Be Aware


April showers bring May flowers and a host of campaigns to help create safer and healthier communities.

By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS

May is not only a time of year for spring blooms, but also a month that highlights several causes. For instance, May is National Bike Safety Month, making May a great time to educate your patients and your community. May is also National Stroke Awareness Month, another area where a physical therapist’s (PT’s) education is vital. And finally, we celebrate Mother’s Day!

Here are some steps that you can take to educate your patients:

Bike Safety Awareness

More Americans cycle than ski, golf, or play tennis combined, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.1 Cycling is an activity that is done by a wide range of ages and for a variety of reasons, including fitness, competition, transportation, and fun.

Knowing the safety issues helps us to spread our message. The Centers for Disease Control reports some statistics that are worth sharing:2

  • In 2010, 800 cyclists were killed and 515,000 emergency department visits occurred in the United States.
  • Adolescents (15-24 years) and adults aged 45 years and older have the highest bicycle death rates.
  • Children (5-14 years), adolescents, and young adults (15-24 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for almost 60 percent of all bicycle-related injuries seen in United States emergency departments.
  • Males are much more likely to be killed or injured on bicycles than females.

PTs will obviously have a role in the rehabilitation of injuries, but we also have an opportunity to promote safety.


  • Bicycle helmets are a must! has great resources for your younger clients and their parents on bike safety and helmet fitting.3 Our association also has resources available for bike fitting and community safety.
  • Active lighting. Bikes should be fitted with reflectors as well as lighting.
  • Light colored / reflective clothing help others, including drivers, see those on bicycles.


  • Team up with the local police department and hold a helmet fit day that includes obstacle courses and prizes.
  • Do you have the skills to provide professional bike fit services? If you live in a community that is heavy with cyclists, it might make sense to further your education and become a bike fitting expert.

National Stroke Awareness Month

As PTs, most of us have had the opportunity to work with individuals following stroke. Many of us have also had loved ones, family and friends, who have also been affected by stroke. May is the month to make sure people understand the risks and what they can do to help prevent this life-changing event.

Just the Facts! Here is more information from the CDC:4

  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
  • Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that is 1 out of every 19 deaths.
  • On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $38.6 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat stroke, and missed days of work.


  • Let the public know what factors increase stroke risk. The Cleveland Clinic, among other organizations, offers a stroke risk calculator that you can link to your website.5

  • Educate your community on warning signs.
  • APTA offers resources to educate the public on their website, including “Physical Therapy and Stroke” and “Preventing and Recovering from a Brain Attack.”6 Provide the handouts for your patients, distribute them to local senior centers, link the information to your website, or put the information in your newsletter.


  • Hold Stroke Risk Factor Day in your clinic. Collaborate with local physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide risk screens.
  • Establish walking programs. Research has shown that men who spent more time walking every week (8 to 14 hours) reduced their risk of stroke by about 33 percent over those who spent minimal time walking (0 to 3 hours). Furthermore, the research demonstrated that the time spent walking mattered more than the pace.7
  • Get FAST! Get involved with the American Stroke Association’s campaign on prevention.8 FAST stands for:

    • Face Drooping
    • Arm Weakness
    • Speech Difficulty
    • Time to Call 911

Happy Mother’s Day!

Finally, do not forget your mother! May is the month we celebrate our own mothers, as well as all those in our communities. Be creative and be thankful! Moms run the health care household and lead the family to and through our doors. Flowers given out in the clinic, Facebook posts, and newsletters celebrating Mother’s Day are just a few suggestions.

Whether you are thinking about the pedals of your cyclists or the petals of the flowers in your Mother’s Day bouquet, May brings you and your practice the opportunity to engage your communities and promote physical therapy and your practice.


Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, s chair of the marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at


1. National Sporting Goods Association. Serving the sporting goods industry since 1929. Available at: Updated February 2014. Accessed February 20, 2014.

2. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bicycle-Related Injuries. Available at: Updated May 28, 2013. Accessed February 20, 2014.

3. KidsHealth from Nemours. Bike Safety. Available at: Reviewed July 2010. Accessed February 20, 2014.

4. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Facts. Available at: Updated February 19, 2014. Accessed February 20, 2014.

5. Cleveland Clinic. Stroke Risk Calculator. Available at: Accessed February 20, 2014.

6. APTA. American Physical Therapy Association. Handouts & Brochures for Patients. Available at: Updated February 10, 2014. Accessed February 20, 2014.

7. PT in motion. News Now. Walk time, not intensity, may be most important in stroke risk reduction. Available at: Posted November 21, 2013. Accessed February 20, 2014.

8. American Stroke Association. Spot a stroke: stroke warning signs and symptoms. Available at: Accessed February 20, 2014.

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