I am long overdue for a post on here as my last few weeks between track and PT exams have been unforgiving with my schedule. I’ve learned some really cool things in PT school while on the track we experienced a great deal of success at the National Championships in NYC. For this post I will share some of both my track experiences and the new tools I’ve gained for the PT world.
Physical Therapy School
Clinical Skills: We did a lot over the past few weeks in Clinical Skills. I can now fit someone for an assistive device and show them how to use it including up/down stairs and curbs. I am also able to confidently conduct neurological, coordination, and balance exams. As we slowly move into interventions (techniques during treatments), my toolbox continues to grow. Joint mobilizations and massage were introduced, something I will use all the time in my clinic. I’ve always felt confident in my ability to do massage with my athletes, but now I have many new techniques and understand their purpose. Joint mobilization simply means when the physical therapist moves the joint in and out of different movements to gain more motion in the patient.
Therapeutic Modalities: Therapeutic ultrasound, electric stimulation, laser, ice, heat, and compression were tools that I knew about coming into physical therapy school. I’ve gained both a greater appreciation and the knowledge as when to use these techniques would be most appropriate (which stage of healing, which type of patient, what should the presentation of injury look like, what are the benefits, etc). Since this course started, I purchased both therapeutic ultrasound and electric stimulation units to practice on friends and family.
Neuroscience: The greatest gains in knowledge during this past semester have taken place in neuroscience without a doubt! In Clinical Skills is where I learned how to conduct a neurological exam but in Neuroscience is where I learned the processes and tracts that are delivered throughout the body. The most important areas that I have studied thus far in which I feel I will see patients in the future are:
- Pain/Temperature: The spinothalamic tract deals with pain and temperature. A deficit within this tract will leave a patient with the inability to differentiate these two things.
- Light Touch / Proprioception / Kinesthesia: The dorsal column tract deals with light touch, proprioception and kinesthesia. A patient who has any deficits here will be unable to distinguish touch and may have difficulty with balance/coordination.
- Upper/Lower Motor: Typically someone who suffers a stroke will present with an upper motor injury. This type of person can show very reflexive movements, increased muscle tone, and very spastic movements! Someone who suffers from a lower motor injury (a type of trauma to the outside of body or vertebral disk) could have no reflexes, muscle tone, and a loss of nerve conduction!
- Cerebellar Disorder: The cerebellum is very complex but in general, someone who has a lesion in the cerebellar will have difficulty initiating movements, walking, coordinating their movements, and possibly completing tasks that involve rapid movements!
- Brainstem: The brainstem is the area that houses the pons, midbrain, and medulla to name a few structures. Someone with a lesion in this area could have injuries affecting heart rate, breathing, sleeping, and eating!
Kinesiology: Did you know that the average person spends 10-12 hours per day in a slouched flexed position? Do you realize the effect that this has on the muscles in front of your body and the muscles in back? Kinesiology has opened my eyes as to what the vertebral column, the hips, the knees, and the ankles are doing in different types of positions.
The hips, knees and ankle in particular work together a great amount. For example, a person who is shifting their pelvis forward while tilting backwards (this can be common in those who live more sedentary lives with little activity or who suffer from kyphosis) will not only hyperextend their hip joints, but also their knee joints as they try to compensate and move their center of gravity. This will stretch out the hip flexors and knee flexors and put an incredible amount of compression/pressure on the extensors who will always be working. If the front of the hip and leg are always stretched, this will have a great effect on limiting ankle dorsiflexing (lifting your toes off the ground) and may hinder walking.
By knowing the kinesiology of the body very well I will be able to treat the cause of the problem instead of the symptoms. By this I mean, if the person in the picture above came into my clinic with ankle pain, I would take a step back and look at their posture: from the back to the hips to the knees before immediately attacking their ankle which clearly is not the issue here.
Track & Field
After coaching track and field for seven years which included county and state sectional championships, athletes gaining full scholarships, and many personal bests, this past winter was by far the most successful one I have been a part of!
At the indoor national championships, our boys 4×800 far exceeded my expectations, dropping a 7:50.21 4×800 which was good for 7th overall (they missed All-American by less than half a second!) The best part of this run was that they were not happy when it was over. A sign that there is more to come from us this outdoor!
The following day, our 4×400 ran 3:21.2 (.6 slower then we ran at the Millrose Games) in which they missed All-American also by less than half a second!)
Coaching track and being in PT school has been very tough; however after this nationals experience it reaffirmed my position on coaching while in school. As long as I can do both, I will continue to do so.
Why were we able to experience so much success this past winter versus other seasons?
There are many reasons why I thought this season was so successful and I will briefly share the biggest changes here:
- Personal Responsibility: In previous seasons, if I felt as though a system was broke, I would literally watch over the kids everyday in an effort to make sure they were doing the right thing. Not the case here. These kids wanted to be good and if I gave them a workout, it was done, and it was done well.
- Stretching: Although I have always been a fan of stretching, one of our new coaches (Coach Allen) came in with a mindset that the stretching needed to occur on a daily basis. We routinely spent 20-30 minutes per day stretching, even if it was an easy day. This was one of the reasons the kids stayed injury free!
- Aqua-Jogging: We were very consistent with having our guys in the pool once per week to not only break up the monotony of training, but to have non-impact days on the muscles, joint, ligaments, etc.
- Confidence: When an athlete buys into what you are doing and believe in the system, they will be confident in their abilities moving forward.
- Body maintenance: Whether it be massage, foam rolling, the stick, lacrosse/baseballs, our guys bought into the injury prevention side and it helped aid in both recovery and performance.
- Rest: In the 10 days leading up to Nationals, the thing I heard the most from my athletes was “That’s it”??? They were well rested and performed well because of it.
Then in no particular order: Hurdle Drills, Plyometrics, Mental Visualization, Periodization in Training, Core, Aerobic/Anaerobic Placement of Workouts, Hills, etc. all contributed toward the success of our team.
I am excited for both this outdoor track season and my last 5-6 weeks of the semester. I am confident that if I continue to work hard both in the classroom and with my guys, this spring will be a great one!
Thanks for reading!