Monday Memo

The Monday Memo

April 30, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS


Maysoon Zayid’s “I got 99 problems… palsy is just one.”


To the Class of 2020, congratulations on completing another semester of PT school. Rest up, because we’ve earned it. After two wonderful weeks of break, we will be embarking on the educational journey that is pediatrics, so I wanted to introduce a famous disability advocate who is diagnosed with one of the most common pediatric movement disorders.


“My name is Maysoon Zayid and I am not drunk, but the doctor who delivered me was. He cut my mom six different times in six different directions. As a result, I have Cerebral Palsy which means I shake all the time… It’s exhausting. I’m like Shakira Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.”


Maysoon Zayid is an Arab-American comedian diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Her parents couldn’t afford physical therapy, so they sent her to dance school. She went to Arizona State University for acting and after graduation, earned a role in Adam Sandler’s movie Don’t Mess with the Zohan. She tap-danced on Broadway and is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. She also founded Maysoon’s Kids which supports disabled and orphaned Palestinian refugee children. Most importantly, she has a cat named Beyoncé so that she can say she lives with Beyoncé. You can view a 15-minute clip of her Ted Talk that has had over 48 million views here (which I highly recommend because it’s hilarious):


“My father taught me how to walk when I was five years old by placing my heels on his feet and just walking. Another tactic that he would use is he would dangle a dollar bill in front of me and have me chase it”


Cerebral Palsy is a non-progressive motor dysfunction caused by abnormal brain development. The hallmark of is a limited ability to voluntarily move and maintain balance as a result of a central nervous system lesion, specifically a lack of oxygen to the brain at some point in early development. Not all children “shake” like Maysoon described. Her symptoms of dyskinesia are characteristic of damage to the basal ganglia while ataxia is associated with damage to the cerebellum. Between 70-80% of individuals with cerebral palsy experience spasticity, which is associated with damage to or developmental differences in the cerebral cortex.


Cerebral Palsy is considered when a child does not reach developmental milestones and achieve growth chart standards for their height and weight. Symptoms can vary with mild symptoms, only having difficulty with fine motor skills in grasping and manipulating items with their hands. Severe symptoms include significant muscle problems in all four limbs, epilepsy, and difficulties with vision, speech, or audition. Cerebral palsy may have a neurological diagnosis but affects the musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary systems.


“But one miracle cure we did find was yoga. I have to tell you, it’s very boring. But before yoga, I was a stand-up comedian who can’t stand up. And now, I can stand on my head! My parents reinforced this notion that I could do anything. That no dream was impossible, and my dream was to be on the daytime soap opera General Hospital!”


Pediatric physical therapy has a critical role in improving functional activities that are both fun and meaningful to the patient. As with any kid, if they don’t want to do something, they will let you know. One kiddo I’ve worked with didn’t like wearing his AFO’s so he buried them in his backyard and didn’t tell his mom. The primary goals of physical therapy are to improve balance and coordination, build strength, increase flexibility, and maximize independence. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may also be a part of the interdisciplinary team. Research shows that Hippotherapy and Aquatic Therapy are very beneficial as well ( Patients that I have helped with as an aid at Children’s hospital came to physical therapy, so they can play baseball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, sled hockey, and walk by themselves at their high school graduation.


“I’ve got 99 problems and palsy is just one. If there was an Oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m female, I’m disabled, and… I live in New Jersey.”


Maysoon uses comedy to fight for equality. Disabled people represent 20% of the population, incorporating every other diversity group. Only 2% of the images you see are disabled and 95% of that 2% are played by non-disabled actors. Her goal is to create a more positive image of disability in the media. If you’re interested in learning more, check out her website! It has her blog, up-to-date news, and some of her stand-up sketches:


Damiano, Diane L. “Activity, Activity, Activity: Rethinking Our Physical Therapy Approach to Cerebral Palsy.” Physical Therapy, vol. 86, no. 11, Nov. 2006, pp. 1534-40, doi: Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.


