Neil Chasan is a PT who works primarily with competitive athletes and athletic patients. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in 1982 and his master’s with an emphasis on orthopedic manual therapy through the Ola Grimsby Institute in 1993. He founded the Sports Reaction Center (www.srcpt.com) in 1997. Neil says, “I really enjoy helping athletes achieve their goals.”
Q: What motivated you to become a physical therapist?
A: I was a competitive athlete through high school and actually represented South Africa in gymnastics. As a gymnast I suffered numerous injuries and spent a lot of time on the treatment table. When I went to college I looked into medicine and because I wanted to work with athletes; physical therapy seemed like a good mix.
Q: How would you describe Sports Reaction Center? Does your facility offer any special services?
A: Sports Reaction Center is a private clinic that offers state-of-the-art care for athletes. We work directly with several sports clubs and teams, and offer sideline support to local rugby teams including the local Super League club and Old Puget Sound Beach. One special service we offer is concussion management. We have developed a very sophisticated approach to returning athletes to competition safely; and we are very proud of this aspect of our care. We also offer the AlterG as a tool for our athletic patients to use and we perform gait analysis and other objective testing using Optojump, a very sophisticated tool that provides instant real time objective data.
Q: What’s it like working at Sports Reaction Center?
A: I love what I do, and we have a great team of people. We have alignment with our patients in that our purpose is to help them achieve their athletic goals. For this reason, all of our staff is highly motivated every day. We laugh a lot at work every day. We take what we do seriously, but we do not take ourselves too seriously.
Q: When and why did you open this clinic?
A: Sports Reaction Center was formed in 1997 as a performance enhancement facility. It was an idea that was in many ways years before its time. Because we were so far ahead of the curve, we started seeing injured athletes and have continued to help injured athletes achieve their best. We still offer performance enhancement advice and guidance to patients though, but usually in the context of their recovery from injury.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as a physical therapist?
A: We evaluate athletes who are injured, plan their recovery and then implement a program to address their complaint, restore their function and enhance their performance. My primary function is to identify the tissue in dysfunction and the functional restrictions or instabilities that need to be addressed. Then I build a treatment plan to resolve the issue, educate the patient about the plan and then we set about implementing it together.
Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: We see athletes. We cover rugby, track and field, triathlon and other sporting activities. If we have a subspecialty, it is concussion management.
Q: Can you share a funny story about your profession?
A: When I first became involved with the rugby club, I asked them what they did for sports medicine coverage. They told me they “had a bag and a vet on the team,” and this was how they managed their injuries. Naturally, our involvement was a big step up for them.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as a physical therapist, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: I have a strong interest in gait and gait analysis, and through my company we sell the product Optojump. I also teach workshops on “Marketing to Athletes” to PTs and chiropractors.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as a PT?
A: Our profession is challenged by the reimbursement climate. This hasn’t changed and, if anything, things are getting worse which ultimately has a negative impact on patient care as insurance pays less and less for PT services.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love working with athletes and teams, and in many ways, I enjoy the challenge of being on the sideline with the Super League rugby team during their matches in various cities. A couple of years ago, we won the national championships in the 7′s and this year we could win the Super League. Being part of an organization like that is very rewarding.
Q: Are you currently involved with any projects?
A: My most recent creation is an iPhone app, Pain Free Back (available in the App Store on iTunes), that Future Trends magazine rated highly as “an example of the future of healthcare.” We also have a pilot study underway looking at concussion assessment. I hope to make this a bigger project over time.
Q: Do you feel that the role of PTs has changed over recent years?
A: We are more in the front lines of care than ever before. We have to be able to recognize when something we are looking at needs more intervention and make the referrals appropriately. Because of this, we have a good solid working relationship with several physicians including orthopedists who we refer to for diagnostic studies and management.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to PTs today?
A: In my practice we see reimbursement rates dropping. This presents a significant challenge to continuing to provide quality care with a fully staffed office.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Last year I was invited to the IAAF Track and Field World Championships with one of my patients. This was the highlight of my career.
In all cases though, seeing athletes we work with competing at their highest levels provides the best reward. During the past 12 months for instance, we had athletes competing in the Diamond League in Europe, the World Championship in Track and Field in Korea, the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the IRB Sevens World Series around the world and the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. This for me is ultimately rewarding. When an athlete thanks us for the work we do us by gifting us his/her jersey, I am very moved by the thoughtfulness.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
A: I have learned to listen to my patients. If I listen to them, they tell me what is wrong with them. I pay very close attention to the mechanism of the injury.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering this field?
A: To work with athletes, one ideally needs a PT/ATC credential. I would also suggest spending time with people who are experts in the field because so much of this profession is learned through apprenticing. Lastly, one should make a significant commitment to ongoing learning. The field is enormous and it is hard to stay on top of the field without a commitment to learning.
Q: How has working in this specialty allowed you to grow professionally?
A: Treating athletes requires me to be an expert clinician for every body part. I have to be competent at managing trauma as well as at rehab and performance enhancement. At times I also have to function like a sports psychologist with my injured athletes. Since I work with athletes from different backgrounds I need to be knowledgeable about the technical aspects of an array of sports—also, the runners want to talk times, the rugby players want to talk Super 15, the soccer players talk about the EPL and so on, so I have to stay on top of the current events in those sports as well. In the end, I am confident that I have acquired a significant amount of knowledge.
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Rewarding. I really enjoy helping athletes achieve their goals, and in my work I get to do so every day.