the dental plan was because students had not claimed as much as we anticipated for a few years in a row,” Carly McCready, Feds' vice president operations and finance said.  

In previous years, students have had coverage for physiotherapy and massage. When asked about how athletic therapy differs from the two, Burns stated, “Our approach is really an active approach in terms of having people not only come see us for treatment, but really sending people away with what they can do on their own to make their condition better. As athletic therapists, we really promote activities or exercise intervention to mobilize, or stretch, or do things to get the person better because 95 per cent of the time they are not with us.”

This addition is also beneficial to students who have used their cap for physiotherapy as they get an additional $400 coverage for athletic therapy.

The service is not limited to athletics but rather is accessible to students with any discomfort.

“It doesn’t have to be a sports-related injury; it can be  activity-related, it can be posture or anything else  …  Anything where they have soreness, they can come see us for that initial assessment and we can go from there.”

Despite coming into effect in September, the addition was not promoted until late October. “We in the varsity side, are super busy from September to late October so we didn’t really promote it intensely until October,” Burns said. 

However, once things cooled down with varsity athletics, the department promoted the service via health services, posters, Feds open [houses], and approaching groups such as intramurals who would be in need of their services. Despite being open to everyone, students do not have extended waiting periods as they are seen within a week of contacting the athletic therapists.

As for the turnout, McCready, who recently met with the health and dental plan company, said, “So far this service has been popular with students. It’s convenient for them since they can receive athletic therapy right on campus at CIF.”

Students with questions about their plan can visit www.ihaveaplan.ca for more information.

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