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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

'Times' Article on PT Treatment Misleads

Published January 20, 2010 11:06 AM by Elizabeth Puliti

By Guest Blogger Carole Lewis, DPT, GCS, GTC, MSG, MPA, PhD, FAPTA

On Jan. 6, 2010, in its Fitness and Nutrition Section, the New York Times published an article entitled, "Treat Me But No Tricks Please." The article by Rita Kolata, a professional journalist, used out-of-context statements and shoddy research to defame a well-regarded profession that has helped many people from all walks of life and of all ages. Ms. Kolata invoked such phrases as "voodoo" science and "waste of time" to describe therapy treatments, without putting into context how a physical therapist works. There were no discussions of rehabilitation of torn ACLs, no weight-bearing exercises for the recent hip replacement surgery, no exercises to improve activities of daily living for the elderly patient with osteoporosis and scoliosis. The only story was about the doctor, who hadn't started running again eight weeks after spraining his ankle. Was it a severe or mild sprain? Was there a fracture and/or ligament damage?  Was it the case that he just hadn't started running yet, because he was too busy being interviewed by the Times

Physical therapy practitioners have shown the efficacy of treatments in a wide variety of settings and there is a continuing effort to develop practice guidelines and to establish baseline measures, norms and other quantitative approaches to establish the health benefits of physical therapy interventions. Ms. Kolata chose to focus on hearsay and innuendo and not the scientific process in her article.

To be fair, the physical therapy profession, like all in the scientific community, must endeavor to study its methods and results and publish in peer-reviewed literature. At the same time, experimental techniques must be investigated and tested; sometimes they hold promise and sometimes not, but comparing platelet therapy (a controversial new technique) to the entire profession of physical therapy is inappropriate at best, and at worst a journalistic trick, conjured in bad faith.

For more on this subject, tune into YouTube as Dr. Carole Lewis comments further on Ms. Kolata's article. The link can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq5t5phUh8Y or http://www.greatseminarsonline.com/

posted by Elizabeth Puliti
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3 comments

It is unfortunate that irresponsible journalists exist.  A young girl we know was the victim of an unscrupulous journalist.  She is a rising middle school star athlete, already playing at the high school level and being compared to pros.  The journalist chose to completely fabricate a quote that put this young lady in a bad light with her team and her community.  Immediately upon seeing the quote, her parents had her on the phone apologizing to her teammates, doing damage control.  A 12 year old shouldn't have to do damage control.  Neither should a profession.  But unethical journalists exist.  Which means it is our responsibility to demand those unethical journalists be held accountable to factual reporting.  Ethics are important...even if only one person is reading.  Thank you Dr. Lewis.

Janey Goude January 21, 2010 11:13 PM

@ Derek; Yes, people do still pay attention to the NY Times. In addition to having a huge US reader base, articles are then put into the International Herald Tribune to be read around the world. To dismiss truly bad press by a bad reporter, which this was and Ms. Kolata is, is as dangerous as saying Rush Limbaugh/Al Franken (pick your personal devil) have no impact and are simply entertainment.

How many readers, uneducated about PT,  will no not seek out our treatments because of this article? How many MDs may think twice before referring to us?

Thank goodness for Dr. Carole Lewis having the gumption to stand up and defend our profession. I say Bravo to her. Why couldn't  Dr. Ward do likewise in his response to the NY Times? We need leaders like Dr. Lewis.

Dean Metz January 20, 2010 11:52 AM

Come on......Is there anyone left that pays any attention to the NY Times?

Derek, Physical Therapy - Rehab Director, Home January 20, 2010 11:38 AM
Naples FL

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