This summer, the majority of Pittsburgh was closely following the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The cheering could be heard throughout the city the night that they clinched the title. It is without a doubt that the Penguins could not have done it without the help of countless volunteers and fans. This fall, I discovered another Pittsburgh hockey team that was looking to seal some wins in their upcoming season as well.
The Mighty Penguins are a sled hockey team that is based at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Center. The organization serves as a competitive and therapeutic outlet for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. Once a week throughout the fall semester, the DPT students at The University of Pittsburgh conducted a strength and conditioning program for the Mighty Penguins athletes. Because of the unique demands of their sport, we focused our program on upper body strength and core control. The benefits of this program extended beyond just physical conditioning. At the end of each session, everyone was a little more tired and a lot more motivated. The feeling of gratitude that we as students felt cannot be put into words.
This season is an especially good time to reach out and see what can be done in your community. In my experience of helping the Mighty Penguins prepare for their season, I was able to share in the excitement of helping a Pittsburgh team achieve their goals while also giving back to the community. No matter what your skill set is, there are countless ways to give back to the community. When you find something that allows you to use your expertise while helping others, the effect can be tremendous.
If you are in the Pittsburgh area, be sure to catch a Mighty Penguins game this year!
Earlier this semester, a week or so after our PT pledge ceremony, our class attended an Interprofessional Health Forum. After attending, I reflected on the oath we took as we entered the physical therapy profession, and how we can most effectively collaborate with other health professionals to provide optimal patient care. As an athletic trainer myself, I see many similarities between the two professions, and also many differences. However, the differences are not a bad thing. I believe that if we acknowledge these differences and focus on collaborative treatment for the patient, the value of a professional relationship between AT’s and PT’s is priceless.
First, let’s take a step back and look at what the AT’s role in healthcare is. There are five domains of athletic training:
Injury/Illness Prevention and Wellness Protection
Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis
Immediate and Emergency Care
Treatment and Rehabilitation
Organizational and Professional Health and Well-being
Regardless of the setting or level of competition in which an athletic trainer works, they must take on many roles, many of them similar to ours as future physical therapists. Coupled with the rigors of an athletics schedule, hordes of athletes needing care, and almost no days off, the athletic trainer must efficiently manage their time and resources. Though athletic trainers are effective rehab clinicians, time may be limited to ensure every athlete completes their rehab, which is where a good relationship with a physical therapist may be beneficial. PT’s can devote their full attention to rehabilitation and prevention of future injury.
In physical therapy, we too face issues of time management and prioritizing care. It may be difficult to treat all the necessary body systems and impairments in a one hour session, especially if the sessions must be spread out over a longer period of time. The ability to emphasize functional and sport-specific training may be limited by the number of visits a patient’s insurance will cover. Talk to your patient about their athletic trainer. Reach out to the AT to find ways in which they can supplement your PT sessions, and ensure that the patient is completing their exercises with appropriate frequency and technique. In addition, many athletic trainers have access to better equipment and space than what is available in some PT gyms, thus allowing them to focus on functional and sport-specific training to ensure appropriate return to sport. AT’s see their athletes almost daily, and are able to closely monitor their physical and mental well-being. This advantage can be extended to the physical therapist who forms a good relationship with athletic trainers. In short, both professions have strengths and weaknesses; by forming a collaborative effort, the weaknesses become significantly diminished. The athlete’s safe return to sport can be greatly expedited while ensuring the best outcomes.
Patient education is an important part of physical therapy, and some may even argue that it is the most important aspect that physical therapists are responsible for. The power of educating a patient about their diagnosis, impairments, etc. carries beyond the clinic and is a main component to achieving success in the long term. A simple way to educate a patient is through an informational video. Here is a patient education video that I created about patellar tendinopathy. The goal of this video is to help the patient get a basic understanding of what is causing their problem, how it may have occurred, and what they can possibly expect during their time in the physical therapy clinic. Having a base of go to videos can be useful and if used properly can be an effective tool for any physical therapist.