How PTAs Help Olympic Athletes

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Rio 2016 is underway, and we’re in the throes of Olympic fever! Over the next 2-3 weeks, billions of people worldwide will watch in awe the “World’s Fastest Man,” Jamaican Usain Bolt, the “Most Decorated Olympian in History,” swimmer Michael Phelps and up-and-coming superstars like gymnast Simone Biles compete and show mastery in their respective specialties.

What most don’t realize is that, for these star athletes to compete at the highest levels, they must go the extra mile in maintaining their bodies’ fitness. In many instances, that’s where Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants, like those we train and educate at Concorde, come in.

“I think that physical therapy clinicians are the accessory to human motion and performance,” said Jonathan Henderson, PT, DPT, C/NDT, Physical Therapist Assistant Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Memphis, Tenn. “Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants study the human body, human performance and human function; it’s our job to assess and evaluate these things.

“We are the experts when it comes to human function.”

Helping prepare athletes for the big stage

Henderson points to Bolt, the world record-holder in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes on the track, as a prime example of the importance of physical therapy.

Bolt withdrew from the Jamaican Olympic Trials last month because of a small tear in one of his hamstrings. However, a provision in Jamaican Olympic Committee rules allowed for Bolt to still be selected to the Olympic team if he could show fitness by late July.

Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants went to work applying treatments such as electro stimulation, ice and heat and massage to get Bolt ready to defend his Olympic titles.

Physical Therapist Assistants help other athletes as well

U.S. sprint star Allyson Felix, the defending Olympic champion at 200 meters, suffered torn ankle ligaments during a training mishap earlier this year and missed significant training leading up to the Olympic Trials in early July. As part of her physical therapy, she worked in a pool and on an exercise bike, and when she returned to the track, she ran counter-clockwise to relieve the stress on her bad ankle. She ended up making the team at 400 meters.

Volleyball multi-gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings underwent her fifth shoulder surgery less than six months ago and has been physical therapy since. She has said that, going into Rio, the shoulder was 100 percent, with full range of motion.

“Athletes, especially superior-performing athletes like the ones on our Olympic teams, have to compete and perform at a high level in order to be the best at their sport,” Henderson said. “When they get injured and need rehabilitation, physical therapy is there to help them achieve that optimal function of superiority in their sport so they can be the best they can be. Everyone knows that injuries are likely to occur, and when they do, athletes and coaches seek out the help of physicians and therapists to rehabilitate the athlete back to superior function and performance.”

Creating the next generation of Physical Therapist Assistants at Concorde

The associate’s degree Physical Therapist Assistant program at Concorde trains students in therapeutic treatments that can decrease pain and discomfort, as well as renew physical strength and endurance in not only Olympic-caliber athletes, but in everyone in need of relief from pain and limited motion. In as few as 20 months, through real-world experiences and hands-on training, you can be fully prepared to enhance the lives of your patients and those in your community.

And, you just might get to provide treatment to the next Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or Simone Biles.

“I’m glad that I can play a role at Concorde in the education, training and skills needed for our future Physical Therapist Assistants who may be that person to help ensure that the athletes be the best they can be and win Olympic gold,” Henderson said.

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