SHEREE DIBIASE, PT: Pre-sport physical therapy screening

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This last week in New Orleans at our annual combined section meetings for physical therapy, there were more than 17,000 PTs, PTAs and students. They had one main goal: to learn the latest research so they could go home and make the lives of the people in their communities better by elevating their level of physical fitness.

I was lucky to meet and interact with some brilliant young minds in our profession on this trip. One in particular has a passion for people in the theatrical art world, and she asked me to sit down with her to be interviewed for her podcast. She wanted to know if I thought that our physical therapy pre-screening had helped our dance troupe when we were involved with the Coeur d'Alene Ballet as their physical therapists a few years ago.

As I reflected on her questions regarding our methodology and resulting care of the CDA Ballet troupe over the year, I realized that it takes a team of medical providers to make sure young athletes become successful throughout their lifespan, regardless of whether they stay in their particular sport or not.

Young athletes need guidance and direction. They need to learn how their body moves and works and then they need to learn to listen to it when it is not working well and seek medical intervention early on. They need to understand good nutritional habits and develop clear “mind words” to have the mental focus and endurance for their sport. Their body is the only vehicle to get them where they need to go, so taking care of it is a life skill that is powerful.

Our physical therapy pre-screening work is done prior to an athletic season. They fill out a general intake medical history form and any issues that might be a problem are flagged. We then baseline their aerobic capacity, flexibility and strength for their sport requirements. Their aerobic capacity is tested with a simple step test or treadmill test to see their heart rate at rest, pre and post test, and then two minutes after the test is finished.

The screen for their flexibility and strength is done using specific dynamic motions that they utilize in their sport. In the dance screen, things like a single leg standing maneuver, plié or a demi plié may be part of the exam. In our girls volleyball population it may be to watch how they land on their feet after a jump or serve. We may look at their trunk rotation motion as it is key for hitting power.

These screenings can be set up in our office individually or on-site with the team. We often take videos of the athlete so we can break down motion patterns and develop drills and training to reestablish good neuromuscular training techniques to reduce injuries.

Our goal is to have involvement with our medical doctors as well, so if there is an injury we can have access to the doctor quickly and early on in their care. We don't want our higher level athletes having to wait weeks to see a physician. We then already have the athlete in our system, so we can see them quickly and intervene early in their injury to promote healing.

Physical therapists are movement specialists. They are who you need to work with to elevate performance and prevent injury, and the pre-sport screening helps with that. Our young athletes and older athletes are the same, both need to be screened to insure peak function for sports and daily activities. I recently had a paddle ball player who needed more core strength to elevate her game and preload her system before play. She was already fit, she just needed to understand how to train her brain to be in charge of her body while she played. She did great and is on her way to a better game.

Never give up on your health. You have what it takes to have a healthier lifestyle.

• • •

Sheree DiBiase, PT, is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy. She and her staff can help your athletes excel at their peak performance. Call us in Coeur d'Alene at 208-667-1988, in Hayden at 208-762-2100 and in Spokane Valley at 509-891-2623.

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