Physicals for College Athletes: A Q&A with Physical Therapist Matt Erbe
OrthoCarolina works with a number of college sports programs to help keep athletes healthy in both season and the offseason. The OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine physical therapy staff and Margaret Lynch, PA-C, under Dr. Dana Piasecki work closely with the athletic training staff at Queens University of Charlotte's athletic programs throughout the year to help keep the Royals in top shape.
Before the college sports seasons commence, all incoming athletes need to have preseason physicals. This year on August 12 and 26 over 200 Queens University athletes received orthopedic screens before participating in their sport. Matt Erbe, DPT, OCS, PT, with OrthoCarolina’s Sports Medicine Center shared his unique insight into the world of college athletics preparation:
Is a college physical the same as a regular in-office physical?
Matt: We take college athletes through the same checks we do regular patient physicals, including height, weight, blood pressure check, etc. Then they will run through a medical station where typically a primary care physician will do heart, lungs and vision check.
So then, how does a college physical differ from a regular physical?
Matt: Each athlete gets an ImPACT Test which is like a pre-screen for concussions. It gives us baseline cognitive function for each athlete so if they have a concussion during the season we have their normal value to go back and compare which will help with safely returning athletes to sport. They also get an orthopedic screen which is where we come in: orthopedic surgeons and PAs review any MRI’s, X-rays, or surgical notes the athlete had in the past. The MDs, PAs, and PTs perform a motion and strength scan of each athlete’s upper body, lower body and core. The team also discusses any past medical history related to orthopedic injuries or surgeries.
What if a college athlete has an injury or issue that will affect their sport?
Matt: If they have any underlying impairments the PTs will make recommendations on stretches or strengthening exercises, and decided wither they need to get on a formal rehab program with the PT and athletic training Staff. If the athlete is returning from an injury or surgery from the previous season PTs are also involved in performing functional testing to determine the likelihood of a safe return to sport. Functional tests consist of various jump and hop testing, the PT will compare ability on one leg compared to the opposite; we want to see a normalized strength and hop ability before returning an athlete to play. If athletes have issues such as knee pain, foot/ankle pain or low back pain we sometimes make referrals for orthotic fittings, where we have a pressure plate on site to take foot measurements for orthotics.
What does it take to get so many physicals accomplished?
Matt: We have a great time working with the athletes but it’s very much a huge team effort when it comes to getting all the physicals completed. In particular, Dana Piasecki MD, Bryan Saltzman MD, David Trofa MD, Margaret Lynch PA-C, Matt Erbe PT, Mike Magalski PT, Erica Bleier PT, Kristen Alford PT all played an integral role in this year’s physicals at Queens.