Monday Memo 6/25/18

The Monday Memo

June 25, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Understand Your Athletes


Recently, I have had an increasing interest in adaptive sports. Fortunately, through the Physical Therapy department at the University of Pittsburgh, I have had the opportunity to get involved in a new and developing program working with the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, a local wheelchair basketball team. An exciting part about working with these athletes is that we are able to work at high intensities while using typical, or more often, fun and creative exercises. Today I am going to discuss some major areas that we focus on training for a sport such as this. Also, as we begin to grow this program, we are lucky enough to have students such as the President of the class of 2019, Charlie Badawy, who has worked with the Mighty Penguins training program, along with many of our students, to offer us guiding resources. An example of our major training focuses come from these sources and are briefly discussed below.


  1. Trunk
    1. Mobility – Having proper trunk range of motion, in single and multiplanar movements, is vital for performance and injury prevention. Certain motions may be limited due to the nature of the sport, so it is important to screen athletes for deficits or hypermobility and address these issues in your training.
    2. Stability – Creating a solid base is important in everyday activities, but even more so in high-intensity athletic situations. Core stability is a major factor in the change of direction, athletic movements, and fundamental skills of wheelchair basketball, and can be trained for control, strength, and endurance.


  1. Upper Extremity
    1. Range of Motion – Proper upper extremity range of motion, especially scapulothoracic and glenohumeral range of motion, is necessary for decreasing the risk of traumatic and overuse injuries.
    2. Endurance – The literature has shown that rotator cuff injuries are prevalent in wheelchair basketball and other adaptive sports that have a large amount of upper extremity involvement. We try to address this by including endurance rotator cuff exercises that use small loads but aim to utilize high rep ranges or even reps for an extended period of time.


Understanding your athletes and the demands or their sport will help in guiding your training. Based on physical therapy principles, a lot of our training is not only designed to increase performance but also decrease the risk of injury. We try to address the most common injuries, whether from muscle imbalance, overuse, etc. and incorporate exercises to work on these issues every session.


-Jim Tersak, SPT, CSCS

June 25, 2018 |

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