Posted on 8/15/2021
How tearing my ACL made me better on and off the field
As an avid soccer player and athlete, I’m intrigued by sports stats. Like this one:
Each year in the U.S., between 20,000 to 80,000 female athletes sustain an ACL injury. Most of them in playing soccer and basketball.
To me, that’s a scary statistic.
But it was the last thing on my mind as a 15-year-old competitive soccer player in 2017.
Back then, I only cared about getting to play college soccer at the highest level.
I had a plan!
- Get recruited.
- Play soccer at a high level
- Figure out everything else later.
I didn’t care where the school was or what I studied, because I had a plan – my Plan A. My plan told me I didn’t need to worry about anything else. If it was outside of playing soccer, it fell into the category of “figure out everything else later.”
I felt good about my plan.
Nothing could get in the way of me and Plan A.
That was the sound that came from my knee during a high school game that year.
I got hit while dribbling down the field.
All of a sudden I became one of those statistics. And I was in the worst pain I’ve ever been in.
In an instant, everything changed.
ACL spells agony… and (eventually) accomplishment
I tore my ACL completely.
I needed surgery, to be followed by physical therapy… for nine months.
No soccer for nine months? In my mind, my life had just ended.
I had surgery a few weeks later and wondered if I would be the same player as before my injury.
There’s a reason they say ‘never Google your injury or illness.’ My brain was filled with more statistics and stories of players who never returned and players who experience an ACL re-tear soon after returning to their sport.
After looking online, I wasn’t hopeful.
ACL rehab took the place of soccer. I went two and three times a week.
Without practice, I had extra time on my hands. I filled it with thoughts about how much my life sucked. I was in a dark space mentally and emotionally and didn’t know how to get out of it. A good friend noticed and invited me to go to yearbook club with her. With nothing else to do, I went.
It opened my eyes to the possibility of enjoying something unrelated to sports.
I saw fellow students writing stories and designing pages for the yearbook. I heard the buzz of enthusiasm as they worked as a team. Each person doing their part to create a representation of our school.
I realized for the first time since I tore my ACL that I wasn’t thinking about it. I wasn’t thinking about soccer, either. I was happy.
I went again the next week.
For months, as I continued to heal from my ACL injury, I was an honorary member of the yearbook team. I was also working hard at physical therapy.
One of my teachers, and yearbook advisor, saw my work and recommended Communications as a possible college major. I put my focus into that.
Without realizing it, I’d found my Plan B:
- Study Communications in college.
- Find a school I liked (location, size and culture).
- Figure out everything else later.
Finally, the nine months were over.
I was released from physical therapy with no restrictions.
But I still had a lot of emotions going on. Many less-than-confident thoughts in my head.
It was time to play soccer again.
I was terrified to step on the field.
Coming back was not easy.
It took me another six months to feel comfortable in the game. I was out of shape, and my knee hurt every day.
I stuck it through and with hard work – just like I did in PT – (and muscle memory), things did start to come back.
While my teammates were getting recruited, I was still trying to fall back in love with soccer. Things had changed a bit. I was comfortable with my Plan B.
I found a school that checked all my Plan B boxes. I set my sights on going there, with or without soccer. Because, in Plan B, soccer now fell into the category of “figure out everything else later.”
Turns out the school also had a pretty good women’s soccer team, and they were doing an identification camp (an opportunity to get recruited).
Jeena working the ball in the United Soccer League game.
I went to camp, but with a different mindset than previous camps.
The old soccer me had gone into camps feeling nauseous and panicked by stress. This time I was pretty chill.
It was one of my best performances at a camp.
Fast forward, now five years later, and I am a rising junior, studying Communications at Thomas Jefferson University. I’ve won two conference championships and made a National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearance.
I’m one of three captains, and looking to win my third championship and the team’s fourth consecutive title.
I also completed my first season in the United Soccer League (USLW), a pre-professional women’s soccer league.
I’m currently living out what I now call my Plan A/B:
- Playing soccer at a high level.
- Studying Communications at a school I love.
- Figuring out everything else… later.
Before surgery, I wondered if I’d be the same player after. I don’t have to wonder anymore. I am not the same player I was before I tore my ACL.
I am a better one.
Faster, smarter and better on the ball.
The ACL recovery process is a long and painful one. It can be overwhelming.
But if injury recovery is ever in your path, you have more control than you might think.
I learned things about myself I never would have known if I didn’t take time away from soccer.
My ACL tear gave me more than it took from me because I refused to let that happen.
Our individual experiences will be different, for sure. What I can tell you from my experience, though, is that no one else can do it for you. Your physical therapy will be a critical part of recovery. You’ll be part of a team – working with professional therapists who will be rooting for you.
You don’t have to give up on your Plan A… you might just need to adjust it.
Jeena Pressley completed her 2022 summer intern program with Select Medical in the Communications and Branding Department. She is a student-athlete at Thomas Jefferson University studying Communications. Her return to campus as a junior captain for her soccer team will see her on the field looking to defend her team’s CACC Champion title.
Originally posted on 7/22/2021; updated 8/1/2022
You've heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” That to be healthy, you need to feed your body well.
A similar idea for golfers might be, “You are how you train.”
In golf, the way you move is important. Not just for being able to hit the ball, but in how your body functions when you do.
In particular, golfers undergo some of the quickest changes in body movement of any sport.
Precision is key.
Golfers are in the category of “rotational athletes” – those who need to twist the torso in playing their sport.
Rotational athletes move their bodies through high velocity motions. These motions put increased stress on the body’s major joints, in particular the spine, and through the hips.
This stress puts increased strain on the entire body.
Being aware in how to rotate correctly can help decrease your chances of injury during play.
Hooray! More tee times!
But it can also benefit you off the course so you can move in a pain-free manner in your daily activities.
