Physical therapy is a great career choice. However, just thinking about the application process can be daunting.

In the US, physical therapy programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. This clinical degree is considered entry level for physical therapy. Additionally, after obtaining your degree, you may need to pass a licensure exam in order to practice physical therapy.

The application process can be very competitive, with some schools accepting only 10-12% of applicants.

With this said, here are some tips to get you into physical therapy school:

1. Complete your undergraduate prerequisites. Check each program’s website to find out which classes are required.

Common classes include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, psychology, statistics, and physics. Maintain high marks. Most accepted candidates have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or above.

2. Research the minimum and average GRE scores programs accept. Study with your target-score in mind before taking the GRE.

3. Be a well-rounded applicant. PT schools require, at minimum, 20-40 hours of observation in a clinical setting. Get as many hours as you can and try to get them in a variety of settings. Some good choices would include orthopedics, pediatrics, cardiac, or neurological rehab.

4. Choose which schools you want to apply to. There are many considerations when choosing which PT programs to apply to.Think about the location, cost of tuition, class size, and clinical requirements. Look at each school’s acceptance statistics (i.e. percentage of in-state vs. percentage out-of-state applicants they accept, average GPA and average pass rate on the board exam for accepted applicants).

It might seem to make sense to apply to 20 different PT schools to play it safe. But, keep in mind that not only does it take a lot of time to complete the supplemental application for each school, but every application has an associated application fee.

5. Use the Physical TherapistCentralized Application Service (PTCAS). This is a service offered by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that allows applicants to use a centralized application to apply to many different PT programs.Currently, there is a fee (approximately $150) to apply to your first school and then an additional fee ($50) to apply to any additional programs. Not every US-based school participates in the PTCAS, so double check to ensure the schools you are interested in do participate.

6. Lastly, don’t procrastinate! Allow yourself adequate time to research schools and complete their individual application requirements like each school’s essay. Furthermore, give your references (typically a physical therapist and professor) plenty of time to write a recommendation for you.

Becoming a physical therapist requires a lot of hard work, but once you get in the field, the career can be very fulfilling. When you complete your studies, consider applying for a position at one of our Foothills Sports Medicine clinics, we have locations throughout the Phoenix Valley.

It has only been in recent years that concussions have been taken more seriously, with increased awareness, education, and management. A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury. Causes include a violent blow to the head or neck or a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head such as from a car accident or violent shaking. Participating in high-risk sports can increase your risk. Concussions are a leading public health problem as an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sport-related concussions are reported each year in the U.S. The effects of a concussion are usually short lasting, with many recovering within 7-10 days. In some, however, symptoms can last for weeks – or even months.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of concussions include headaches, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and slurred speech. Other symptoms may be delayed for hours or days after the initial injury. These include concentration and memory complaints, irritability, sensitivity to light or noise, sleep disturbances, depression, and disorders of taste and smell.

Treatment

A concussion can manifest differently in each individual. For those who have lasting effects, different evaluations and management approaches may be required. Physical therapists are part of a multidisciplinary team that provides concussion management for those individuals who have ongoing symptoms. Treatment options include vestibular treatment (to help reduce dizziness) and an appropriate and monitored progression of strength and endurance activity.

Rehab

Although most people recover after a concussion, how quickly they improve can depend on factors such as age, the severity of the concussion, general health (a history of headaches or depression can contribute to longer recovery), and how they take care of themselves after the injury. Current injury rehab guidelines recommend a period of cognitive and physical rest in the immediate post-injury phase as symptoms can often worsen with increased exertion at this time. Rest is important early on as it allows your brain to heal. Ignoring your symptoms and toughing it out will often make symptoms worse. In general, it is when symptoms reduce significantly, and after consultation with your health professional, that the concussed individual can slowly return to daily activities, such as work, school, and, gradually, sport.

Getting Better – Recovery:

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding (i.e.: heavy household cleaning, working out) or require a lot of concentration.
  • Avoid sustained computer use/video games early in the recovery process.
  • Ask your health care provider about when you can safely ride a bike or return to driving, as your reaction time may be slowed.
  • Take only medication that your physician has approved.
  • Avoid use of alcoholic beverages.

Prevention
Keys to Prevention:

  • Wear protective gear during sports and recreational activity.
  • Make sure equipment is worn correctly, fits properly, and is well maintained.
  • Buckle your seat belt.
  • Protect your children by reducing the risk of falls and blocking off stairways.
  • Keep coaches, athletes, and parents informed if you or your child experiences a concussion.

Nowadays, concussions are being taken much more seriously. While it is true that people who have repeated concussions may have serious, long-term problems including difficulty with concentration, memory, headache, and, occasionally, physical skills, a concussion is a very recoverable injury. Awareness and proper concussion injury rehab and management are vital to a successful and optimal outcome. If you’ve experienced a concussion, make an appointment with us at Foothills Sports Medicine to have a physical therapist help you get back to your sport.

