Physical Therapy is a profession of boundless opportunities. Physical therapists work in outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools, homes, directly with sports teams, and more. But, did you know that physical therapists travel with many touring Broadway shows?! Neither did I when I entered physical therapy school, but before I knew it I was hitting the road with a show! I had the amazing opportunity to travel around the country with shows such as The Lion King, Wicked, Come Fly Away, War Horse, and Fela!. I could watch from the wings and observe the exact choreography and environment of my patients to best treat or prevent their injuries. I could have my patients hop right onto the table when they felt a small ache or pain. My hands grew stronger than I could have ever imagined. I could see first-hand how different types of dance, choreography, or costumes could directly impact the type of injuries I saw on each individual show. I used that knowledge to help prevent future injuries for the Broadway dancers as well as with my future dance medicine patients in the clinic. I feel so lucky to have these unique experiences in dance medicine to bring to my clinical practice and to share with my coworkers.
Several years later, I had the opportunity to put on my traveling shoes again to serve as the physical therapist for the US Figure Skating Team at the 2016 Cup of China in Beijing, China and the 2017 NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan. It was an honor to work with such elite athletes and to represent my country on the medical team for the United States in a global venue. The athletes were amazing both on and off the ice. And, again, I was able to work with the athletes the moment they needed me. This continued to strengthen my passion for injury prevention and quick, easy access to physical therapy. To top it all off, I got to walk the Great Wall of China, eat sushi in Tokyo, and explore the temples of Kyoto. I never imagined this profession would take me all around the world!
In addition to being a very cool experience, working as a traveling physical therapist with Broadway dancers and the US figure skating team taught me many valuable lessons that I bring to my practice every day. It also helped shape the type of coworker, boss, and business owner I hope to be.
Having the ability to see a patient the moment they felt a new discomfort or stress on their body allowed me to help them to quickly tweak their load, environment, or technique to prevent many injuries from occurring in the first place. Developing a strong relationship with a physical therapist before an injury occurs is a great idea for a dancer, figure skater, or athlete of any sport. This allows the physical therapist to establish a baseline knowledge of an athlete’s body, technique, training volume, and history of injury. It can also helpful for a physical therapy practice to have an infrastructure in place for quickly accessing a visit with a physical therapist even if an athlete is not currently injured. This is one of the many reason why we created the Wellness Visit option for our patients. We strive to help athletes prevent injuries before they reach the need for rehabilitation and to discharge our patients from physical therapy with the knowledge to stay healthy in the long run.
Whether it was setting up a mini PT clinic in a vacant kitchen backstage in a theater or quickly adjusting to a 14-hour time change, life is just easier if you’re flexible and easy going. This is one of the #1 qualities I look for when we are building our team at Girl Fit. We bring this to our relationships with each other, which leads to a strong, collaborative, and educational environment. We also hope to bring that flexible, positive, and thoughtful nature to our relationships with our patients every day.
One of my favorite memories when working on touring Broadway shows is adapting my PT sessions to work around all the beautiful costumes, puppets, and props. Dancers, actors, or musicians would often hop right onto my table during intermission or if they had a short break between scenes. I’d often need to toss a lion’s tale out of the way or work around a puppetry structure when treating my patients. This is a fun memory, but also a perfect reminder not to forget about a patient’s environment when investigating every contributing factor to an injury. My patients might have been surrounded by heavy puppets, elaborate costumes, complex sets, harnesses to fly, or a raked stage, but every patient has their own unique props and costumes in their life. So, don’t hesitate to bring in your pointe shoes, racket, skates, grips, etc. when you see your physical therapist! A video of you performing your sport in your natural environment can be a helpful tool as well.
I feel so lucky to have had these unique experiences traveling as a physical therapist. I bring the skills and lessons that I learned into my practice every day. But more importantly, I have been able to share what I’ve learned working with these dancers and figure skaters with my coworkers. We pride ourselves in our collaborative environment at Girl Fit. We have weekly interactive staff meetings where we each share our experience, expertise, sport specific knowledge, current research, and continuing education with each other. So, when you see a PT at Girl Fit you will not only be seeing a specialist in female athletes, but you’ll receive the cumulative expertise of our whole team. Our combined expertise in sports medicine includes dance, figure skating, volleyball, lacrosse, softball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, basketball, running, skiing, and more. And as lifelong learners, we will no doubt continue to add more and more!
To schedule a virtual or in person physical therapy evaluation or a Wellness Visit with a physical therapist at Girl Fit Physical Therapy, contact us at 617-618-9290 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about our safety protocols, check out our post: Maintaining a Safe Environment for Girl Fit Patients & Staff. And here’s to traveling again someday soon!
Kate Hamilton, PT, DPT
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist