DPT student shifts from the football field to the sidelines

SUNY Upstate Joe Micca football physical therapy

Joe Micca (55) during his days as an offensive lineman for John Carroll University, before coming to Upstate as a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Upstate Physical Therapy student Joe Micca loves participating in sports, but he’s excited by the prospect of a future on the sidelines — as a physical therapist treating athletes so they can get back onto the field.

“I was an exercise science major as an undergrad,” Joe said. “I have a big passion for sports and I like to help people out.”

Joe played college football for four years at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, after playing lacrosse and other sports growing up in Rochester. He’s had his share of visits to physical therapists.

SUNY Upstate Physical Therapy program

Upstate DPT student Joe Micca

He’s torn his medial collateral ligament three times (one knee twice), separated his shoulder and had at least one concussion. Those injuries, as painful as they were, serve as valuable reminders as Joe progresses toward his DPT degree next spring.

“I respect athletic training staffs now more than I did back when I played,” he said. “I’ve given every line in the book to stay on the field. You have to know the symptoms. You can’t let your competitive spirit get in the way of a player’s safety.”

Joe will soon return to Cleveland for his next clinical rotation, 10 weeks at the Cleveland Clinic’s sports health center. He’ll follow that with 10 weeks in an acute-care setting at Albany Medical Center.

As he closes in on his DPT degree, Joe is considering pursuing an additional year or more of post-graduate education leading to credentials as an athletic trainer and sports certified specialist.

Earlier this fall, Joe received the New York Physical Therapy Association student participation award for his efforts on behalf of the profession. He was nominated by Upstate’s DPT faculty.

“I’ve gotten to see the business and political side,” Joe said.

He’s passed along what he learned to his fellow students, and enlisted dozens of them to accompany him on a lobbying mission to Albany to push for better health insurance co-pays for physical therapy.

His advice to students pursuing a career in health care is to choose a field you’re willing to dedicate your life to. And once you make that decision, take advantage of every opportunity to make it happen.

As a student at an academic medical center in a city with many sports teams and medical facilities, Joe has had many learning opportunities. On the day of his With Distinction interview, he was in an operating room – not as a patient, but as a future physical therapist — observing a surgical reconstruction of an anterior cruciate ligament in an athlete who had injured her knee.

“Observing procedures in the operating room and analyzing the anatomy can give physical therapists a better understanding of rehabilitation considerations and what to expect during the different recovery stages,” Joe said.

SUNY Upstate students Heart Walk Team Upstate

Upstate DPT student Joe Micca and other students on "Team Upstate" at the annual Heart Walk in Syracuse.


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