Finding a True Sports Physical Therapy Clinic

Finding a True Sports Physical Therapy Clinic

Many physical therapists want to work in sports and fill their schedule with athletes.

But realistically, most outpatient orthopedic clinics don’t treat just athletes, even if the word “sports” is in their name!

Here’s how to find a clinic that is more involved with sports physical therapy, and what to do to see more athletes in a typical outpatient setting.

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Michael Berra: So, today we have a question coming from “Disgruntled in DC”. If you’re hired to a practice voted best sports medicine practice in the city, would you be highly disappointed if you were treating a mostly unfit, sedentary, OA and chronic low back pain patient? What interview questions might you ask to be sure that if hired and invited to the party, you are also allowed to drink the punch?

Mike Reinold: I think that was a great question. I also think most people in DC are disgruntled right now so that this will be hard to figure out who this person is. But yeah, so I mean, that’s a great one. I like how they phrased it. So, now again, this is almost several episodes ago, but we’ve given out too much info, right? We can Google and figure this one out, but yeah, we see that all the time, right? Most outpatient, physical therapy clinics have the word sports in it, right? Which is ironic that we don’t lend. Why didn’t we? Should we have?

Lenny Macrina: Champion PT and performance? Yes. Sports performance, damn it next time.

Mike Reinold: I know. I don’t know. What is performance people probably think… Well, I don’t want to know what people think, but-

Mike Reinold: Yeah. I mean, there’s so many things here, but I want to approach this question from the standpoint of a student early career professional, looking for a job. They want to get into sports, physical therapy, and all these outpatient clinics are orthopedic, right? Which is fine, right? I would start by just giving those people a little bit of advice first and just say this, look, your clinic is open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM or whatever it may be, right? Your athletes are going to be in school at some time, right? So, you’re going to treat adults, you’re going to treat Medicare patients. It’s part of what we do as physical therapists. I would like to redirect a little bit of your energy. And I would like for you to look at some of those patients and say, “How can I treat them like an athlete.” Because I think everybody’s an athlete at heart, right?

Mike Reinold: That’s some of the principles we have at champion, our CPS program here is that athleticism or performance, isn’t about sport. It’s about what you want to do with your body. So, I do think the early career professional need to think about that a little bit. Orthopedics can be about getting the most out of your body too. So, keep that in mind, but look like you’re not going to treat high school soccer players at 9:00 AM, right? So yeah, I think you have to have some realistic expectations when you’re coming into this job on, but what advice do we have for early career professionals that want to find a place that is mostly sporty? Why don’t we say it that way? Who wants to start Lisa?

Lisa Lowe: Sure. I mean, I guess as part of the interview process. I would ask to shadow for a day. So, you get a chance to actually, see what a day in the clinic is like, to see if you feel you’d fit in with the other people. So, you can actually just see who walks in the door. I feel it shows that you’re interested in the clinic and that you’re wanting to get to know the people that will be potentially your coworkers at the same time is then you get to semi-interview the facility for yourself.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. Get to see it firsthand with who’s walking in, right?

Mike Reinold: And if they say, no, maybe you could just park in the parking lot and stalk for a day, right? And just take notes.

Lisa Lowe: But also, but then that’s a sign, right? If they’re not willing to let you shadow for a day to see if you’d like it there, see if they’d like you, that’s maybe also a sign.

Mike Reinold: Right. I like that. Don’t go by the name of the clinic actually go. And I think you can start with an interview question, right? When you’re talking, just say what’s your percentage of population between adults and athletes and start with that and see where your conversation leads.

Lisa Lowe: Right. What’s an average caseload like or whatever?

Lisa Lowe: In terms of whether it’s age range. But then I think like you said before, Mike, that just asking about age range, doesn’t show you the type of people you’re working with. I mean, there’s athletes on all of our caseloads that are everything from 12 to 70 something. They’re all athletes and they’re all looking to live their best life. And if we can help them do that, then fantastic.

Mike Reinold: Right. Yeah. What else, what other tips for the interview process? What do you got Mike?

Mike Scaduto: Well, yeah, I’d said going back to the question, it’s a little confusing to me. It sounds like maybe everyone… All the other PTs are seeing athletes and this person is the only PT. That’s not seeing the athletic population.

Mike Scaduto: That’s how I read it. My advice… Well, a couple things. One is I asked, would one ask this person, what’s their background? Are they coming from a clinic where they treated mostly, older patients or geriatrics, or they saw a lot of low back pain people and they were hired to this sports medicine clinic? And then the clinic decided that they’re going to be the clinician that sees a lot of these patients. But my advice to that person, if they want to start working with athletes is they have to create some incentive for their clinic to let them treat athletes. So, they have to provide some value to the clinic and say, “Okay, here’s what I’m working on.”

Mike Scaduto: So, maybe they go into a niche of a sport, and they say, “Okay, I’m going to really focus on this aspect of physical therapy for this specific sport.” And I want to start bringing in some patients, so if there’s any soccer patients that want to come into our clinic if you could put them on my schedule because of X, Y, Z, work that I’ve done in this field. That’d be a great way to break into seeing an athlete.

