Oct 10, 2018
Speaking from Experience

As Athletic Training Programs nationwide prepare for the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education’s (CAATE) 2020 Standards, many are paying special attention to Standard 78, which says: “Select, fabricate, and/or customize prophylactic, assistive, and restrictive devices, materials, and techniques for incorporation into the plan of care” which includes durable medical equipment, orthotic devices, taping, splinting, protective padding, and casting.

In particular to the “casting” competency, athletic training programs may not have this/these areas in their current curricular instruction. What are AT Program Directors and their teaching faculty members to do? Many are turning to the Orthopedic Physician Extender (OPE©) Program offered by the ASOP.

Since 2014, ASOP has actively worked alongside select athletic training programs as some of the first nationally approved ASOP Orthopedic Physician Extender (OPE©) curriculums. ASOP has trained over 13,500 medical professionals, including orthopedic residents, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, orthotic fitters, and other healthcare practitioners in the area of orthopedic casting and bracing. In particular, ASOP’s OPE Program for Athletic Training Students, Faculty, and their Preceptors will provide a comprehensive educational program that enables the AT Program the opportunity to demonstrate competency in select orthopedic-related areas. To that end, the specialized didactic and laboratory instruction will facilitate a pathway to challenge the Orthopedic Physician Extender Certification (OPE-CTM) examination. Additionally, Athletic Training Programs may arrange for private workshops with ASOP on their campus to focus on the student and instructional pedagogy involved with teaching select orthopedic casting competency.

Each OPE© Program works directly with ASOP on initial implementation. Due to the uniqueness of each Athletic Training Program, ASOP affords the academic autonomy to seamlessly infuse the OPE© instruction into their distinctive curricular design. Ohio University, the University of Akron, and Shenandoah University will be highlighted as three institutions that have elected to seek OPE© program approval. The Athletic Training Clinical Faculty at those schools, Michele Kabay, PhD, ATC, Assistant Clinical Professor and AT Clinical Director at Ohio University, Stacy Buser, PhD, ATC, Professor of Clinical Instruction in the Athletic Training Program at Akron University, and Rose Schmieg, DHSc, ATC, PT, Program Director/Associate Professor of Athletic Training at Shenandoah University, have described why they have aligned with ASOP to incorporate the OPE© Program and the overall program and student experience. 

Content Before Ad 2:

Why did you choose to participate in ASOP’s OPE© Program?

Kabay: Ohio University has partnered with ASOP for at least six years. ASOP has assisted in developing a course for the AT students to take that prepare them in the skills and knowledge of orthopedic casting. ASOP provides a lot of instructional materials for the course so that the faculty are confident in the knowledge being presented. Additionally, the directors at ASOP provide a lot of support to faculty.

Schmieg: As an athletic training program, our goal is to afford students a varied future work environment and make it available to them. As we know, the Athletic Trainer in the physician setting is an emerging practice area, and we felt that by incorporating the orthopedic physician extender competencies that include the evaluation, referral skills, and the casting and bracing skills, our students would get the skills above and beyond what we normally teach in our professional education.

Long story short, as a program we’re always looking for all the possible places where an Athletic Trainer can work, and what we are doing to prepare our students. We feel that the orthopedic physician practice setting is an area where you can work effectively, so let’s prepare the student and simultaneously make them more marketable.

Buser: As an educator, I have been involved in a lot of the accreditation meetings and town hall meetings with the CAATE and the NATA over the last five years, and there’s been a lot of talk about changes in athletic training and moving forward in terms of the master’s degree and really pushing the practice acts, things that we could be doing in our practice, but we haven’t been doing. At Akron, we felt this was a great opportunity—the casting workshop—to be able to give our students a marked advantage and to really help move the profession in that direction of being providers for a variety of the physically active population.

What have been your program’s benefits in becoming an ASOP-approved OPE© program?

Schmieg: There have been both faculty and student benefits alike. Five of our Shenandoah faculty took the ASOP casting course, and then three of us went on to take and pass the OPE-CTM exam. We needed to get a bird’s eye view of what that was all about, then infuse it into the program. So it was nice that we now have a set of our core faculty that has this extra training.

Presently, we are offering a casting course to the students, and we were able to look across our curriculum and observe, based on what we learned from the OPE© content, where are some of these other objectives that are identified in order to be successful on the OPE-CTM certification exam. We added new content, and we were able to identify content that would be applicable to the OPE© program, so students would be prepared for the exam. Basically we’ve put together content for students to learn this new material, and now our students feel more comfortable going into the physician practice setting based on their preparation from the ASOP OPE© programming.

Buser: We wanted to give our students something value-added to our regular curriculum. We knew that there was discussion about some new standards coming out. So we felt like if we did the casting workshop before it was a standard, we would be giving our kids an advantage in terms of learning skills and be more marketable as they to go out into clinical practice.

Kabay: We are graduating 20 to 30 students each year who are eligible to take the exam to complete the OPE-CTM certification. The students are confident in their skills to apply orthopedic casts, splints, and fit for braces in various settings of athletic training. We have a number of alumni who are currently working in a physician office, so they are well qualified to provide casting, care, and instruction for patients. 

Do you feel your students will be better positioned in the orthopedic marketplace with the additional OPE-CTM certification? If so, why?

Kabay: Definitely!! Many physicians already recognize the benefit of having Athletic Trainers working with them in the orthopedic setting. Obtaining the OPE-CTM gives the Athletic Trainer additional skills to assist with patient care.

