When you call the orthopedic surgeon’s office with a particular injury, you expect their front office to give you an appointment with the physician that specializes in the area you need examined.
This doesn’t happen as much with physical therapy. There are more “generalists.” There is more pressure to fill everyone’s schedule than there is to select by specialty as some areas will inherently have more volume.
But, as the customer and consumer, you absolutely should ask for the specialist in your area when you call. Or when you Google. Or when you check with APTA. You can search by specialty area with the APTA by the way. In our case, find a PT that spends all day working with athletes.
The other pit fall is that sports medicine has good connotations and good cache. Many providers want to market and advertise that they work with athletes or the local sports teams. These kinds of statements are “sexy.” Many see very few athletes however and don’t have enough experience in high level, return to play treatments and decisions.
All physical therapists know anatomy, evaluation skills, treatment techniques, and will work hard for you. Athletes have special needs however. They need fast service, movement specific evaluation, high level treatment, and return to play sports specific movements. I have spent time in sports classes, sports meetings, on the field coverage, and with many different sports so I can understand the unique requirements of athletes and the skill of return to play. I am still learning and each person is different. An athlete in rehab will run, jump, cut, and explode in my clinic because that is what they will need for full recovery and prior level of function.
Make sure you find a therapist that sees a lot of athletes. Athletes don’t need 2 sets of 10 with 3 pounds for bicep curls. They full restoration of strength and motion with no pain followed by reintroduction of complex movements in an attempt to replicate sport demands and forces. A sports physical therapist can also help manage the return to drills, practice, contact, scrimmage, and play as each has increased intensity.
Call me, it will be a good choice – you will sweat here!!!!
Kash Eagleton, DPT, SCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Sports Physical Therapy Specialist