Zayid, Maysoon. “I got 99 Problems.Palsy is Just One.” Ted Talks, Jan. 2014, Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.


-Natalie Sorek, SPT

April 30, 2018 |

Monday Memo 4/23/18

The Monday Memo

April 23, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Finals Approaching!


It’s that time in the semester again when sleep gets sacrificed, stress skyrockets, and most students’ overall sanity is challenged. Yes, I am referring to final exams. While finals are important, your physical and mental health, are just as, if not more, important. During this time of heightened stress on your body it is important to follow a few tips to reduce the chance of overloading your system and maximize your chance at success. Below are a few things to try:


  1. SLEEP! – I know this may sound counterintuitive, but making sure you get enough sleep during finals week will ensure that you are able to work and study efficiently. Additionally, it will help with memory consolidation (remembering the information)!
  2. Exercise! – Being active during finals week is essential for optimizing blood flow to your brain during times of extended sitting and studying. I know there is not a lot of free time to workout during finals week, but even a short 15-30 minute bout of exercise can make all the difference. This could include a walk, jog, or gym session, among other things.
  3. Minimize Social Media! – This may be a tough one for most people, but reducing distractions is important for maximizing efficiency. Even if you are not able to completely log off for the week, try to set goals or time blocks before you are allowed to be distracted by your phone or social media accounts.
  4. Keep Eating! – It may be difficult to keep eating consistent nutritious meals all week because of crazy schedules and reduced free time, but it is important for increasing your energy during those long hours. Try to stick to balanced meals and avoid stress overeating to avoid a crash. It may be beneficial to do a small meal prep for the week to have some meals and snacks ready to eat when you are too drained to cook. Also, do not be afraid to treat yourself throughout the week for all of your hard work!
  5. Relax! – Now, this is not to say lounge around all day hoping the information will learn itself. However, it is important to give your brain a break, reduce the stress, and take a second to experience something outside of studying and homework. You could choose your favorite form of meditation (yoga), listening to music, going to dinner with friends, watching a sports game (Go Pens!) etc.


Hopefully these tips help you a little, but at the end of the day every student studies and prepares a little differently so stick with what makes you feel most comfortable. Make sure to support your classmates, and have confidence in yourself. Good Luck!




– Jim Tersak, SPT, CSCS

April 23, 2018 |

Monday Memo 4/16/18

The Monday Memo

April 16, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey


In honor of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and in celebration of the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 win over the Flyers last night, I wanted to take the time to highlight the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey organization in this Monday Memo.


Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey is a competitive ice hockey program for individuals of all ages with physical disabilities. This organization began in 1998 and has now grown to include four teams: youth, junior, intermediate adult, and competitive adult players. These players compete in sled hockey tournaments all over the United States.


The University of Pittsburgh Doctor of Physical Therapy Students have had the pleasure of being able to work with these Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey athletes. Throughout the year, DPT students have been volunteering their time to help run strength and conditioning sessions at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. These sessions have been growing in number, there are so many athletes willing to put in the work and train with us! These athletes work incredibly hard and create a positive fun environment for all who are involved, and I encourage everyone to sign up for a session and see what this is all about!

-,JoJo Chryst, SPT



April 16, 2018 |

Monday Memo 4/9/18

The Monday Memo

April 9, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Take A Seat 

It seems as if every day, we are warned about the potential negative effects that sitting for long durations can have on our health. Populations that endure extended amounts of sitting range from CEOs of major companies to full time students. In the physical therapy community, we know it can contribute to things such as weak core musculature, increased thoracic kyphosis, forward head posture, and much more. These impairments often lead to two of the most common referrals to physical therapy: neck and low back pain. Although it would be opportune for anyone that works a full-time job to have products such as stand up desks and stationary bicycles in replace of traditional office chairs, this is not feasible for most. Here are some simple tips in order to reduce the amount of negative impact that sitting may have on your body:


