A few months ago, a PT student reached out to me asking about sports residency programs. He wanted to know what my experience in one was like, how it helped my career, and what he should do to try to put himself in a position to get one. This was not an uncommon question as I get at least 15-20 emails like this yearly. However, my answer to these type of questions has changed over the last few years.
What was my experience like in a sports residency?
If you would have asked me this question during my residency I would have told you amazing and also very stressful. Now, looking back, I would still say that it was an amazing experience but I would also say I see there are "different" paths that can be taken depending on career goals. What I mean by that is you can certainly create your own "residency" experience. For example, if you are looking to work in a collegiate setting you may want to do a more structured residency experience with a university. However, if you want to work in a clinic setting that deals with primarily athletes and does event coverage then chances are you can find a clinic like that while using the money you will make to create the type of education you want.
How has a sports residency helped my career?
Completing a sports residency has done a few things for my career that I don't think I would have had without it. The first being the skillset to feel comfortable taking an athlete from the start of rehabilitation to the end of rehabilitation. I think that the orthopedic skillset that is required at the start of rehab is crucial but the understanding of the sport biomechanics, demands, athlete mindset, and proper loading progression to get back to sport is something extra I learned consistently working with my mentors. The second way I think the residency helped my career is put me in a network of people I could learn from. It wasn't just my immediate mentors but more the ones that I was able to reach out too being a sports resident that helped me get my foot in the door with them. These people that I looked up to were more than willing to talk with me and while they probably have helped numerous other clinicians, I do think it helped that I was a clinician that chose to do a residency to advance my career. Lastly, completing the sports residency helped me gain the confidence to treat any athlete effectively. This has helped me advance my career by landing consulting gigs with gymnastic and AAU teams which has been very rewarding.
What should you do to get into a sports residency?
I wrote a great article right after my sports residency interviews about this here but the main thing is do as much in the sports world as you possibly can. That can include going to the sports section conference, volunteering at marathons, taking sports PT courses, taking additional internships in sports, and more. The more a residency sees your passion for sports physical therapy the better. Lastly, make sure you reach out more than once to these directors or go visit them in person. This is a great way to stand out.
Overall, doing a sports residency is a choice. You can certainly build out your own "residency" experience by choosing your own education, using the extra money you earn as staff PT to travel to meet more sports clinicians, and volunteer in your local community at events. However, structured residency experiences also have there advantages and can certainly make it easier to get consistent sports experience and mentoring.
Dr. Brian Schwabe, PT, DPT, SCS, COMT, CSCS
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