In recent years, there has been a surge in running shoe trends. We are drowning in a sea of shoes that claim to help with specific injuries and foot problems or create more efficient running patterns. With so many brands and styles to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which one is best for you, but the difference can impact your injury prevention and injury recovery.

When purchasing running shoes it is important to have a general knowledge of basic terminology in order to make the best footwear selection. Terms such as “minimalist,” “heel-toe drop,” “motion control,” and “stability” can really muddy the waters, potentially leading to a poor shoe selection. The information below will help you to make better sense of it all.

The basics:

  • Minimalist shoes have a low heel-to-toe drop, which may help to distribute impact forces. Minimalist running is characterized by a soft forefoot strike and short quicker strides. Some view this type of running as a method for limiting overuse and related injuries.
  • Maximalist shoes feature a high-heel-to-toe drop. Maximalist running encourages an increased heel strike.
  • Cushioned shoes are meant to attenuate shock better than a “neutral” shoe.
  • Motion-control shoes control rear-foot motion.
  • Heel-toe drop is the difference in height of the sole from the back to the front of the shoe, measured in millimeters; average is 10 mm.
  • Heel counter is a reinforced section of shoe that cups the heel and controls motion.
  • Shoe last relates to shoe curvature, and there are three types:
  • Curved: 25 degrees forefoot adduction, flexible (ideal for runners with rigid arch, those who under pronate)
  • Semi-curved:  7-10 degrees forefoot adduction
  • Straight:  0 degrees adduction (ideal for flat-footed or heavier runners)
  • Toe spring is the upward arching of the front of the shoe aimed to increase forward momentum.
  • Midsole is the mid-portion of shoe. The midsole is the most important component of a running shoe and provides cushion, stability, or motion control.

Picking the right shoe for your foot:

How to pick the right running shoe that will help you with injury recovery.
Despite the evolution of running shoes, runners still experience a high injury rate. Approximately 50% of runners experience an injury annually. Certain anatomical variables may correlate to specific injuries:

  • For example, low arches (or pes planus) equate to having flat feet. It is often characterized by hypermobility and over-pronation, which can lead to patellofemoral pain, posterior tibial tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsal fractures.
  • High arches (or pes cavus) often correlate with under-pronation and a less flexible foot thus contributing to less shock absorption. This can be further compromised by decreased calf flexibility. Both of which may contribute to injuries such as stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.
  • Other risk factors for running injuries include runners age, weight, knee alignment, flexibility, training-related factors (such as frequency of running and terrain), rate of distance progression, distance, age of shoes, and pace.

Over time, there has been an increase in the development of specific running shoes and orthotics to accommodate variable arches and foot shapes. Ideally, footwear recommendations should be made on individual running characteristics and mechanics. If mechanical analysis is not available, a shoe recommendation can be made based on arch type.

As a physical therapist, when speaking to a patient with a running-related injury, we also inquire about our patient’s current running shoes, such as:

  • Age of shoes (when purchased)
  • Number of days worn
  • Total mileage
  • Replacement frequency
    • Interestingly, new shoes can lose some of their shock absorbing capability, even if they haven’t been worn, after 12-24 months.
  • Ask to examine worn running shoes to reveal the shoes’ functional age and wear pattern — which may be helpful for making proper shoe recommendations.

Lastly, orthotics are commonly used to reduce movement-related issues, to correct alignment, and to increase cushioning. Orthotics are also helpful if standard running shoes do not provide adequate correction or if one foot needs more correction than the other.

Although most of this information is related to running injuries and shoes, the concepts hold true for all shoe styles and all people, including children. While popular shoe styles may be “cute” or “stylish,” they often do not offer the best support. Over-the-counter arch supports may, in some cases, offer an alternative to reinforce arches without compromising style or shoe preference.

Despite having the basic understanding of footwear, common questions often arise when purchasing new shoes. Ask your neighborhood physical therapist or specialty running store to provide sound advice on proper footwear. Injury recovery and prevention starts with looking at the foot. We’d love to help you find the best footwear for your running and help you get back on your feet after a running injury. Request an appointment to get started!

Have you ever witnessed a woman in her third trimester jogging along the street, or even running in a marathon, and wondered to yourself, “is that really safe?”

There are many physical and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Despite all these changes, women with uncomplicated pregnancies can and should be exercising—even running. Studies have shown that fitness levels can be maintained during pregnancy with moderate intensity exercise, and without detriment to mother or baby. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

The following physical adaptations occur during pregnancy, many of which will have implications with regard to an appropriate exercise program:

  • Cardiovascular changes include an increase in resting heart rate and cardiac output, as well as lower extremity venous pressure.
  • Hormonal differences include an increase in relaxin, estrogen, and progesterone, which lend to ligamentous laxity and may contribute to low back or pelvic pain. Hormonal changes may also cause an elevated basal body temperature, contributing to overheating.
  • Musculoskeletal changes include decreased abdominal control, postural modifications such as increased lumbar lordosis, and decreased balance and arch height.

