By invitation of the Crown Prince, TU professors Greg Gardner and Ron Walker traveled to Amman, Jordan over Christmas break to assist the country with its Qusai Initiative.
Jordan has recently had some high profile deaths in the sports community. “One of them, who the initiative was named after, his name was Qusai, he was 19 years old and he died on a soccer field. The official cause of death from the Jordanian media was that he swallowed his tongue,” Walker said. “That’s an airway management issue. It’s very easy for anyone who has any training or experience at all to manage.”
“In the United States, if someone is to practice as an athletic trainer, there are rules. You have to have a certain level of education, you have to pass the board examination test, you have to be licensed by the state medical board. That wasn’t the case in Jordan. Anyone could call themselves a sports therapist,” Walker explained.
The Crown Prince of Jordan, Al Hussien Bin Abdullah II, wanted proper athletic safety in all levels of sports across the country, so he called in the World Federation of Athletic Training and Therapy to act as an independent international consultant. Gardner is a member of the organization, and Walker was invited along at the last minute because someone dropped out.
Gardner and Walker taught a 40-hour course for recent physiotherapy grads, wrote and administered a credential examination and visited universities, the Olympic Committee, the Sports Medicine Federation and hospitals to examine the current education system for physiotherapy. “What we focused on was credentialing and policing the people practicing sports therapy,” Gardner said. The emphasis was on, “how you train them, how you credential them, how do you ensure they continue to be competent.”
Walker emphasized that “there were some very good professionals, very strong practitioners there. We didn’t want to step on their toes, because there were a lot of people who knew what needed to be done,” but they needed an international body to help because of the scale of reform that needed to take place.
Walker also expressed great admiration for the Jordanian government and the people he worked with while in Jordan because, “they recognise there is a problem and are literally willing to go to any lengths to fix it, versus the United States where we have problems like concussions and it is an absolute battle to get any policies in place to correct them at the government level.”
The policies they assisted in creating included hiring requisites for sports therapists, basic participant safety (which includes having first aid kits and defibrillators on hand in sports facilities), the necessity for emergency action plans in practice facilities and requiring coaches to have basic level CPR training.
In the US, sports teams are highly privatized. In contrast, the Jordanian Olympic Committee presides over every aspect of sports from the highest level to the lowest level (with the exception of Jordanian Football, which has its own committee). Walker expressed that this was great for the intent of this trip because, “you have one body that can set policy and it impacts everyone else.”
The course that Garner and Walker taught “would have been a three to four credit hour course and we taught it in five days.”
“These were people who had already graduated from physiotherapy school so their evaluation and rehab skills were pretty good,” he said. However, they needed help with their emergency care and preventative care knowledge and techniques, Walker explained.
According to Walker the students were “among the best and very engaged.” Their official language for medical education is English so there was little to no language barrier to overcome. “They were very hospitable, friendly and awesome to work with. They had a sincere interest in wanting to know [the information]. They asked questions a lot,” Walker said.
Walker was in Jordan for 14 days (Gardner stayed a few days longer), and in that time they had one day off.
“That one day, we used about 19 hours of it,” Walker said. “We got up early. We drove from Amman to Petra. We hiked Petra for about 15 miles.” Their driver and host hiked with them and were able to take them off the beaten trails, “which was great until we got lost.”
“We ended up renting mules to get out, because we were that lost,” Walker continued. “After a mule ride and a ride in the back of a pickup we got back to our car and we drove to Wadi Rum” to watch the sunset. “This is where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia, Transformers, The Martian.”
“I would go back in a heartbeat. They were so welcoming. I have never experienced better hospitality in the United States,” Walker enthused. “Jordanians are so much more tolerant than we are led to believe,” he said, emphasizing their concern with opportunities for women. “All the crazy inequalities that you hear about, not the case there.”
After the first day at the Olympic Committee, Gardner and Walker were invited back. The General Secretary asked for their advice on the design and construction of the new sports medicine facility they were building, during which time they got to spend hours looking over the plans with the architect and make suggestions.
During Gardner’s extra days in Jordan, he toured a public hospital, a private hospital and a physical therapy clinic. “The private hospital, it was nice. It was just like if you go up to St. John’s [a local Tulsa hospital]. The public hospital, it was chaos.” Gardner noted an incident in the public hospital where the door to the x-ray room was open and the room was crowded with people while the technician was in the middle of taking an x-ray.
Gardner did not get the opportunity to talk with Jordanians about the state of local hospitals during this trip, but both Walker and Gardner expressed their excitement to go back to Jordan again sometime this year.