Anatomy of golf
Our bodies are comprised of a system of joints. There are two types – stable and mobile. Each plays a role in body movement; each has levels of stability and mobility. In the golf swing, certain joints should have a core function, either stability or mobility, but not both.
In a high-velocity movement, like a golf swing, you need both types of joints to be tip-top in performance. If either is subpar, the other must compensate. And that’s when injuries can happen.
For golfers, lower back injuries are a biggie.
In this case, the stable joint is the lower back (lumbar spine). Without the right preparation to open the core to support the lumbar spine and increase spine/hip movement before cranking that backswing, you risk playing badly at best and hurting yourself at worst.
The good news is that you can prevent both by taking the time to stretch.
Stretching is a key component in any sport, but it is often overlooked or disregarded. Stretching key muscle groups can improve movement and your game.
We’ve put together a list of stretches that work from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Read on. Then take the time for a good overall stretch before your next round of golf to lessen neck strains, shoulder injuries and back spasms.
Neck flexes and rotations
To loosen up, increase range of motion and help keep your eye on the ball during your swing.
- Curl your chin to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck.
- Slowly rotate your head side-to-side in small motions.
To loosen up and get more fluid in your backswing and follow through.
- Put your club behind your shoulders, resting your hands at both ends.
- Crouch in a golf stance.
- Slowly turn your shoulders back and forth 8 – 10 times
Two-part lumbar spine stretch
To help your body more fully rotate and increase mobility of the upper and middle part of the back to improve your swing and prevent injury.
This is a super effective stretch! But we get it if you choose to do it at home before loading the clubs in the car.
- Start by laying on your side and stack your hips with knees bent.
- Extend one hand toward the ceiling. Use your other hand to hold your knees if you feel like they're coming off the ground.
- Slowly lower your arm and turn your neck to look toward it.
- Try to bring your shoulder to the floor.
- Breathe through the stretch – feel it in the middle of your back. Repeat on the opposite side.
To help your hips move freely and efficiently in the backswing and follow-through. To increase hip movement so you don’t put too much weight on the back leg at impact and pull off early, hooking the ball.
- Stand and, with a straight leg, make several small circles in a clockwise motion.
- Do the same with a counter-clockwise motion.
- Repeat with other leg.
Golf is an amazing sport, but to play or compete pain-free you need to learn (or relearn!) how to move correctly.
Good movement helps decrease stress on your body, avoid injuries and enjoy the game more.
Just remember to stretch first, then swing.
Who knows? Adding regular stretching before you hit the driving range or the greens may even add a few more yards to your drive, and without that wicked slice.
If you’re having pain when you play or recovering from a golf injury, come talk with one of our physical therapists.
We offer a complimentary consultation to assess your condition and can do an assessment of your readiness to return to play. Click below to find a nearby location or request an appointment.
How to drive away aches and pains on your summer road trip or any long drive
Ah! Summer vacation.
Ugh! Summer vacation driving.
Destination driving vacations are a staple of American culture. But long hours spent crammed into a car can wreak havoc on your body before vacation even begins.
As the miles go by, an aching back, a crick in your neck or tense shoulders can put the brakes on feeling good by the time you arrive.
If you're shaking your head in agreement (or dread!), relax.
We’ve mapped out some quick tips to make your road trip more comfortable.
Plan stop-and-stretch breaks
You planned out your vacation, right? So it makes sense to plan breaks from the slog of driving or sitting for hours on end.
Stop hourly or every hour and a half – even if it’s just for five minutes. Park away from entrances to rest stops and eating places to get in some light walking. Before climbing back into the car, stretch your hamstrings.
Focus on your posture
Don't slouch. Use a rolled-up towel or foam roller and place it at your lumbar area (low back) between you and the seat for more comfort.
If you can spare a pool noodle, get creative and cut it in half. One for you and one for your passenger – two birds, one stone.
Set your car seat properly
This might sound trivial, but adjusting your seat reduces excess strain on the shoulders and neck. Here's how:
- Sit all the way back in your seat.
- Extend your forearm over the steering wheel.
- The wheel should be at about your wrist when positioned correctly.
Pay attention when unloading the car
When you finally arrive and begin unpacking, practice safe lifting, especially with items that have been unloaded on the ground.
- Don’t bend forward. Bend your hips and knees, like you’re doing a squat to pick up bulky items.
- Keep luggage and bulky items close to your body/mid-section, then straighten to lift.
- Distribute the weight evenly between both hands/arms to decrease stress on your neck, shoulders and back.
- Don't overdo it! An extra trip back to the car can prevent injury.
Bonus safety tips for driving!
While driving, don’t use mobile devices. The distraction of calls and texts isn't worth an accident.
If it is music you're craving, let one of your passengers play DJ to keep the tunes rolling while you roll along.
Stay alert. Roll down the windows now and then, even with the AC on, to get some fresh air and a breeze.
Safe driving, and enjoy your road trip or well-deserved vacation!
We’ll leave you with this parting line from Clark Griswold in the American classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. “Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that!”
By: Brett Sanders, M.S., OTR/L, CEAS, regional manager for Select Medical’s WorkStrategies Program. Brett is the ergonomics product manager and account manager for American Airlines. He has been an occupational therapist for more than 25 years specializing in reducing employers’ workers’ compensation injuries. WorkStrategies is a product of Select Medical’s Outpatient Division family of brands.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, especially among kids and young adults.
From March Madness to the NBA finals, people love watching and playing basketball.
The love for playing the game doesn’t come without the risk of injury, though.
Whether played recreationally or in an organized league, injuries happen, even with the pros.
A big enough injury can keep you out of the game altogether, like James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors. He hasn’t seen play in over a year due to a right knee injury.
Some injuries, like knee injuries, are more common than others. They typically involve the lower body.
