August 14, 2018

Christine Karpinski: Seeing the Big Picture for Sports Dietitians

Christine KarpinskiChristine Karpinski takes a “big picture” approach when it comes to sports nutrition. For her leadership and vision, she has been recognized with the 2018 Achievement Award from SCAN, a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. SCAN is dedicated to nutrition for sports performance and physical activity, cardiovascular health, wellness, and eating disorders.

Chair of West Chester University’s Nutrition Department and an associate professor of nutrition, Karpinski is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), one of three at the University — a number unheard of at NCAA Division II schools, she notes. This credential acquired through SCAN is the “gold standard” accreditation for sports dietitians.

“A sports dietitian may work not only with college or professional athletes, but with amateur, master’s, and high school [or even younger] athletes, performance artists, fitness centers, first responders, military, and others,” she notes.

Karpinski provides nutrition education and services to athletes at WCU, mentors undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in sports nutrition, and is a preceptor for dietetic interns completing a sports nutrition rotation. She is the editor-in-chief for Sports Nutrition: A Handbook for Professionals, 6th edition, published in September 2017. She says her legacy is about more than the professional activities and the way she’s served SCAN: “It’s about the work I’ve done and am doing with students, both in teaching and especially in research.”

For example, she and her nutrition students have been collecting data on the impact on the athletes of several of WCU’s Division II teams who receive sport-specific nutrition information and have access to a “fueling station” that provides nutritious snack options at their practices. The researchers also give the athletes individualized meal plans at the outset of the study.

New in Nutrition

Beginning this fall (2018), the Bachelor of Science in nutrition will offer two new concentrations in addition to the dietetics track: Lifestyle Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems Management. The dietetics concentration is the only track that can lead to credentialing as a registered dietitian (RD or RDN) or a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR).


At the graduate level, the department is offering a new graduate distance dietetic internship starting in fall 2019 consisting of virtual classes that satisfy the required minimum of 1,200 practice hours split among four rotations. Applications for the Master of Science will be accepted during fall 2018 and DICAS applications in spring 2019.


Visit the Nutrition Department’s website for information on the new options.

Initially, five undergraduate students she mentored (Tayler Davis, Katie Gunter, Carly Linus, Alindon Smith, Katie Stec) researched the “Impact of an Eight-Week Snack Bag Program on the Dietary Intake of Collegiate Athletes,” using one or two teams per semester, and presented their findings at the University’s Spring 2017 Research Day. Karpinski was then able to extend the study to a 20-week period assessing the impact of snack bags and meal plans with the WCU women’s basketball team. The researchers, including repeat participant Katie Gunter, presented at the 2018 Spring Research Day.

“Food and nutrition research needs to translate into actual practice,” says Karpinski, adding that research also “supports the value and efficacy of sports registered dietitians” (RDs) and the CSSD credential.

One of her goals is to bring more extensive research into the profession. Studies such as those she and students conduct with one or two teams don’t have the depth to be significant. Sports RDs across the country should be collecting data, she says. With supporting data, SCAN will be able to strengthen its foundation of mentoring upcoming sports dietitians, broadening the definition of sports dieticians, and developing more career opportunities.

Karpinski also looked at the big picture in her paper on “Development and Validation of a 49-Statement Sports Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire” that won the 2017 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) Outstanding Poster award. She explains that it proposes guidelines to standardize the assessment of the nutrition knowledge of athletes across the board for sports dietitians.

Karpinski served on SCAN’s executive committee as the Director of Sports Dietetics – USA from June 2013 to May 2016. She is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association. A WCU alumna (B.S. 1989), she earned her master’s from Immaculata University, her doctorate from Rutgers University, and joined WCU’s Nutrition Department faculty in 1999.