Should Physical Therapy School Curriculum Include Strength and Conditioning?

Should Physical Therapy School Curriculum Include Strength and Conditioning?

The American Physical Therapy Association(APTA) describes Physical Therapist as movement experts who improve  quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands on care and patient education.

As I finish my last few weeks of didactic course work for Physical Therapy School, while simultaneously studying for my practice NPTE board exam, I am blown away by how much I have learned.  Topics ranging from Acute care to advanced sports, pediatrics to geriatrics, Integumentary to Cardiovascular Pulmonary and everything in between.  However, there has been one glaring hole in my educational experience; that being Strength and Conditioning.  I have had to try to fill this knowledge gap through other avenues.

Although we claim ourselves as “The Movement” and “Prescribers of Exercise” experts; when I think about the best movement and exercise prescribers, most are not Physical Therapist but instead individuals in the Strength and Conditioning world.  The Sad truth in Physical Therapy, more often than not Physical Therepist are still under loading our patients using 3 sets of 10 and therabands for every exercise.

“But we are Doctors?”

Yes and we should be proud of that!  But we need to leave our letters and egos at the door.  We need to understand that compared to other professions we are uniquely qualified to help highly complex patients, due to the depth and bredth of our education.  However, as a profession we are dropping the ball in terms of being the “movement” and exercise prescription expert.

How Can We Improve As A Profession?

In my opinion, I feel the curriculum at each and every Physical Therapy School should include an entire course on Strength and Conditioning.  I understand many will point out that this may be linked to my orthopedic and sports bias.  However, I would argue that learning the science behind strength and conditioning and evidence based loading principles would be beneficial for every population to drive meaningful adaptation.  Not only will this be meaningful learning to better us as clinicians, but if the school prepared you for the CSCS exam, it would set you up to have a marketable certification that is widely respected not, not just in strength and conditioning but throughout the entire healthcare field.

Expand the Reach of Physical Therapy

As i talked about a few weeks ago in my blog “Does Physical Therapy Have An Impending Unemployment Crisis? ” The Physical Therapy profession, will not offer the job security it has in the past. Instead, more and more programs are being created, current programs are expanding and the job opportunities are growing at a slower rate.  This will  leave about 10% of Physical Therapist unemployed in 10 years. In the article mentioned above, I discussed possible solutions to this dooming problem.  One of which, was expanding our reach as a profession to play larger roles in other sections of health care.  One of which would be serving as primary care doctors in Emergency Rooms and taking the lead on all Musculoskeletal injuries.  However, I believe taking a larger role in “personal training” “wellness coaching” and Strength and Conditioning are other areas in which our profession may be able to expand and maximize our influence.  Another benefit of including Strength and Conditioning coure is that it will prepare students for their CSCS and give students a strong foundation to lead in these areas.

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