Here we’ve ranked the five most common types in basketball:
Nearly half of all basketball-related injuries involve the ankle and foot. From “rolling” an ankle, to landing awkwardly, to getting stepped on, playing basketball leaves athletes open to injury.
A standard treatment for ankle injuries, specifically ankle sprains, often centers around a method remembered by the acronym RICE:
Most injuries can be treated without a trip to the doctor’s office with this practice. But if you have the following symptoms, a trip to urgent care might be better:
- Pain directly on top of the outside bone of your foot
- Inability to walk a couple steps
Physical therapy could be helpful, too, depending on the severity of the sprain.
Typically, with the right rehab plan, an athlete can be back in their sport in two-to-six weeks.
Getting a knee to the thigh can be one of the worst pains for a basketball player.
Because of this, more athletes are wearing compression garments with thigh padding. If hit hard enough in the thigh by an opposing player, the muscle can tighten up and bruise.
Typically, an athlete can play through bruising. But some deep tissue massage by a licensed therapist is helpful to loosen up the muscle.
Treatments for a thigh bruise might include:
- ICE: ice, compression and elevation
If you watch or play basketball with any regularity, this one is not surprise.
The three biggies include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): ACL injuries are the most talked about of the knee injuries. The ACL is one of the bands of ligaments connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone at the knee.
Injury can range from a tiny tear to a significant tear. A bad tear, separating from the bone, generally requires surgery and months of physical therapy for return to play.
Go in-depth with our article on three ways to prevent ACL injury.
- Meniscus: The meniscus is the little brother of the ACL. Every knee has two, and often they are injured along with the ACL.
A meniscus is one of two rubber-like wedge-shaped cushions for each knee joint. Without them, the thigh bones would sit directly on top of the lower leg bones. Over time, this bone on bone condition causes pain as th bones rub together.
Treatment for meniscus injuries depends on the level of injury. It can vary from ICE, which we talked about above, to surgery and physical therapy, to just physical therapy.
- Patella tendon: Patella tendonitis – jumper’s knee – is a result of inflammation of the patella tendon which connects your kneecap to your shin bone.
Jumper’s knee can often be healed with customized exercise guided by a physical therapist. Here, too, the RICE method, with emphasis on the “R”, is quite effective.
Jammed fingers are exceptionally common (and painful!). They often occur when the finger, fully extended, hits the ball “head on” without bending.
This kind of finger jam can lead to immediate pain then swelling.
Although uncomfortable, this injury isn’t considered serious.
Jammed fingers typically heal without medical intervention or the need for a trip to the emergency room.
Buddy taping (taping the finger to the finger next to it) and icing can help you heal in as little as a week.
But if pain or swelling persists, a consult with your doctor or a physical therapist can determine if there’s something else in play.
Concussions make up about 15% of all sport-related injuries, not just basketball.
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs with a physical impact to the head or neck, like whiplash.
Most sports-related concussions can be managed by either an athletic trainer individual or in tandem with a physical therapist. Athletic trainers may also work in combination with a doctor and other health care professionals.
In basketball, a few examples of when concussion can occur:
- An athlete hits their head on the hard gym floor
- Head-to-head contact between two players
- Head-to-elbow contact
- Head-to-shoulder contact
- Any collision involving the head
When concussion is diagnosed, the athlete is unable to return to play for a period of time. This can be a 5- or 7-day waiting period, or until the treating health professional gives approval.
Concussion recovery can go slowly if symptoms linger. When this occurs, supervision by the health care provider is key for successful healing.
Working with a licensed physical therapist can help with the recovery of nearly all of these injuries.
Think you may have one of these, or another type of sports injury? Click the blue Request An Appointment button to find a physical therapy center near you.
We offer complimentary consultations so you can get back on the court.
By: Wyneisha Mason, MAT, ATC. ‘Neisha is an athletic trainer with RUSH Physical Therapy in Chicago, Illinois.
RUSH and Saco Bay Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Running can be a real rush – a bit euphoric, even!
The health benefits of a good run – long-distance or short runs – do the heart and mind good. That rush – a “runner’s high” – can give you a boost in mood and sense of accomplishment
For race runners, nothing beats that “mission accomplished” feeling after putting in the work and crossing the finish line.
If you run for health or sport, race running might seem like a lofty goal or dream. You can see the finish line banner in your head but then…
But with the right planning and commitment, it’s totally doable!
Our work with runners of all athletic levels gives us a competitive edge in helping keep them safe and running. We can help you, too.
It starts with some basic but important need-to-knows.
In this article we break them down into a series of four S’s of safe marathon training:
- Stress injury prevention
- Standards of progress
- Strength training
- Shoe (yes, shoes!)
If you’ve been thinking about pushing to a next level and running your first half-marathon, read on!
Stress injuries that can stop you in your tracks
Injuries to feet, ankles and legs are common for runners.
If you run on a regular basis, it’s likely you’ll have an injury at some point.
The most common are repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). They’re also called repetitive overuse injuries or repetitive strain injuries.
80% of running injuries are overuse, repetitive stress injuries.
~ PubMed Central (PMC), Injuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences
These happen with movement that’s repeated over and over.
Think about the act of running and your feet hitting the ground.
The constant slap-slapping of shoes on pavement or other hard surfaces. Muscles pulling on bone to propel you forward. All of this works together to make our bones and tendons stronger.
Now add to that any increases in your running distance as you train. This pushes your body past the point of comfort; each bit more adding more stress to tendons and bones. The intensity stimulates collagen growth – the protein that helps joints flex and absorb impact.
But add too much stress and the body can’t adapt quickly enough. The force of running and the extra miles is too much for the bones, tendons and joints and you can end up with micro-fractures or tears.
RSIs include other injuries too, some higher in the Ouch! factor than others. But any of them can all take a runner off course.
Not surprisingly, the knees, legs and feet take the top positions for injury to body parts from running.