  • Take breaks! Even if it is only for 5 minutes every hour, make sure that you are getting up, stretching, walking or just grabbing a drink of water. This gives your body and mind a chance to reset.
  • Make sure you have adequate lumbar support. If you spend extended amounts of time sitting in a chair that does not have some kind of low back support, you can try folding a small towel or pillow to put behind your back in intervals throughout the day. It does not need to be there the whole day, but supporting your back for brief periods of time can help to maintain the natural curves of your spine.
  • Set up your desk so that your computer is at eye level. Spending an entire work day with your neck excessively flexed or extended puts unnecessary strains on it and may lead to neck pain over time. If safe and realistic, adjust your chair to position yourself directly in front of your computer screen.
  • Sit with both feet on the ground. This may seem simple, however, many of us adapt strange sitting posture over extended amounts of time. Sitting with legs crossed or propping one’s feet up on a desk can lead to low back and lower extremity problems.
  • Make time to exercise! After a long day in a relatively static position, we may feel tightness and soreness in numerous areas of the body. Exercise is an effective way to offset this. Taking a walk outside, practicing yoga, dancing, or lifting weights are all excellent ways to take advantage of your own movement system.


Below is a picture of a relatively healthy sitting posture. Feel free to try out as many of these suggestions as you like. Keep in mind, by no means are these a cure, but they may help you find some relief throughout your day.


-Layne Gable, SPT



April 9, 2018 |

Monday Memo 4/2/18

The Monday Memo

April 2, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Play Ball


‘Tis the season for green grass, dusty diamonds, and America’s pastime… Baseball! Unfortunately, that also means there are a lot of baseball related injuries ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to prevent as many as injuries as possible. Today we will talk about some common baseball injuries (mostly in pitchers) and some ways to reduce the risk of getting hurt this season.


Dr. Christopher Dodson, is a board-certified Sports Medicine surgeon who works with all major Philadelphia sports, and is also a consultant for the LA Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He wrote a short piece last year regarding high rate baseball injuries in pitchers, and these are the several that made the list:


  1. Muscle Strain – Shockingly, some of the most common muscle strains for pitchers that finds dozens of MLB players on the bench every year are found in their abdominal muscles, specifically the obliques. The forces needed to stabilize or rotate their bodies in such a repetitive fashion can lead to severe strains.
  2. Labral Tear – This injury is when the fibrocartilaginous ring in the glenohumeral joint becomes torn. This can lead to a feeling of “catching” in the shoulder and instability, and is one of the more common shoulder injuries in baseball players.
  3. Rotator Cuff Injury – The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor), and can become compromised with repetitive overhead motions. The nature of pitching requires this very movement and loading often leading to damage to one of these muscles, sometimes multiple muscles.
  4. Shoulder Instability – This is what Dr. Dodson, refers to as “dead arm.” Due to instability related to fatigue of the shoulder, the muscles used in throwing can become strained with overuse leading to this sensation. With more severe instability, athletes can be at higher risk for subluxation and dislocation.
  5. UCL sprain of the Elbow – If you have heard of “Tommy John,” surgery then you have witnessed this injury in an athlete. This is damaging of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) that can be due to impact, or more often overuse of the ligament during something like a throwing motion. The pain is usually on the inner side of the elbow and can result in a feeling of instability.
  6. Throwers’ Elbow – Also known as, “medial epicondylitis,” this is defined as pain in the inner side of the elbow with overuse. This can often occur in pitchers who throw too hard or with incorrect form.


UPMC Sports Medicine reports that about 288,000 baseball related injuries occur each year. It is important to take measures while playing to reduce your risk of injury and increase your performance. Some recommendations from UPMC include:

  • Warm up properly before throwing
  • Participate in a pre-season and in-season baseball strength and conditioning program
  • Avoid year-round playing to ensure proper recovery of overused muscles
  • Promote communication between athletes and their parents and coaches about playing through pain and reporting the presence of pain


Finally, here is some info from UPMC Sports Medicine for reducing risk of injury in Little League baseball pitchers:





-Jim Tersak, SPT, CSCS

April 2, 2018 |