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Journey of a DPT Student

PT Career and Injuries

Published October 21, 2013 3:33 PM by Lauren Rosso

Three different events have come up in the past week that make me wonder about the world of "light duty" and injuries. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you have some career connection to physical therapy and therefore realize that ours are not the type of jobs where you can work through injuries -- sometimes even minor ones.

For example, a classmate of mine is faced with the decision whether or not to proceed on the surgical route for a herniated disc. Conservative approaches (including PT) have failed. If he decides to get surgery, there's a chance he won't be able to complete his clinical rotations as scheduled. He will of course graduate, but it's remarkable to think that a medical decision to prevent long-term impairment could potentially complicate and delay his graduation. But it's the nature of what we do.

An even more extreme example is a coworker of mine who is pregnant and recently was put on a 5-pound lifting restriction for the duration of the pregnancy, which is five months. As much as the hospital would like to accommodate her, they just can't guarantee it. I know it's not an injury, but it's another example of the physical requirements of our profession.

And then there's me. I just ran a 9-mile race, and now I can't walk up the stairs. Not that it's a major injury, but I'm a little bit concerned about how I'm going to get through the next few days. If I were in most other careers, it wouldn't even be an issue. To think that in the future I may have to take PTO for something like this is eye-opening.

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I liked your article and I think that this is a very important topic. As physical therapists, we need to make sure that we have the physical abilities to complete our jobs. We need the strength and postural control to support patients who may have an unstable gait. This is important for the safety of the patient to minimize falls. The acute and other intensive settings require the most physical demands. Getting injured on the job is a real and likely scenario in our field with all of the physical demands. However, taking proper precautions by lifting patients and spotting them with proper mechanical leverage can minimize injury. Making sure to protect the spine during lifts is a must. We must maintain our physique and use proper mechanics to ensure patient safety and our own.

Ryan Sandy, Physical therapy - PT student, ECU March 16, 2014 8:18 PM
Greenville NC

This is a really great point and I think something all pt students have on their mind! Especially as a first year, like me, you learn about all the different ways you can get injured doing plenty of activities that you never worried about injury in before. In addition, you fall out of shape due to the heavy workload when you are first making the adjustments to PT school, which makes the idea of getting back to full activity scary because you are less active, and have a lower threshold, and are also now somewhat anxious about activity, because you having nothing but injuries running through your head. For me, I would like to go into manual therapy and recently started having noticeable metacarpal pain when I lifting weights. I know my hands are something I can't afford to lose function in, so I have had to completely change the workouts I do. I may be challenging my musculoskeletal system less, but  it is worth it as long as I can stay healthy and have a long career.

Amir Sanii March 9, 2014 9:21 PM


First off, great blog! I am a semester away from graduating undergrad, and will become a DPT student next year. Your info has been very helpful! I was recently accepted to PITT and a few other schools. The decision will be tough. Overall, how do you like PITT? Would you go there if you could do it all over again? The year long clinical is intimidating, but I guess that is where you really learn. Any advice would be a great help. Thanks!

Jon November 2, 2013 12:36 PM

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