Looking at the injuries themselves, RSIs include:
- Sprains - overstretched ligament with pain, swelling or bruising
- Stress fractures - hairline cracks in bone with bruising or tenderness
- Shin splints - pain in front of inner part of lower leg near shin bone
- Plantar fasciitis - pain under heel or bottom of foot
- Achilles tendinitis - inflammation of the tendon connecting calf muscle to heel
These injuries can take weeks of rest to heal, bringing your training runs to a screeching halt.
So slow your training down a bit. Giving yourself a few more weeks to train before adding to your weekly mileage can be the difference to successfully reaching your goal.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Stress injury prevention that keeps you in running shape
Let’s look at a study.
Okay, maybe a study doesn’t sound fun…
But stick with us here.
We use them because the research helps us be better care providers. Research finds new ways to treat and prevent injury. That means we can better support your training or treat your condition or injury.
A study of risk factors of lower extremity running injuries (van Gent et al.) estimated that 60% of running injuries were attributed to preventable training mistakes. In half these cases, the mistake was excessive mileage.
Breaking that down a bit and it’s all about your training.
That may have you asking, How should I progress my mileage?
Standard of progress for safely increasing you running distance
There’s a rule for how to increase your running distance (we like rules!).
The 10% rule is the most cited standard to progress running distance.
It allows for increasing distance at a rate that gives your body time to adapt to the added stress.
Runners can do this two ways:
- Increase weekly mileage
- Increase total minutes by 10% week over week
Here’s how it looks.
Week 1: Distance - Run three 3-mile runs (a total of 9 miles). Week 2 run two 3-mile runs and one 4-mile run (a total of 10 miles).
Here’s an example using minutes.
Week 1: Time - Start with run/walk interval training. Run 20 minutes out of a 30-minute workout. Week 2 increase to 22 out of the 30 minutes.
That said, we work with runners individually. We want to learn about their experience and where they are in their running program and training.
It’s a partnership we build with you to reach your ideal parameters for getting to your distance goals. That includes injury prevention.
While it may not be as simple as applying the 10% rule to all runners, it’s a good place to start for an experienced runner.
We’ve created this chart for training with your sports medicine specialist or physical therapist. Click to download a copy of the training chart.
10-Week Half Marathon Training Program:
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Total Miles Week 1 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 3 9 Week 2 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 4 10 Week 3 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest 5 11 Week 4 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 6 13 Week 5 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 7 14 Week 6 Rest 5 Strength 4 Strength Rest 6 15 Week 7 Rest 5 Strength 3 Strength Rest 8 16 Week 8 Rest 4 Strength 3 Strength Rest 10 17 Week 9 Rest 4 Strength 4 Strength Rest 11 19 Week 10 Rest 3 Strength 3 Strength Rest Race day (13.1) 19.1
This 10-week schedule roughly follows the 10% rule. It’s a good plan for the runner who can already run a 5k distance at the start of training.
Scheduling rest days in your training gives your bones, muscles and tendons time to recover.
How should I focus my strength training?
Runners only have one foot on the ground at any time. That means you are constantly having to balance on one leg.
This is important for how the ankles and hips work while running. These body parts need to make quick adjustments to maintain balance and have both legs share the shift in your weight evenly.
Your training plan will benefit from working with your therapist’s single-leg balance and strengthening exercises in your workouts.
- Single-leg heel raises
- Single-leg squats
- Single-leg bridges
- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
If the shoe fits
You’ve heard the phrase. But for the runner, the wrong size and fit can start all sorts of problems.
The running community has lots to say about footwear, and which type is best for preventing injury.
Some advocate for shoes with cushion and support. Others for barefoot running.
There’s research on both.
One study had Marines in basic training wear different shoes based on the arches of their feet. Each arch type – low, medium, high – got a different type of shoe.
The results, when compared to a control group who wore only one type of shoe, regardless of their arch type, showed no difference in injury between the groups. Now, if you like research, like we do, check out the full article on the Marine Corps shoe study.
The concept of barefoot running is based on the theory that, well…barefoot is best. The jury is still out on this one.
There’s also the argument that wearing shoes changes the way we run. Barefoot enthusiasts say that the human foot evolved to handle the forces of running without the need for the support of shoes.
But running on hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, barefoot may cause a higher amount of stress fractures.
With either choice, the best option is to choose what’s right for your run – what feels best to you and what keeps you safe.
If choosing a shoe, go a half size bigger than your walking or dress shoe. This will give room for your midfoot and toes to spread out as you push off. There’s also room if your feet swell a bit on longer runs.
Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles or every six months to a year based on how much they are used.
Write the date on the inside tongue of your new shoes to track how long you’ve used them.
You might consider a gait analysis when you’re looking to buy running shoes. This can identify any movement patterns or bad running habits that could result in injury. You can schedule an analysis from one of our outpatient physical therapy centers or a local running store.
There you have it!
Four steps to build a training plan that helps you avoid injury, build up your strength and distance, choose your shoes and get out there and run toward race day.
Article research courtesy of Jasmine Fisk, P.T., DPT
Treating hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries in athletes
When you've got an injured athlete, what's your move to get them back in the game?
For some sports organizations, athletic trainers and team doctors are on deck to treat most sports injuries. But there's a variety of health professionals who help players get their pitch, swing or throw back.
Did you know that occupational therapists play key roles in athletic injury treatment? With all the throwing, lobbing, pitching and twisting that comes with playing sports, the need for therapy is big.
Upper extremity injuries in athletes are common, sidelining them from play. As many as one in four injuries are to the hand or wrist.
Occupational therapists (OTs) specialize in these types of injuries and more. Their goal is to help the athlete recover and safely return to play.
How occupational therapists help athletes
Occupational therapists (OTs) work with all kinds of individuals to overcome physical setbacks from illness or injury. For athletes, this is key for a return to play after injury.
