2012 Olympic Hopefuls Flock to Physical Therapy

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Two elite track and field athletes find enough success in Physical Therapy to keep them in the game.

My athletic performance has exceeded my expectations for this early on in the season.

It’s no secret that track and field athletes know injury well. For multi-event track athletes whose events include running, jumping, and throwing, staying injury free is essential to keeping their careers alive. Many sponsors will drop athletes plagued with injuries and in many cases, an injury could be career ending.

San Luis Obispo, CA is home to two top level and 2012 Olympic hopeful track athletes – Heptathlete and 2008 Olympic High Jumper Sharon Day and Decathlete Chris Randolph. Both train up to six hours, six days per week in hopes of making the 2012 Olympic Track and Field Team, and both have recently found benefit in physical therapy.

Physical Therapy is a health care profession with the goal of maximizing movement potential, including evaluation, health promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Physical Therapy can include physical, psychological, and emotional components. Treatment plans usually include two to three sessions per week and include very specific exercises, massage, ice, and heat, though each therapy session is catered specifically to the individual.

Day and Randolph, who are both volunteer track coaches at Cal Poly, have been supported by San Luis Sports Therapy since November. In a few short months, they have seen a world of difference. “Physical therapy has helped me activate muscles that have been in a sense turned off. With these muscles now activated I am able to use my body more efficiently while training,” Randolph says.

Both athletes have been working with the Director of the San Luis Obispo clinic and Doctor of Physical Therapy, Colleen Russell, who has a passion for training athletes. Day explains, “Before starting physical therapy with Colleen I had a lot of asymmetries in my body. For example my left quad was more than 5 cm smaller than my right side. After 3 months of therapy there was only a 1 cm difference!”

There’s a mental component to injury, indubitably. Randolph, who studied psychology at Seattle Pacific University explains, “Injuries can plague your mind while competing. If you don't feel that your body is 100% then it is difficult to push yourself to an extreme without worrying that you might injure yourself.” Randolph has found confidence again at the track, after five years of being plagued with injury. He elaborates on why this is, “PT has allowed me to focus completely while competing without having to worry that my body might possibly get injured.”

Olympic Trials for these two multi-event track athletes will be held in Eugene, OR in late June. The preliminary outlook is positive. “My athletic performance has exceeded my expectations for this early on in the season. Physical therapy has not only made my workouts stronger it has also allowed me to hit personal bests in my competitions,” says Randolph.

Professional Athletes often seek help from many other disciplines. The road to finding physical therapy was a long one for Chris Randolph who has tried massage, supplementation, and adopted a vegan and gluten free diet. He’s seen chiropractors, personal trainers, acupuncturists, orthopedic surgeons, had oxygen therapy and been to a medical intuitive. While much of the above is still included in his daily routine, physical therapy was the tipping point to getting him back on track.

The approach Russell takes to physical therapy resonates with Day, “I love that she is treating my whole body instead of just the site of the injury. There are lots of pieces to the puzzle when it comes to injuries and injury prevention and I feel like she sees the whole picture. I like that she does a lot of evaluation to find where my weak spots are and then works on strengthening those.” Day came in originally for tendonitis in her knee. “I always felt like I was just managing the pain of the injury as opposed to curing it, making it better and getting healthy. Now I feel like I'm not only making it better, but taking the time to prevent future injury.”

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Jenna Healy

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