Buser: Yes, because we’re also looking at doing suturing and now with the dry needling that’s coming out, along with the Graston techniques, I think that the profession—particularly as we transition to the master’s degree level—will start to see all of those things as part of the curriculum instead of just a workshop or a course.

How did the OPE© program support your path towards compliance with Standard 78?

Buser: It will allow our students to be able to gain additional skills in injury management and be able to take care of athletes with problems that we could manage instead of having to refer out. It provided our athletic training students knowledge and skills about casting and bracing firsthand.

Kabay: The educational directors at ASOP have provided a great number of resources for the approved ASOP OPE© Programs—not only the written documents that are available for download but also the personal guidance and knowledge needed to provide a quality program to the athletic training students. Additionally, the practical examinations allowed our program to assess student competency in a testing situation. Undoubtedly, such assessment materials provided a competency metric towards skill acquisition.

Schmieg: The OPE© course has allowed us to take the bracing information to a higher level. We have added a two-credit course that all aligns with the OPE© program materials. We have brought in a DME [durable medical equipment] specialist for two additional labs where we’ve done more advanced bracing, and I think we wouldn’t have gone down that path had we not looked at some of this content from ASOP.

I think there are two benefits from the ASOP OPE© Program. The credentials (OPE-CTM) are very attractive if you want to work with a physician. But just the material, whether everyone takes the exam or not, I think it is really important to have those skills when your athletes actually need some of this advanced bracing. Which company should I choose? How do I use this brace? If the brace breaks, do I know how to go about fixing it? Those are things we hadn’t fully addressed in our previous curriculum. Not only do I think we meet Standard 78, but I think we’ve hopefully gone well beyond the compliance marker.

Do you feel that the OPE© program materials provide a comprehensive pathway toward elevating your student’s orthopedic clinical specialty? 

Schmieg: Here’s what’s nice: Being a partner with ASOP, they provided me with casting manuals and a series of PowerPoint presentations that were in PDF format. They were very helpful. Overall, we continue to have a positive experience.

Buser: Absolutely. I think it really allows our students to see how they can use the knowledge that they already have in clinical practice, particularly in terms of how it all relates to the underlying anatomy in orthopedic fracture casting techniques.

What are your thoughts regarding the OPE© materials provided?

Schmieg: I think the materials were great. It was very easy for me to infuse that content into our curriculum because I didn’t have to create new instructional materials.

Buser: I think that the OPE© program materials are very comprehensive. Between the book materials and all the online videos and the website, ASOP provides extensive materials to help students successfully challenge the OPE-CTM exam and continues to provide reference access for their ongoing professional library.


These and several other Athletic Training Program Directors have taken the necessary steps to align with ASOP as an approved Orthopedic Physician Extender (OPE©) Program and are experiencing the benefits of accreditation support towards compliance with Standard 78. More importantly, they are providing their athletic training students with a pathway towards value-added certification (OPE-CTM) that has further strengthened their transition into the orthopedic physician practice setting.

The ASOP OPE© curriculum is a comprehensive educational program that enables the athletic training student the opportunity to demonstrate competency in select orthopedic related areas.

Athletic Training Programs can be assured ASOP will continue to:

  • Advocate for the career advancement for athletic trainers in orthopedics.

  • Empower your AT Program to deliver a challenging academic program that is competency- and evidenced-based.
  •  Allow your athletic training faculty to facilitate a challenging program that leads your students towards value-added certification within the orthopedic discipline – the Orthopedic Physician Extender (OPE) examination.

In today’s economy, ASOP continues to CHAMPION for the athletic trainer in the orthopedic physician practice setting. The OPE© curriculum was built by AT Programs for AT Programs. ASOP has worked with the Athletic Trainers. Will you be the next AT Program to give your students that edge in the orthopedic marketplace? Visit us at www.ASOPorthoExtender.info



In addition to the aforementioned schools that have been participating in the Orthopedic Physician Extender (OPE©) Program, new Athletic Training Programs are seeking ASOP approval on a weekly basis. For example, Manchester University is the latest ASOP Approved OPE© Program.

“My interest in the OPE© Program came from previous attendance at an ASOP casting workshop a few years ago in Chicago,” explains Jeffery Beer, MA, LAT, ATC, CEAS, CKTP, Chair of the Exercise Science and Athletic Training Department and Program Director of Undergraduate Athletic Training Education at Manchester University. “At the time, ASOP was discussing the benefits of the OPE© program and now with the clinical and academic world evolving, I felt it was the perfect time to align with ASOP.”

Professor Beer’s motivation to join the OPE© Program comes from a desire to put his students in the best position for success. “I feel the ASOP programming will set my students above the rest as Athletic Trainers and other healthcare professionals,” he says. “The knowledge in casting and splinting provided in the OPE© Program is very valuable to the athletic training field and will continue to make my students more marketable in the clinical health care fields, which is our main focus.”

Although new to the OPE© Program, Professor Beer foresees many benefits as a result of Manchester’s participation. “I foresee my students learning a new skill and with the new forthcoming standards they can take with them to the practical work force,” he says. “I see inter-professional collaboration with physicians, nurses, cast technicians, physician assistants, and certified Athletic Trainers on a daily basis.”

Professor Beer is optimistic about the opportunity for students to earn the Orthopedic Physician Extender Certification (OPE-CTM). “This credential will push our profession and students to the next level of preparedness in the ever-evolving health care world,” says Beer. Most importantly, Professor Beer strongly believes that the “OPE-C certification will put my students above the rest,” he continues, “and put them in a position to obtain great jobs with great skills.”


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