Just as athletes are unique in their play with their sport, injuries are unique to them. For example, athletic injuries can occur in all ages, from Little Leaguers to Silver Sneakers. Treating a specific type of injury, like a broken arm, will be different for a patient who's 7 and another who's 70.
An OT's role is to assess the impact of injury and the limitations it causes.
Therapy is then based on the skills the individual needs to recover to overcome those limitations.
OTs are specialists in assessing the impact of injury on many parts of the body's framework such as:
The level of an injury can vary from acute to chronic.
For example, an acute injury is sudden, like breaking a wrist.
A chronic injury is one that happens over time, like tendonitis of the wrist. Tendonitis builds up after long periods of overuse, doing the same movements over and over, like serving a tennis ball.
Whatever the injury, OTs are highly-skilled in treating a variety of injuries.
For the weekend warrior or a pro athlete, your path to recovery from a sports injury will be unique. And just like the role you play on the court, the track or the field, you'll play a major league role in your healing process.
Here's some inside baseball on what that will look like.
Expect your doctor and OT to talk with you about your goals for recovery. This is key for planning your way back to play and any restrictions you'll need to follow.
Your local physical therapy center will be your home base for therapy sessions. This is to ensure your safety during treatment.
Your therapist will guide you in proper movement and the use of any equipment to make sure you are doing each exercise right. This helps improve your range of motion and stay on track for healing.
Your therapy may include strength training with resistance bands or weights to improve dexterity and build strength.
If your therapy includes doing exercise at home between scheduled appointments, you may benefit from having your OT take a look at your personal equipment and how you use it. They can spot if it's appropriate for your use and goals for healing. They can also see if you're using it right and, if not, help you to correct it.
Each step of your treatment is planned to help you heal from the injury and get back to your goals.
Brace yourself for orthotic devices
For serious injury or bad breaks that take you out of play, your OT may want to restrict the motion or movement of your injury to help with healing.
The terms – splint, brace, wrap or cast – are pretty common, so, it's likely you've heard them before. In medical terms, though, you might hear your therapist refer to them as an orthotic device or orthosis.
The bottom line, whatever the device looks like, is that it will be fairly rigid or stiff to keep a joint or broken bone in place as it heals.
Orthotics can be made and fitted for:
For a less serious level of injury, there are a host of orthoses we can provide to support and protect to keep you in the game, no matter your game!
These upper extremity orthoses can be fit for thumb, fingers, hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder.
These are custom-fitted and made onsite at our center so you can leave your appointment with what you need.
Your therapist will ensure it fits right for comfort, support and protection.
At the ‘core’ of your injury
Your core is a complex series of muscles extending far beyond your abs. So if you’re thinking “six-pack” or “washboard” abs, think bigger!
The core is made up of 20-plus muscles at the center of the body. It includes major and minor muscles of the stomach, hips and low back. They all work in tandem, making the core part of nearly every movement we make.
Having a strong core (diaphragm, abs, glute and pelvic muscles) and good dynamic balance plays a large part in athletic activities. Weakness in either of these areas may be flagged by your therapist for you to get a movement screen assessment.
The core helps:
- Stabilize movement
- Transfer force from one extremity to another
- Initiate movement
If your core strength is weak, the strength and coordination of your upper extremity isn't at full potential.
Occupational therapists who work with patients on upper extremity recovery consider the whole body during treatment. Your OT will work on improving core strength as well as leg and hip strength as it applies to your sport.
The power of occupational therapy
Getting back to a well-loved sport or activity is important to anyone who's sidelined by injury.
It doesn't matter if you’re competing at an elite level or just want to retain an active lifestyle to get the benefits of occupational therapy. Our OTs know how to create a rehabilitation plan to meet your goals.
Our occupational and hand therapists can help you:
- Avoid injury
- Perform better
- Recover from injuries quickly and safely
We're here for you. Our proven therapies, along with compassionate care, offer the best outcome for your injury.
Take a look at all the sports medicine and injury prevention services we offer. Then click on any of our pages' blue Request an appointment buttons and come see us!
How the ravages of history launched two profound professions
When a doctor recommends occupational therapy (OT), rather than physical therapy (PT), many people don't at first realize there are two kinds of therapies.
It might also not be understood that there's a difference between them, or why a doctor prescribes one over the other.
As therapists, we get this question a lot.
For sure, there's a difference between the therapies and how they're used in healing and recovery. And the story is more interesting than you might imagine…
A short history of modern therapy
Movement and manual therapies can be traced back to ancient Asia, Greece and Rome. Those early practices included massage and hydrotherapy (water therapy).
In the 1920s and ‘30s, Franklin D. Roosevelt found relief with hydrotherapy. FDR receiving physical therapy or exercising with assistance in an indoor pool at Warm Springs, GA, 1928. Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Fast-forward to modern-day therapy which began in 18th century Sweden with the practice of orthopedics — the medical focus on bones and muscles.
A bit later, Hanrik Ling, developed the Swedish Gymnastic System (also known as the Swedish Movement Cure). His motivation? Having experienced the benefit of improved body movement through his practice of fencing.
At its core, Ling's system emphasized physical conditioning for its ability to improve health and body function. It combined lesser intensive floor-style of gymnastics with manual therapy. Ling's approach brought wide acceptance of his methods.
In 1813, the Swedish government appointed Ling to start the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG).
Ling's system became wider spread as graduates of the RCIG adopted its four core components:
- physical education
- massage, physical therapy, physiotherapy
- dance performance
One more fast-forward to the 1920s. The polio epidemic was raging in the United States, especially among children.
During the epidemic, two schools of thought emerged.
One used the practice of immobilizing the limbs of patients believing limb movement and stretching would impair muscle recovery and cause more deformity.
A second practice re-introduced the Roman practice of hydrotherapy. Here therapists used exercise in heated pools to improve a patient's muscle recovery and movement.
