Sports medicine is a form of physical therapy (PT) that specializes in preventing and treating injuries that occur as a result of training for and participating in athletic activities.

At Keck Hospital of USC, our sports PT staff focuses on the unique musculoskeletal injuries that occur in athletics, using specialized skills to assess and treat the injury, prevent pain or further damage, train the muscles needed to participate in a particular sport and, ultimately, enable patients to return to their sport or activity safely and without limitations.

Sports PT is provided on an outpatient basis at Keck Hospital of USC by therapists who are board-certified in this specialty by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). This means that they not only are licensed physical therapists, but also have met rigorous national standards of education, experience and clinical expertise in the specialty of sports medicine.

Who Benefits from Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

At Keck Hospital of USC, we work with active individuals of all ages. From the professional, collegiate and high school athlete to the weekend warrior or senior athlete, all can benefit from this service.

Among the conditions we treat:

  • Elbow and shoulder injuries, including shoulder instability and rotator cuff disorders
  • Injuries to knee ligaments and cartilage
  • Injuries to ankle ligaments
  • Muscle strains
  • Tendon injuries
  • Overuse injuries
  • Osteoarthritis

Comprehensive Diagnostic & Treatment Resources

The emphasis of sports PT is on biomechanics — the physics of how the body moves — as it relates to your specific sport or game. A football player, for example, moves quite differently from a golfer or a race walker.

After a thorough assessment to identify the source of your pain or mobility problem, we will design a program tailored to your unique, sport-specific needs and personal goals for rehabilitation and injury prevention. We utilize a range of treatments designed to help the body move more effectively and avoid injury, including:

  • Manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization to improve limited mobility or range of motion
  • Therapeutic exercise to address specific muscle dysfunction, balance issues, or to increase muscle strength and size
    • Our outpatient clinic is equipped with a full array of weight machines and cardiovascular exercise equipment
  • Techniques to improve neuromuscular control and ensure that muscles are used in the correct sequence
  • Splinting to hold a part of the body stable and motionless to prevent pain and further injury
  • Orthotics, which are custom-designed appliances that help to prevent and correct deformities that may hinder a person’s ease of movement. Orthotics also aid in support and alignment, which can help improve the function of a specific part of the body.
  • Education about self-management techniques such as the use of heat and cold to manage pain and swelling, and other self-care strategies.

At Keck Hospital of USC’s outpatient clinic, our sports PT specialists work closely with specialists in orthopedics and hand therapy, giving you streamlined access to their expertise when needed. In addition, there is close collaboration between the outpatient clinic and USC’s Sports Medicine Department.

Common Terms Used in Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

  • Functional – Generally, functional refers to something able to fulfill its purpose or function. In sports PT, functional exercise refers to exercise that helps a patient perform his/her particular sport or game.
  • Joint mobilization – Joint mobilization involves passive movement of a joint to relieve pain or restore mobility. Proper application requires knowledge of joint mechanics, normal range of motion and proper technique.
  • Orthotics – Specialized, custom-designed mechanical devices to support or assist weakened or normal joints or limbs.
  • Tendonitis – An inflammation of the tendons, structures that attach muscle to bone. Overuse is the most common cause of tendonitis.
  • Sport Specific Progression – A progressive program designed to re-introduce the athlete back into a specific activity/sport (i.e. running, throwing, etc.)
  • Instability – Lack of stability, usually with a joint. Once a joint loses its static stability from ligaments, muscle strength and control are required to maintain dynamic stability

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How soon can I get back to playing my sport?
A: There’s no single, simple answer to this question because each person is unique and there are so many variables that can affect the length of time it takes to recover from an injury. Our certified sports PT specialists will work closely with you to establish realistic expectations, timeframes and goals, and communicate openly and honestly about your progress and prognosis.

Q: What can I do at home on my own to speed up my recovery?
A: Our certified sports PT specialists can provide specific recommendations on when and how much to do on your own in addition to the treatment regimen here at the clinic. We find that athletes often tend to do too much in their eagerness to get back to playing, which can hurt instead of help recovery. So we urge you to follow your therapist’s recommendations carefully.

Q: What supplements can I/should I take to help aid in my recovery?
A: All medications and supplements should be discussed with your physician. Caution should be used when taking over-the-counter (OTC) supplements because the FDA does not regulate these.

Q: Are there any nutritional considerations that I should be aware of during my recovery?
A: Nutrition plays a key role in the body’s healing process. Please ask your physician or physical therapist for assistance in a referral to a nutritionist.

Q: Should I wear a brace when I am ready to return to my sport?
A: There are many different types of braces for each body part. The Sports PT staff can help determine if you need a brace and which one would be the most appropriate for you based on your injury and your sport-specific demands.