Exercise Science Major Gets a Leg-Up On Graduate School

Maria Toscano ’14, a Jasper Research Scholar, conducted summer research on a topic that changed the course of her life.

As exercise science major Maria Toscano ’14 prepares to apply to the top post-baccalaureate physical therapy programs in the country, she is hoping to get a leg-up by conducting one-on-one research with Lisa Toscano, Ed.D, associate professor of kinesiology.

The Jasper Summer Research program is a unique opportunity for Toscano to expand upon her pre-physical therapy concentration while gaining valuable exposure to the research process with a trusted mentor. The topic, To Land or Not To Land: What Health Professionals Can Do To Help Prevent Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears, is one that hits close to home.

From Undecided to Steadfast

As a high school senior at Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, N.J., Toscano sustained an ACL injury shortly after being recruited to play for Manhattan College’s lacrosse team. Recovery was slow, requiring more than nine months on the bench and regular physical therapy sessions. But she says it was a blessing in disguise.

“In a way, I feel like it was meant to be,” Toscano says, explaining that this introduction to physical therapy was what inspired her to pursue the field and change her major from undeclared to exercise science.

In the classroom, Toscano’s passion for the field of physical therapy and preventative care was evident as she consistently asked questions beyond the core syllabus. She immediately found a mentor in Dr. Toscano while taking kinesiology. (Don’t be fooled: although they share a lot — a field of interest, a laboratory, a last name — they are not related.) And since then, they’ve always discussed collaborating on research, but it didn’t become a possibility until Manhattan College launched the Jasper Summer Research program this year.

“Working alongside Dr. Toscano is an absolute privilege,” Toscano says. “Her extensive knowledge on the topic of the ACL and its associated injury is very impressive, and I am so excited to learn even more from her.”

I never expected to learn so much in so little time.

Pursuing Prevention

Toscano hopes her research will provide future health professionals, teachers and coaches with the latest information on ACL prevention programs. Getting acquainted with what’s already been published is half the battle.

She’s currently laying the groundwork for a prevention program of her own by sifting through hundreds of published articles, studies and papers, both online and in books. To augment her findings, she is also interviewing several licensed physical therapists from the region about their clinical experiences and ACL injury prevention.

Additionally, following Dr. Toscano’s suggestion, she gained hands-on experience through a practicum at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Five days a week, from late May to mid-July, she shadowed the supervisor of the physical therapy unit, observing techniques and cataloguing prognoses and treatment plans.

“The [practicum] has been amazing,” Toscano says. “I never expected to learn so much in so little time.”

Both Toscanos hope to continue this project into the fall semester to assemble a portfolio on safe joint positions, jumping techniques, as well as strengthening and stretching programs that can possibly reduce the risk of injury for Manhattan College athletes. They also plan to submit their findings to the Fall Election Day Southeastern Zone Conference of the American Alliance of Health and Physical Education, Recreation and Dance at the local, state and national levels.

“I am very grateful that I have been given this opportunity to take part in this summer research project,” Toscano says. “I think that this experience will be so beneficial to me especially as I prepare for graduate school where I must conduct research on a regular basis. It’s the perfect gateway into my senior year of college and also into my future.”

MC Staff