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Community Outreach Update: Highline College Soccer

By Abby Halpin, DPT

Physical therapists work with people who have been injured to return to their goals. But PTs know that the ideal person to work with is one who is not yet injured. By the time someone is injured, his or her movement system (See “Move” ) has likely needed work for some time. One of the best arenas to prevent potentially problematic movement patterns for large groups of people is in athletics.

Over the last seven months, MSPT physical therapists have been working with the players of the Highline College Women’s Soccer team. Last summer, Thunderbird coaches Tom Moore and Chris Wells reached out to MSPT hoping to get support for their injured and not-yet-injured players. As you can imagine, collegiate soccer players are prone to injury. MSPT had been looking for a way to broaden our community outreach, and this seemed like the right opportunity.

Our work started on day one. Each player went through a screening process to find out what she needed to improve her movement and reduce likelihood of injury. She then received counseling on what to work on and why. We spent the rest of the month of August taking over a portion of practice three times a week to address the areas that the players needed. These women are talented soccer players and when they get on the field, they make it nearly impossible to imagine that something might not be just right. But by and large, the most common areas of deficit were core and hip girdle motor control. Not strength. Motor control consists of more than just how much force a muscle can produce. The strongest glutes in the world are rendered useless if they do not turn on in time, start at the right position, or work well with other muscle groups. Considering the amount of running and changes in speed and direction soccer players perform, other body parts are often the victims of poor trunk and hip motor control or compensation patterns that tax other tissues.

We are now in the middle of the team’s off-season and have been planning and executing three sessions per week to educate players on correct movements during soccer specific tasks. Along with others, a considerable portion of our work has been to improve technique for deceleration, acceleration and cutting. We continue to and have been able to reverse errors in training and common compensatory patterns, such as overstretching hamstrings to the point of affecting trunk control or arching the spine to stabilize the back. As the players develop as athletes and move on with their soccer careers, we hope they will take what they have learned with them for long-lasting positive effects to their movement systems.

Of course in elite athletics, there are some injuries that you cannot prevent. But for those injuries that are a long time coming, how wonderful would it be if we all could be screened on a regular basis to make sure the movement system is up and running properly? Here at MSPT, we are enjoying using our knowledge for good… ahead of time.