Many of the Kinesiology students at McMaster will tell you they have aspirations to be physiotherapists. For lots of those students, the ultimate opportunity is to work for a professional sports team.
For seventeen CFL seasons, Chris Puskas lived that dream as an Athletic Therapist for both the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger Cats, winning two Grey Cups.
Puskas began his journey towards athletic therapy at Laurentian University in Sudbury, where he graduated with an Honours degree in Physical and Health Education. From there he returned to South Western Ontario to attend Sheridan College in Oakville, where he graduated from Sports Injury Management in 1996. In addition, Chris also has a Doctorate in Acupuncture and in 2004 was certified as Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
February marks Puskas’ one year anniversary with McMaster, as it was announced in February of 2011 that Chris would be leaving the Tiger Cats to come to McMaster as the Head Athletic Therapist. This role sees him as the primary therapist for the McMaster football team as well as responsible for all medical field coverage of all McMaster varsity teams.
The move from working with professionals to student athletes is one which obviously brought many changes, Puskas’ had this to say about the adjustment.
“With the Ti-Cats, it was their job obviously, so 24 hours a day could be football related if needed. So if you didn’t see an injury in person, you could see video of the injury from all different angle and immediately start treatment. Whereas here, with student athletes, the challenge is because everyone has so many other things to do, so you don’t always get the time you need with them – whereas pro sport is the ideal situation.”
In his brief time at McMaster, Puskas’ has obviously enjoyed immense success with the Football Program. Winning the Yates Cup, the Uteck Bowl and the school’s first Vanier Cup is something which without a doubt can be considered a huge reward, but that’s not all Puskas’ has found rewarding about working at McMaster.
“Winning is always nice, but there are a few things that make it so rewarding. The school and the department convinced me they were committed to excellence, not only academically but also athletically…as I have seen, their facilities speak to that and the staff speak to that. Most of all their commitment to continuing to improve academically and athletically when they already are at such a high level, speaks to that. I can only do things one way, I hate losing. I wanted to be somewhere where people around me were going to put the same effort in.”
The move to McMaster has also seen Puskas’ grow and develop in many aspects of his life: “To be able to work with other allied health care professionals, that are equally passionate about what they do has been a big growing area for me on a professional level. On a personal level, working with all the different sports has been huge. Not that I’m not a football fan, but I like being around all the other sports too; so you grow, you see different things, all the different stresses of the different sports, makes you more rounded as a therapist, keeps you entertained,” he says.
Not only has Puskas’ benefitted from the move to McMaster but his three sons, Noah (age 8), Benjamin (age 6), and Joshua (age 4) have also enjoyed the change. “With [my sons], the opportunity to be around a university setting has been a great opportunity — they might not end up there, but they’re already talking about how “[they] wanna go to Mac.” Having them see the demands of university athletics, but also the academic requirements to be able to play – it’s a great balance for them to see. Over the past year, they’ve been athletically exposed all the different sports, picking up every ball or stick they possibly could.”
As his one year anniversary at McMaster approaches, Chris is already thinking long term into the future, and has a variety of things he wants to bring to Marauder Athletics in the future.
“I want to bring a little bit of the professional approach to the department. We’re definitely well on the way, there is no question. In large part, what I have to offer to McMaster is my experience, both personal, from getting a variety of surgeries and living through the rehab, and having played sports at a fairly competitive level throughout my life.”
“Being around the various post secondary schools I have attend, being surrounded by athletes who are competing for so long, has all moulded me into the therapist that I am…which is the experience and what I think I bring to Mac.
As McMaster continues to work to be at the forefront of athletics in Canada, Puskas’ is aware of how sports medicine at McMaster needs to adjust for that. “The goal really is for McMaster, from a sports medicine point of view, to apply the model we use for the football team to as many other varsity teams as possible.
All the varsity athletes have enjoyed the past twelve months with Chris in our midst; he was always willing to lend a helping hand to the student therapists, whether it was with taping or assessments. His family, including his sons Noah, Benjamin and Joshua (who have stolen many female varsity athletes’ hearts) and wife Crystal have fully embraced the Marauder community and hopefully will be part of it for many years to come.