Polio paralysis spurred working with patients to improve balance and regain muscle strength. The benefit of warm water was helpful as well as buoyancy – water supports body weight and reduces stress on the joints.
The practice – active polio therapy – helped grow a population of physical therapy (PT) specialists who became instrumental in treating polio paralysis.
These early PTs developed methods for assessing and strengthening muscles – methods still used today.
This piece of history gave the push to establishing the profession of physical therapy in the U.S.
Turning now to the topic of occupational therapy (OT), its history doesn't stretch back as far as those of physical therapy.
But its roots in America began to grown in the late 1800s. This happened primarily as a way to help individuals with mental illness by engaging them in meaningful tasks. Examples include gardening, painting and arts and crafts creation.
The U.S. military also began recognizing the importance of mental health services for wounded and traumatized soldiers to help them resume daily living.
This marked an entry for OT services in the treatment of individuals with mental and physical needs.
Three movements of thought were significant in the development of OT:
- The consensus that mental health patients should be treated and not put in asylums or prisons.
- The reemergence of the value of manual occupation and vocational skills over mass production.
- The rise of thought that working with your hands to produce items of value can be beneficial to a person’s overall health.
During this time, mental health asylums changed to reflect these new ideas. They were ideas of humane rehabilitation and included craft and recreational activities to help patients return to society through their contributions.
These ideas were foundational for developing OT.
About 1915, a social worker named Eleanor Clark Slagle started the first formal OT education program at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Dubbed the "mother of occupational therapy" she trained more than 4,000 therapists and promoted OT within the medical community.
While PT and OT therapies were in their infancy on the two sides of the Atlantic, it was America's entry into the Great War in 1917 where they came together.
To summarize some of the above timeframes, it's worth a look at how it happened.
World War I and its transformation of therapy
World War I transformed medicine and contributed to the development of today's scope of medical care.
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million.. and about 23 million wounded military personnel.
With the staggering number of wounded worldwide, orthopedics and therapists rapidly advanced to meet the need.
The course of thought was that society had a moral responsibility to help these soldiers return to a normal and purposeful life. Thus, medical specialties developed to fill this need.
The U.S. military hired a small group of women, calling them "reconstruction aides." In their roles they provided treatment by teaching occupation skills to the wounded.
The initial 18 aides were trained in the latest European physiotherapy practices at the time. Aides were chosen from civilian women and women from the newly established profession of OT.
Both therapy groups expanded rapidly to help the soldiers with recovery.
Of the original 18 Aides, 16 went on to form the American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association. This later became the American Physical Therapy Association with McMillan as president.
– The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.
Soldiers recovering from severe wounds learn basket weaving as a form of occupational therapy, led by the World War Reconstruction Aides Assocation. Learning basket weaving (Reeve 000290), National Museum of Health and Medicine.
The work of these aides brought the military to begin seeing disability in terms of capability in function, and not as limitation.
Their successes were many, helping wounded soldiers learn to walk again and freely move about in their environments.
These early therapists gave training in the use of arm prosthetics, adapted home and work spaces and taught crafts and vocational skills for mental diversion and future employment.
The convergence of today's therapies and practitioners
After WWI, occupational and physical therapy continued to advance.
And with their evolutions came recognition for the benefits they each provided.
But sometimes there was division in which to prescribe: occupational therapy vs physical therapy.
What became clear over time, with advances in the professions, is the benefit to individuals when providing therapies in tandem.
Today's occupational and physical therapists work together in the shared goal of improving an individual’s function through movement.
As individual medical treatments, the therapies, when used together, can have profound results.
Because of this they are recognized as separate but symbiotic professions.
Working in a variety of settings
- Outpatient rehabilitation centers
- Home health agencies
- Nursing homes
Training in key disciplines
Using similar therapy techniques
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Functional activities
- Pain relief
Opposites attract, even in medicine
Even with similarities between the two professions, there are also key differences.
Physical therapy focuses on improving movement, flexibility and mobility. This includes improving physical motion required for a task.
Physical therapy has a unique approach to mobility – movement and muscle balance. It uses prescribed treatment techniques to maximize function, capacity and performance.
PTs work with patients before and after surgery to build strength and kick-start healing. Therapy uses movement to reduce pain, recover from an injury and promote balance to reduce the risk of falls.
The occupational therapy profession has a different focus.
That focus is on functional ability – the ability of an individual to do activities, work and tasks that are normally performed in everyday living and occupation.
That focus gives occupational therapy its name.
Occupation is defined as an activity that is meaningful and purposeful to the individual. It can include basic activities such as dressing, bathing or fixing a meal.
It can also include specific activities which are unique to the individual.
For example, you may be a high school teacher, home gardener, pianist or an electrician. Each occupation requires a unique set of activities. If those activities are compromised by illness or injury, OTs can help.
Your therapist will assess your current function and how to improve your ability to perform a task or modify it to help you complete it.
Now that you know more about the differences between OT and PT, should you need therapy you'll be able to spot the differences in what your therapist recommends.
Of course, it all depends on your condition, your needs, and personal goals.
But thanks to a long history of the disciplines, and more than a century of experience since WWI, PTs and OTs are specialists in your care.
Our job is to help get you back to enjoying the activities that matter to you.
If you or someone in your family might benefit from our therapies, request an appointment with us. We're here to help.
Sports medicine’s health care specialists on and off the field
You’ve seen them hustling across the football field or crouching beside a player on the sideline whose face is twisted in pain.
They don’t wear the black and white stripes of the referee, but their breed is just as easy to spot. And their presence on the field can be just as critical as a game-changing field goal, free throw or hat trick.
Enter the athletic trainer, or AT.
Often sporting khaki pants, a fanny pack and a polo or sports shirt in team colors, ATs are recognizable in how they look and, more importantly, for what they do.
