The Winning Team: How Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers Collaborate for Athlete Recovery 

Posted on March 29, 2024

March is National Athletic Training Month, a time to recognize the vital role athletic trainers play in helping athletes prevent, treat and recover from injuries. At Panorama Physical Therapy, we have a deep appreciation for the partnerships our physical therapists forge with athletic trainers to provide comprehensive rehabilitative care for injured athletes. 

In conversations with two of our physical therapists, Carrie Hamm and Justin Meyer, who regularly work with local university athletic programs, it’s clear this interdisciplinary teamwork is key to getting athletes back in the game. Here’s a look at how their expertise combines for successful outcomes: 

The Physical Therapist Role: Post-Op Protocols and Hands-On Rehab 

As physical therapist Carrie explains, PTs focus extensively on post-surgical rehab, guiding patients through protocols to heal properly after operations like ACL tears or hip labral repairs. “With PTs, we are well-versed with post-op protocols,” she notes. This involves graduated rehab progressions and hands-on techniques like dry needling to reduce pain and promote recovery. 

Athletic Trainer Strengths: Immediate Care and Sport-Specific Training 

While physical therapists concentrate on the clinical side, athletic trainers excel in on-site care. As Justin describes it, “Their bread and butter is acute injury management – assessing and acting quickly when injuries happen.” Athletic trainers provide immediate treatment and later integrate sport-specific drills and exercises as the athlete advances through rehab.   

A True Team Effort 

Far from operating in separate silos, both PT and AT disciplines work in concert throughout an athlete’s rehabilitation journey. “We go back and forth, collaborating to stay on the same page with rehab protocols,” says Carrie. Justin echoes this, “I rely on the athletic training staff because they know the specifics of each sport so well.”   

The continuous communication and balanced roles lead to optimal results for the athletes, as evidenced by their respective patient success stories. Carrie worked with a basketball player named Mikayla who tore her ACL and had a hip labral tear on the same side. For the average person, this would likely take a full year to recover. By seeing Carrie for PT while also working with the athletic trainers, Mikayla is hopefully on track to return for next season. 

Meanwhile, Justin had the privilege of rehabbing key players from the University of Denver’s basketball team after several injuries and surgeries. Thanks to the close collaboration with the team athletic trainer, both were able to make full recoveries. One went on to lead the nation in scoring as a senior. 

Across numerous examples, both Carrie and Justin spoke glowingly about the dedication and expertise of the athletic trainers they partner with at the local universities. As Justin summarized, “That staff deserves so much – they work so hard, such long hours. They sacrifice so much.” 

By combining our physical therapists’ clinical mastery with athletic trainers’ acute care abilities and sport-specific knowledge, we can provide truly comprehensive recoveries for injured athletes. It’s a winning formula that has helped countless local athletes overcome injuries and get back to competing at their peak performance level. 

So as we celebrate National Athletic Training Month, Panorama Physical Therapy extends its appreciation to all the athletic trainers we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with over the years. Our partnership helps athletes make winning recoveries!