The health of a mother and her baby is always the primary concern when considering an exercise program during pregnancy. Physical therapy professionals can assist with appropriate exercise instruction in conjunction with the doctor overseeing a pregnant woman’s care.

Appropriate guidelines should be followed in regard to frequency, intensity and duration of an exercise program. Healthy mothers can exercise for 30-60 minutes up to 3-5 times a week, including a variety of aerobic activity and strength training activities. Exercises lying on the back are not advised after the first trimester. Care should also be taken regarding the type of activity performed during the later stages of pregnancy due to decreased balance and coordination. Furthermore, activities that stress oxygen uptake such as mountain climbing, scuba diving, or activity at high altitude should be avoided.

Moderate exercise intensity can be monitored several ways:

  1. Heart rate: (guidelines are based on the age of the mother)
    • <20 years: 140-155 bpm
    • 20-29 years: 135-150 bpm
    • 30-39 years: 130-145 bpm
    • >40 years: 125-140 bpm.
  2. Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion: This is a scale that measures how hard you feel you’re working. The scale ranges from 6 =no exertion to 20=maximal exertion. A rating of 12-14 would indicate moderate intensity of exertion.
  3. Talk test: This is a simple way to measure relative intensity. For example, being able to talk but perhaps not sing would be a good indicator of moderate intensity level.

General benefits of continued exercise during pregnancy are numerous. They include the following:

  • Decreased risk of hypertension
  • Decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes
  • Decreased weight gain
  • Decreased nausea
  • Improved mood and energy

Continued exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy has been shown to have great benefits but, as with anything, there are also risks. Exercise during pregnancy should be stopped if a mother exhibits any of the following warning signs:

  • Vaginal bleeding, shortness of breath prior to exercise, dizziness, headaches, chest pain or muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Preterm labor
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Amniotic fluid leakage

Any questions or concerns regarding an exercise program during pregnancy can be addressed with your doctor and/or physical therapy expert. If you would like to know more about pregnancy safe exercises, please contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinic!

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is a group of locally owned Phoenix physical therapy clinics dedicated to helping our patients recover quickly and fully from injury. If you are seeking a physical therapist, go online here to schedule a free assessment. For more information about physical therapy techniques, follow our blog.

Andrea Ciochetti, PT, MPT, and CSCS, is an invaluable member of the staff at our North Central Phoenix physical therapy location. She has years of experience treating orthopedic injuries, and she is also a seven-time Ironman finisher. She is here today to discuss winter sports, and how to enjoy them safely.

It’s a wonderful time to be outdoors in Arizona, and by early December local ski resorts are in full swing. Downhill skiing is one of America’s favorite winter sports, and snowboarding’s popularity continues to rise. Unfortunately, these winter activities come with a high risk for injury.

In 2013, research performed by Globelink indicated 3.8 million people suffered from some kind of injury related to winter sports in the United States. Skiers were most often seen for lower extremity issues, namely knee injuries. Snowboarding was associated most with injuries affecting the shoulder and arm. The majority of these injuries are sprains, strains, fractures, and dislocations. Studies have also shown that the majority of these injuries occur at the end of the day, when participants are tired but still decide to go out for just one more run.

Fortunately, many of these injuries can be avoided by following these simple guidelines and precautions:

  • These sports can only be enjoyed for a few short months per year, so people who participate in them should try to stay in good physical condition throughout the year in preparation for the unique demands of winter sports.
  • Warming up is essential. Take a few moments to stretch or take a light, easy run on the bunny hill at the start of your day.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear including gloves, padding, goggles, and a helmet. Also ensure your equipment is working properly and rental equipment is properly fit. Snowboarders should always wear gloves with built-in wrist guards.
  • Stay alert and be familiar with your surroundings. This includes not only the conditions and variations on the slope, but also other skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. Do not ski or snowboard off prescribed runs (especially not in the trees) and only go on slopes that fit your appropriate skill level and experience.
  • Stop if you are feeling overly tired, fatigued, or are in any pain.
  • Wear several layers of light, loose clothing. Winter clothing should keep you warm, but should be breathable and not constrictive for your activity.
  • Remember to properly hydrate. Hydration affects endurance, mental alertness, and physical performance. Although the temperature may be much lower than you’re used to, you still lose fluids and electrolytes through sweat and breath while doing any physical activity.
  • Lastly, never ski or snowboard alone.

If you do have the misfortune of being hurt this season, seek medical attention immediately. If your injury persists or you are having difficulty with the recovery process, you may require the assistance of a physical therapist. Feel free to contact Foothills to schedule a FREE Rapid Recovery® Injury Assessment.