But if in your mind’s eye you picture an NFL or NBA game, it might surprise you to know the diverse places where ATs work.
With March being National Athletic Training Month, we want to recognize ATs as vital practitioners of health care. This year, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is celebrating the theme “Providing Health Care Everywhere.”
The theme broadly promotes ATs whose profession centers on injury prevention, treatment and ongoing wellness management. And while most often associated with sports, ATs work as health care professionals in many settings beyond the playing field.
Beyond just athletics
There’s high regard for the public work that athletic trainers do in helping individuals avoid injury and recover from injury.
Not surprising, then, are the national standards that trainers are held to.
ATs must graduate with a bachelors or master’s degree and pass the Board of Certification Exam (BOC) to work with professional athletes. There’s also regular renewals on that certification to demonstrate continued learning and competence.
All this is to ensure that athletes are healthy and performing at their peak potential.
But think about the word “athlete.” You may think of athletics in a traditional sense – youth and high school programs to college and professional divisions – on the playing field, ice rink, basketball court, you name it.
But ATs do their work in many job settings and treat a range of individuals beyond those traditional venues, such as:
- Doctors’ offices
- Hospitals and emergency rooms
- Urgent Care centers
- Rehabilitation clinics
Outside of clinical settings, there are emerging job settings where ATs are finding new opportunities in public safety, military schools and the armed forces, performing arts and aeronautics. These industries employ individuals who need certain levels of athletic fitness to do their jobs.
Add to those, various commercial settings like airlines, warehouses, hotel/resort and theme parks, and an athletic trainer’s scope of practice broadens even more.
For each of these sectors ATs are required to have specific training to provide medical care based on the unique activities, physical demands and requirements of the patients they treat.
No matter the type of athlete or athletic patient or the job environment, ATs work as an extension of and overall medical team.
Let’s break it down by key areas of an athletic trainer’s role.
Injuries are a part of life.
But if you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, or you have a very active or physical job, you likely have more instances of injury than someone who’s not as active.
If you’ve been sidelined from work, missed out hanging with friends or playing your sport because of injury – or a repeated injury – there’s good news.
Working with an AT now can help avoid injury later. Put another way, you don’t have to wait until you’re injured to address the issue.
Your AT can identify any weaknesses or conditions that may be leading to your injuries and plan preventive measures to correct them.
Called prehab, preventive tactics are designed to decrease your risk of future injury.
- Functional movement screen. Done by an athletic trainer to identify dysfunctional or painful movement patterns. Exercises are prescribed to correct movement and any imbalances you may have acquired in compensating for pain. Exercises can be done on their own or as part of your warm-up before activity. For example, a proper warm-up using dynamic stretching can help increase blood flow to loosen your muscles prior to your activity, whether it’s working out or warming up before performing a concert or dance routine.
- Recovery planning. Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep are all needed to keep the body in the right state for exercise. But it takes planning and adaptation to adopt the right approach for your body and your activity level. Your AT can advise on the right balance for your wellness. This advanced planning helps produce optimal performance through brain to body communication. So get good sleep, stay nourished and hydrated and warm-up!
Post-injury. Return to play. Return to work.
The moment has finally come.
You sustained an injury (ouch!).
You completed the recovery process (hooray!)
What comes next?
The next stage in post-injury progression is your return – return to play (RTP) or return to work.
This happens after your medical care provider is satisfied with your progress and clears you to get back to sports and physical activities. Working with an athletic trainer is essential in getting to this stage.
Your AT has done functional tests and collected performance stats to gauge your readiness for activity, at what level and at what pace.
For athletes, and depending on the injury, tests can include sprints, cutting drills and jumps for lower body injuries, or lifting movements such as throwing and push-pulling for upper body injuries.
ATs use the stats to pinpoint any deficits remaining post-injury recovery, like limping or weakness, which could hinder you from safely retuning to play.
If testing is clear of any concerns, you’ll get the green light to return to full activity.
If there are areas of concerns, your trainer may plan additional exercises, or modify your activity level to help you improve on the deficits and continue toward full clearance.
Return to play is unique to each athlete and injury. The goal of functional testing and injury recovery is to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the playing field when returning from an injury.
Onsite emergency care
Although it’s not something we like to think about, medical emergencies can happen at any moment, in any environment.
Athletic trainers are skilled medical providers who are trained in first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator use (AED) in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.
With their advanced medical education, ATs are prepared to handle emergency situations that may arise, especially on the playing field.
Whether its keeping up-to-date with the most current first aid and CPR standards, revising emergency action plans or drilling emergency situations with members of the sports medicine team, athletic trainers are usually first responders and initiate emergency medical care when injuries happen.
There’s a tactical side to AT work, too – critical need-to-knows in the face of emergency:
- Emergency phone numbers
- Ambulance access points at venues
- The integrity and working condition of onsite emergency equipment
Partner to parents, coaches and clinical team
If you’re an athlete, a parent, relative or friend of one, you may have crossed paths with a sports medicine team member at some point.
This team is a group of trained individuals who care for an athlete’s health in variety of ways.
At the center of this team is the athletic trainer.
The athletic trainer is generally the first on the scene and tends to the immediate and long-term needs of the athlete – injury evaluation through treatment and rehabilitation. But they also rely on the support of other experts.
Surrounding the athletic trainer are other talented individuals, often including:
- physical/occupational therapist
- strength and conditioning coach
- massage therapist
- sports psychologist, among others.
The athletic trainer coordinates care between each of these individuals. They also handle all communication with coaches and family members to keep everyone in the loop with the care of the athlete. This open communication is key to managing medical care and the expectations surrounding care.
Around the world, ATs are looked to as trusted professionals playing a crucial part in health management and health care.
Multi-skilled and holding advanced certification to help athletes, performers and patients across many job settings, athletic trainers truly do provide health care everywhere.