Mike Scaduto: So, maybe start with a very specific niche of athlete. Obviously, have some perceived value for the clinic. Maybe you’re doing research or writing blog posts. You’re putting out promotional material for the clinic. And then they’re probably more likely to put some athletes on your schedule in that sport. Once you get a few athletes in one sport, I think it’s probably going to be easier to cross over to other sports and start working with more athletes on your schedule.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. That’s good advice, Mike and I try to tell people that you got to think that there’s an evolution behind this, and it’s going to take a little time to get some traction, right? But you may start off just treating a couple of… Let’s say you have two soccer, ACLS after school and the rest of your schedules, the sedentary Medicare type patient, like you said in your question, right?

Mike Reinold: I think what you do is you really… You treat everybody great obviously, but you really over-deliver on those two. And what happens is over time is their friends, the parents of those kids, the coach of those teams, they’re going to slowly send you more and more people. And then you’ll go from 10% athletes to 20% athletes, then 30%, then 40%, right? There’s going to be an evolution where if you Excel at something, it will happen. It’ll take some time, but you got to get there.

Lenny Macrina: Just for a perspective. When I started out as a PT and Mike, you were there with me. This was in 2003, 2004. I think I was the Medicare therapist for Health South in Birmingham. And so, from-

Lenny Macrina: Eight in the morning until three in the afternoon or whatever it was. I treated one patient an hour because I was the new hire. And so, I treated only Medicare patients from eight to three until high school got out. And then from three to five, whatever it was. I would treat high school kids and athletes. So, you get relationships with the front desk. People who are scheduling, you develop a little niche. You talk to your boss, and you do con ed and you grind and you focus your attention on a certain aspect of what you want to do. And then they hire somebody new, and you get bumped up. You are no longer that person. And you now have developed hopefully a little niche in relationships with the front office who are doing the scheduling and you hopefully begin to see the fruits of your labor pay off. So, it’s a process, but I think we’ve all been at least made.

Mike Reinold: And Len, what do you think what’s the majority? What are the two diagnoses you treat the most right now?

Lenny Macrina: Yeah. Now it’s ACL in UCL. So, I see a lot of CLs.

Mike Reinold: So, hang in there. It gets better. I forgot. We did that to you. That was awesome. That was right after the big FBI raids and we wanted to make sure we were doing good by the federal, the Medicare Laws.

Mike Reinold: But I think that’s a really good point. And I will say this, I will say around Christmas time, we are quite envious, right? All my patient’s smell, right? And Lenny’s got baked goods. He’s got all these cupcakes and cakes that everybody’s given, right? And all my people smell like feet, right? So, it was definitely something we were jealous of money at the time.

Mike Reinold: But I do think that’s a good concept. I like that because we have to accept that this is a part of practice and you will get there at some point, that being said, any other advice that anybody has, for somebody that is looking for a PT clinic. I think it’s obvious to talk. I think it’s obvious to try to shadow in there. Is there anything else, or is this simply something where the person just has to go out there and try to get some patients themselves to make it the athletic environment they want? What do you guys think? I mean, I’m curious to hear from like Dave, Dan, Kevin, you guys just came from insurance-based models. What’d you guys do, Dan?

Dan Pope: Yeah. I think it’s a bit of a mentality shift. And I don’t know if this is what’s going on for the person who asked this question, but I think sometimes we expect to go to a clinic in the clinic to hand us the people that we’re looking for. I don’t think that happens often in life in general, not just with physical therapy. So, I think a lot of it is you want to go into a clinic it’s open to you trying to see a given population, and then you have to market yourself. You have to do all the things that everyone just talked about. So, you go through a lot of schooling, and I don’t know if it’s your first job. It sounds like your second job, right? And maybe you were hoping it was going to be a little better, but I don’t think we can go into it with this expectation that it’s going to deliver exactly.

Dan Pope: What you want. Maybe, in this case, it was a bait and switch and I’d really recommend what everyone else says. So Lenny, right? Just trying to talk to your boss, why am I getting all Medicare people? Can we get a plan to stop over the course of time? The other part is like, I think you have to earn the respect of the community that you want to work with, right? And that’s should be the expectation going into it. It shouldn’t be the other way around that people should just show up and be on your schedule naturally. But yeah, I just wanted to hammer that home and just reiterate what you guys already said.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. Again, I think you got to make the situation how you want, right? So, you go to that soccer player’s first game back, you’re there on the sidelines. You’re cheering, them on, you’re wearing a t-shirt of your physical therapy clinic with the word sport in it, right? And you’re there, but you’re part of that process. I hate to say it, but you almost got to become part of the family. I almost tweeted this over the weekend, but it’s literally over the weekend. And I can’t tell you how many athletes I was talking to over the weekend. Some personally, and some for just little advice here and there, and some athletes I haven’t even worked with and for 15 years, and they’re still texting me questions about stuff. You got to be part of their lives, working with sports and athletes.

Mike Reinold: You got to be part of helping them and become their go-to resource. And then they’ll send all their friends, their teammates and that thing. So, get out there, get in the community, reach out to coaches, volunteer your time. You know what I mean? Make the situation the best you can. I sincerely think that anybody, even if your whole clinic treats just secondary adults, I think you can become the athletic person. If you put yourself out there, just realize that you may have to go get some of those patients, right? You have to do that lead generation by doing some of the things that we’ve talked about. They’re not just going to get magically handed to you.

Mike Reinold: So, keep that in mind as well. Awesome. All right. Great question disgruntled. I appreciate it. Thank you for that. If you have a question disgruntled in DC, head to, click on the podcast link, fill out the form, and please subscribe, rate, and review on apple podcast and Spotify. And we will see you on a future episode. Thanks so much.

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