Head of the Class
Planning for back to school.
By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS
Summer is well under way, and the Marketing and PR Committee reminds you that preparation makes perfect. While you may be vacationing at the beach or hiking in the mountains with your family, do not forget to have a plan in place for next month’s marketing and public relations. As August approaches, thoughts quickly turn from summer vacation to return to sports and the classroom. Are your plans in place to meet the needs of your community and highlight your practice?
Drive past any field and you will see that summer has officially ended for many of our youth athletes as they begin practices for fall sports. While we hope that the athletes took advantage of the summer to properly prepare for their chosen sport, we know that some may be coming into the season poorly conditioned, which increases the risk of possible injury and reduces the ability to perform at peak levels. The National Safety Council reported that, in 2011, 1.2 million football-related injuries, 581,000 soccer injuries, and more than 170,000 volleyball injuries were treated in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices.1 Injuries often keep athletes off the field and occasionally end their season, which can negatively impact the success of the team. Professionals who understand the biomechanics of sport can both help our athletes once they are injured, but also can help keep them on the field in the first place!
As experts in sports performance and rehabilitation, keep these targets in mind when reaching out to your communities:
Coaches: Developing relationships with youth and school coaches can have a significant positive impact on your bottom line. In the past, many practices made a living by focusing their efforts on their referring physicians. I think that most of us can agree, those days are long gone. Many of those same physicians you spent time and money visiting are now likely tied to an organization that tracks and leads their referrals. We can complain about this shift, or we can continue to forge ahead with relationships that will make a difference. While it is still important to spend time with our physician referral sources, the coaches of our children can become a valuable ally on your team. What can we do to assist these coaches?
- Warm Up the Right Way: Sport-Specific Dynamic Warm-up Programs
One of the easiest things we can provide for our coaches is the proper warm-up programs. Educating coaches (and athletes) on the benefit of proper warm-ups is key. Preparing for activity means getting the muscles and nerves of the body ready to participate at a high level. Warm-up programs should have three components: big body motions, dynamic stretching, and sport-specific conditioning. This combination will help the athlete compete at top level when the whistle blows and reduce the chance of injury! Provide onsite instruction for the coaches and team, allowing everyone, including coaches and athletes, to understand that you are the expert in the field. Should an injury occur, you have already established that relationship!
- Gear Up
Whether the sport is cross country, soccer, or football, wearing the correct gear is vital to injury prevention, as well as optimal performance. Provide a quick foot and shoe screen. The right shoes are a good start. Running in shoes that are old or wrong for your foot type can lead to problems like shin splints and Achilles tendonitis. If athletes are running in shoes from last year’s season, time to make a change!
The weather in late summer and early fall can be the triple threat of hazy, hot, and humid. Proper hydration is an overlooked key to performance. Studies have shown that performance can drop by as much as 20 percent with dehydration. Train coaches to be alert for the signs of dehydration. Remind athletes not to wait until they feel thirsty to grab the water bottle. By that point, their bodies are already dehydrated. Hydrate throughout the day!
- Get Help!
Amazingly, few consumers understand what a physical therapist can deliver until they find themselves in our clinic. One of the first lessons learned by those in sales industries is to “make the ask.” Injuries will occur. Some will be bumps and bruises and others will be more serious. Receiving the proper treatment can mean returning at top form versus suffering with a nagging problem throughout the season. Many athletes are apprehensive about seeing a health care professional because they do not want to be taken out of their sport. While some injuries require rest from sport, many injuries are less serious and can be addressed with proper rehabilitation, flexibility, and strengthening exercises. Let your coaches and athletes know that you are a physical therapist who specializes in sports injuries and sports performance and can offer the best results.
Schools: Seek out the many opportunities to offer your expertise to schools, some more obvious than others. Many practices already provide athletic training services in their local school systems. Strength and conditioning services are another area in which practice owners may provide staffing and expertise. How about thinking a bit outside the box? Make a habit of looking at the needs of your targets, and you may be surprised to find that you have some unique offerings.
- School Physical Education Departments
Professional development and continuing education is a requirement for physical education teachers and may provide you and your practice the opportunity to present on a variety of topics.
- Nursing Department
From the elementary level through college, nursing staff see a wide variety of ailments and injuries. They have to be generalists and frequently lack much training in orthopedics. Offer to provide an in-service training session to the staff nurses on common orthopedic injuries. Offer demonstrations on appropriate tests. Provide illustrated handouts including your clinic information.
As you enjoy the summer with your family and friends, do not forget to make plans for next month so you can go to the head of the class! As students return to school, opportunities arise for physical therapy practices to share their expertise and widen their reach. Think outside the box and watch your business soar.
Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the PPS Marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy, with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Injury Facts. The National Safety Council. 2011 Website www.nsc.org. Accessed May 2014.