By: Joshua Cramer, DAT, LAT, ATC, CSCS, CES, area sports medicine director for southeastern PA, and Katie Olenek, M.S., LAT, ATC, PES, area director of sports medicine for central PA.
How to stay in play and on the court
What is pickleball? And why are people raving about it?
Pickleball is an improvisation of badminton and ping-pong. The game is played on a court using a softball-sized, hard-plastic ball with holes – like a wiffle ball – and paddles similar to table-tennis paddles.
Conceived in 1965 as a game that families could play together, pickleball grew in popularity. By 1972, a corporation was founded for the sport.
While there is debate around the origin of its name, there is none about how fun, fast, competitive and entertaining the game is.
With a smaller court size than its cousin sport of tennis, it’s an ideal way to stay active and fit for just about anyone.
And pickleball has taken the country by storm.
The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in Washington State. And while not what’s called an overnight sensation, the explosive growth of the game in the years since has led to pickleball courts popping up everywhere, and the formation of amateur and professional leagues.
There’s even a professional pickleball tour.
When injury puts you in a pickle
With the rise in popularity of pickleball, physical therapists throughout the country are seeing an increase in injuries that are similar to those found in other racquet sports.
New pickleball players sustain approximately 50% of injuries during their first year of play.
The most common pickleball injuries include:
- Pickleball elbow
- Ankle sprains
- Knee sprains
- Shoulder sprains
- Achilles tendonitis
- Wrist fractures
- Concussions from falls
In the case of older players, many are predisposed to injury, often due to prior injury, limited flexibility and range of motion and deterioration of balance, or have recurrent injuries.
So if you are looking to start playing the game … or stay in the game … keep these prevention tips in mind to reduce your risk and avoid injury:
Warm up Pickleball is a fast-paced game, and the excitement starts right away. So it's important that you warm up before you get on the court. Try a light 5-minute jog, a slow walk with high knees or some side shuffles to loosen up.
Stretch As part of your warm-up, make sure to stretch. Shoulder stretches, calf stretches, hamstring/quad stretches and wrist and neck stretches are all important to incorporate into your routine.
Choose proper footwear Pickleball requires moving side to side and back and forth. Choose a good fitting athletic shoe for this type of movement.
Pivot Similar to tennis and other racquet sports, you will be executing groundstrokes, volleys and serves. Remember to pivot your hips and shoulders as you face the approaching ball.
If you are injured, stop playing!
Don’t try to tough it out, especially if it is a head injury.
Contact a physical therapist to help you heal and recover before you return to play.
Pickleball is as fun as it sounds, and you’ll want to play for years to come.
If you’re in a pickle with pain or injury of any sort, click now to request an appointment to find one of our centers near you.
By: Deborah Santiago, P.T., DPT. Deborah is a physical therapist and center manager at NovaCare Rehabilitation in New Jersey. NovaCare and Saco Bay Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Select Medical is proud to be the official physical therapy partner of the PPA Tour.
If you clicked to read this, it’s likely because you or someone you know has long COVID. Or maybe you’re now hearing people talk about long-lasting symptoms of COVID-19.
With research now being published, millions of people having a COVID diagnosis will experience “long” COVID – post-COVID syndrome or long-haul COVID, earning some who experience it the nickname of “long hauler.”
Putting aside that bit of levity, long COVID is no joke.
So if you are struggling to read this because you’re dealing with “COVID brain fog,” you may be thinking, How did I get so unlucky?
It’s a fair question to ask.
But in reality, long COVID is more common than most think.
According to Penn State College of Medicine researchers, more than half of the 236 million people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide since December 2019 will experience post-COVID symptoms.
Months after recovering from COVID-19, millions of people are still suffering one or more debilitating symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Dizziness and more
If you or a loved one is suffering, don’t give up. There is hope and help.
Physical therapy is medicine for long COVID
Professional physical therapists, like me, understand what you are going through. Indeed, if you have long COVID, physical therapy can help.
Yes, physical therapy.
As physical therapists, we are specialists who are trained in identifying the clinical symptoms and effects of long COVID. For example, the profound fatigue you’re feeling? Reminiscent of chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s a post-acute leftover of the viral COVID infection, and we can help.
That joint pain? We’re trained also to understand musculoskeletal conditions that can be causing your pain. We can assess the pain and determine the appropriate treatment for it.
I work in an outpatient physical therapy center and help treat patients with long COVID. Our parent company Select Medical collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an important clinical study regarding the long-term impact of COVID-19.
The study validates our Recovery and Reconditioning program which focuses on specific deficits in patients recovering from COVID-19 and other debilitating illnesses and conditions.
Our Recovery and Reconditioning program helps, specifically, with:
- Labored breathing
- Joint and muscle pain
Our program was developed in partnership with leading physicians, infectious disease specialists, physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists to help those impacted to heal, gain strength and return to an active, full lifestyle.
We hear all the time that people suffering with long COVID don’t feel heard. Feel misunderstood. Feel like giving up.
If that sounds like you, then trust me, we understand.
We are proud to offer the Recovery and Reconditioning program to you, your loved ones and/or friends – anyone who may be dealing with lingering effects of having COVID-19.
Together, we will address your specific post-COVID symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan for your road to recovery. During care, you will learn ways to pace yourself throughout the day and move your body so that you don’t tire so quickly.
As part of your treatment, we will track your vital signs and symptoms to ensure your safety and progress. We will be there every step of the way back to a healthier you.
You deserve a medical professional who understands you. If you’re tired of feeling alone in your recovery from long COVID, let a physical therapist help.
Schedule a consultation with a physical therapist trained in treating long COVID. Click the blue Contact Us button below to request an appointment at a center near you today.
By: Corey Malone, P.T., DPT, OCS. Corey is physical therapist, center director and Recovery and Reconditioning program champion with KORT in Kentucky.
KORT and Saco Bay Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.