Why I Chose to Pursue a Sports Residency Following Physical Therapy School

Why I Chose to Pursue a Sports Residency Following Physical Therapy School

             Since my first exposure to physical therapy, I have always been interested in an active population and I’ve been eager to learn how I can provide the highest quality of care no matter what stage I am at in my physical therapy (PT) journey. In 2018, I had the opportunity to work as a physical therapy technician (tech) in a PT clinic following my undergraduate degree. I never knew how much the 3 years before PT school would impact me in the future. I had the privilege to watch and learn from multiple Sports Residents and Board-Certified Sports Clinical Specialists. I was able to see the most invested side of PT there was and how much more there was to learn after PT school.

             In PT school, I also had the privilege of learning from multiple Board Certified Specialists and saw how much time they invested in their education for the betterment of their patient's outcomes. When it came time to decide where I wanted to go for my clinical rotations in PT school, there were only a handful of places that came to mind. All of them had a PT with a Board Certification in Sports PT. During both of my long-term clinical rotations, I spent 16 weeks and 12 weeks learning about the specificity of treatments and how to apply current research to sports populations. These two clinics I had internships with would later be the two clinics providing me with the best opportunity to pursue a Sports Clinical Specialty (SCS). I am currently one of three residents in the P4/Physiolete Sports Residency Program.

             I chose to pursue a “Sports Residency” because I have a desire to be able to provide a different level of care for my patients other than that of a physical therapist straight out of PT school. I also wanted the opportunity to learn more advanced clinical skills and progress my knowledge about the human body as it relates to sports and orthopedics. When I was discussing the dream of pursuing a Sports Residency with people in my physical therapy class or even friends and family the common response was “Why would you want to do more school work after completing PT school?” The residency aspect is not an easy path considering you are accepting another year of didactic coursework after just completing 4 years of undergraduate work and 3 years of PT school. My answer to friends and family was normally centered around the fact that I wanted to have the opportunity to develop good habits as a clinician, grow my clinical skills, and become a great PT who can treat all different types of patients quickly and effectively to get them back to the sport, activity, or hobby they love.

             I am now at the halfway point in the journey to becoming a Sports Clinical Specialist. I have had the privilege to treat and apply the knowledge I have gained from my mentors and fellow residents to a wide range of populations. One goal I have been working on during residency is going beyond the contributing factors and truly seeing the source of the patient’s condition and applying evidence-based care to all ages and activity levels. The residency has allowed me the ability to think outside of the box with my treatments. For example, treating a post-op ACL the day after surgery doesn’t have to be cookie cutter and returning athletes to their specific sport does require intense clinical reasoning and understanding of evidence-based treatments, functional testing, and clinical expertise. The practical “athlete” progressions are only half the importance of the Sports Residency. The knowledge I have gained during residency, clinically and through didactic work, has enabled me to think beyond “full strength, full range of motion” when returning athletes of all ages back to sport. This residency has also allowed me to think about each person individually and give them the tools to further progress themselves when they graduate from PT. 

             The life of a resident is difficult because not only does it involve hours inside the clinic, but there are also requirements outside of the clinic. From observing physicians and surgeons to providing Friday Night Football coverage with Athletic Trainers, the additional hours have added so much more to my experience than just being in the clinic. What feels like endless hours of didactic coursework online and intense mentoring sessions during module weekends have challenged me to go the extra mile with every patient and ask myself “How can I do more?” The ultimate goal for me in this residency is to be able to learn from my mentors, learn more didactically, provide excellent quality on-field coverage and clinical care, and overall grow as a clinician. I have often heard that what we gain in residency could take 5 or more years to learn on our own. I want to be able to apply everything I have learned to all populations and to help the people I work with achieve their highest goals!