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Professional Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy

One would be hard pressed in today’s society to go an entire day without seeing some reference to professional sports. Fame, fortune, and glory are things that every young participant playing in a Pop Warner …

One would be hard pressed in today’s society to go an entire day without seeing some reference to professional sports. Fame, fortune, and glory are things that every young participant playing in a Pop Warner or Little League game aspires to achieve. However, what many people don’t realize is that professional athletes put their careers, and at times their lives, on the line during each and every game.

Sports Injuries Present Unique Challenges

Just turn on ESPN’s highlight show, Sportscenter, and you will see a 10 minute segment dedicated solely to injuries acquired during the most recent professional sporting events. Some of these injuries are more serious than others; however each one presents a unique challenge to the health care practitioners following that athlete’s care.

Physical Therapists Often Bear The Brunt Of The Load

Rehabilitating a baseball pitcher’s rotator cuff tear is very different than rehabilitating a football running back’s torn ACL. Physical therapists often bear the brunt of the load that is placed on the treating clinicians. As a physical therapist, we are trained to evaluate and treat orthopedic injuries without diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays and MRI’s, and we are expected to develop a comprehensive and coherent treatment plan that will return an athlete to his/her sport in as short a time as possible.

The Physical Therapist is the 1-on-1 Clinician

This is no easy task! Of course, more often than not, there is an orthopedic medical doctor that is also overseeing an athlete’s care and coordinating the treatment plan with the physical therapist. The therapist, however, is the only clinician that is 1-on-1 with the athlete each and every treatment day.

Physical Therapy Can Be a Balancing Act

We are constantly and consistently evaluating and updating the treatment protocols in order to progress them safely, effectively, and in a timely manner for full return to sport. Sometimes, balancing all 3 can be a very tricky task. Progressing an athlete too quickly through their treatment for the purposes of an early return to active duty can put them at a high risk for re-injury.

Conversely, being too conservative in their progression will slow their return unnecessarily and put their team at a disadvantage. It is the responsibility of every physical therapist to use their knowledge and training to make the appropriate decisions regarding the care of their patients.

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