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  • Writer's pictureDan Waterman

“What to look for when choosing a Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer for your rehabilitation”

Experiencing an injury, whether through sports participation or everyday life activities, definitely puts a wrench in your plans. In fact, most people immediately begin thinking about what they will not be able to accomplish in the coming day, week or months. How will I work? How will I walk the dogs? How will I get the kids to their activities? The list is infinite. Injury is unpleasant and not just in its physical manifestation, but its mental and emotional strain as well. The thought of weeks or even months of rehabilitation in physical therapy or an athletic training environment goes against our “FIX THIS NOW” mindset - but if you have incurred an injury, whether you have had to undergo surgical intervention or not, appropriate rehabilitation is exactly what can support you in returning to your regularly scheduled life or sporting activities not only sooner, but coming out better on the other side. But can you choose just any physical therapist or athletic trainer? You can… Are all physical therapy clinics and athletic training facilities created equal?

You will undoubtedly be seeing your physical therapist or athletic trainer on a weekly basis potentially for a month or more. This being said, it will be of most benefit to find a provider with whom you can speak and communicate comfortably with. You will want to find a physical therapist or athletic trainer that listens to you and understands not only the injury itself (that’s the easy part) but what your goals are, what your hobbies and interests are, the stress and impact of the injury on your day to day life and will support you in the rehabilitation journey as it makes sense to you. Certainly there are specific protocols and guidelines that every physical therapist or athletic trainer refers to when designing a specific plan of care for a specific diagnosis, but not every patient fits neatly into those guidelines and YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS, AGE OR IMAGING!

There are other boxes to check off when looking for a physical therapist or athletic trainer to provide your injury rehabilitation. Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers will need to have a degree from a nationally accredited and recognized physical therapy or athletic training program and have successfully completed their national licensure exam. Some rehabilitative providers hold specializations in sports medicine, manual therapies or have an abundance of experience in a particular joint (i.e. shoulder/knee/ankle) or rehabilitation pertaining to a specific surgical procedure (i.e. rotator cuff repair, total knee replacement). You may choose to find a physical therapist or athletic trainer who has a specialty that pertains to your needs or the sport that you play. Also, know your state laws surrounding direct access. Many states, but not all, have ‘direct access’ to physical therapists meaning you may seek care without a referral from a physician. Your insurance company may have other requirements or restrictions however.

It is always important to know that as the patient, you have full autonomy over who you choose to be your provider of physical rehabilitation services. Your physician may have guidance for you but the final decision is yours to make! To learn more about Physical Therapy go to If you are interested in learning about Athletic Training services, go to .

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