Posted by vanessa on April 13, 2018

Sports medicine isn’t just for the professional or elite athlete.  The global sports medicine market is expected to reach USD 12.5 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc.

Additionally, fitness awareness initiatives over the last several years have led to more people participating in sports and fitness activities, making them susceptible to injury.

The Columbia DPT program offers a popular elective that prepares students for this booming area of physical therapy. Adjunct faculty member Rami Said, PT, DPT, OCS, MEng has been teaching the course for the past 6 years, with coordination support by core faculty member Jean Timmerberg, PT, PhD, MS, OCS.

The course is designed to give the student in their final year an introduction to treating athletes of all levels, from the novice to the elite and professional. Dr. Said bases the course curriculum on the requirements of the APTA’s Sports Section.  The focus is on types of movements (e.g., running athlete, overhead athlete, etc.,) and also covers topics such as the female athlete, concussion, and athletic field management. This represents a change from a more sports-specific curriculum because, according to Dr. Said, “there is much overlap in the techniques involved in treating injuries in different sports. The elective mixes all of the tracks.”

Colleen Maguffin, Class of 2018, said, “Dr. Said truly demonstrates his passion for sports while providing information about injury, assessment, and treatment approaches."

Sports has always played a big part in Dr. Said’s life.  He was a basketball player in high school and college. As an undergraduate, he was assistant coach at his alma mater, Cooper Union. He continues to be involved in the sport and is now head coach of Cooper Union’s women's basketball team.  “Basketball was my release from stress,” he points out. 

Dr. Said evolved the sports elective from a lecture/presentation-based class that spanned a single weekend. It is now a 12-week course encompassing lectures, presentations, and labs. Dr. Said brings in experts to address the students. He noticed that they “paid attention” to guest lecturers such as other PTs, doctors, and faculty members with specific areas of expertise.  He combines student presentations with “active learning.” That is, the students participate in discussion of a given topic, and a subsequent lab in which they get hands-on practice of the material being discussed. This year, students had the opportunity to present, in groups, on a sport of their choosing.

What Dr. Said hopes that students will take away from the elective is the confidence to treat athletes of any level, and having had a grounding in general orthopedic principles in sports PT, they will be motivated to look further into more specific areas. He also notes that students with specialized experience such as the sports elective have “a big plus” when applying for competitive fellowships or residencies.” Current and former students agree.
Julia Rosenthal, DPT Class of 2017, is currently a physical therapy resident at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York City. “I see high level performers every day,” she said. “Taking the sports elective gave me foundational tools to understand the biomechanics of various high level tasks, overuse injuries, and other critical aspects of athlete management such as bone health and nutrition.”

 “As a current sports resident at Vanderbilt Orthopedic Institute and Belmont University, Nashville, TN, I think the elective was valuable in exposing students to the sports setting,” noted Alanna Salituro, DPT 2017.  “Collegiate athletics is a difficult area to break into if you have not had experience. I also think it is valuable for the athletics department to see how sports PTs can fit into the continuum of care and act as compliments to the athletic trainer and team doctor. “

Dr. Timmerberg commented, “Students have been able to enter high level athletic clinical education experiences feeling prepared and confident in being able to contribute to the sports medicine team.” Current student Kathryn (K.T.) Prominski, Class of 2018, commented, “Since I have been in my final internship, I have had the opportunity to treat runners, swimmers, rock climbers, and baseball players. While my learning has a long way to go, this course prepared me to treat my athletic clients and collaborate with other clinicians to return them to their sport efficiently and safely."

Nicholas Rolnick, Class of 2017, said, “As a cash-based private practice owner, (The Human Performance Mechanic, New York, NY) my clients, many being athletes, pay me for results. The sports elective has been one of my go-to resources for understanding the demands of sport and how to approach it from a physical therapy and treatment perspective.”

Dr. Jean Timmerberg summed it up. “While many athletes are treated on the field by various members of the health care team, the majority of sports-related injuries are treated in the outpatient setting.   It is therefore imperative that physical therapy students are aware of the biomechanical demands of various sporting activities, have the ability to evaluate and identify movement dysfunction, and incorporate the best evidence in the development of a treatment plan. Dr. Said builds on students’ strong orthopedic foundation, creates a positive learning environment and provides students with invaluable experience."

L-R: Drs. Rami Said, Jean Timmerberg

Note: Dr. Said is a 2007 graduate of the Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy. See his alumni video profile here.

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