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What its Like Going Through a Sports Residency Program For Physical Therapists

Sports residency for physical therapists - Aaron PerezSports residency for physical therapists is, well, competitive! Getting accepted to a sports residency is a tedious process, but one that is well worth it. Aaron Perez PT, DPT is currently a physical therapist and sports resident at Saint Francis University. We interviewed Aaron to get a sense of what its like to be a sports resident. For those of you who are considering pursuing a sports residency, we hope this article helps provide some insights into what its like to go through a program.

What made you decide to pursue sports residency training?

I pursued residency training because I wanted to hit the ground running after PT school and believed residency education would be the best option to grow professionally. I chose a sports residency because I have always enjoyed the strength and conditioning aspect of rehab, and wanted more experience applying those principles to athletes recovering from injuries. The varied environments of a sports residency (i.e. clinic, training room, event coverage) was also appealing.

What sports residency program are you attending (or did you attend) and why?

I am currently completing a physical therapy sports residency through Saint Francis University. I applied to SFU’s residency because it allows residents to tailor their experience to their unique interests/goals. There are also a few residents going through the program together, and so the comradery and collaboration amongst residents was appealing. There are also teaching opportunities at Saint Francis University’s DiSepio Symposium and within their DPT program, which were important to me. Lastly, I was very impressed after talking with the residency program director and alumni from my school who had gone through SFU’s residency program.

Can you give an example of a “typical” day in the sports residency program?

I’m not sure describing a single day will truly encompass all a resident does, so if you don’t mind I’ll answer this with my weekly responsibilities. A typical week will include mentored and non-mentored patient care, athletic training room coverage in a university setting, practice/game coverage for the university athletic teams, orthopedic/sports medicine physician office hours/surgical shadowing, and didactic learning including lectures, journal clubs, readings, and case studies.

What is your typical case load in the sports residency program?

Sports residencies require at least 40% of your caseload to be athletes. The caseload for Saint Francis’ residency program varies depending on the site you are at. My site is a private practice, outpatient orthopedic setting. I see a mixed patient population, but the majority of my caseload is high school and college athletes, general orthopedic conditions, and persistent pain.

How much does the sports residency program cost? (i.e. reduced salary or full salary but paying tuition)?

The residency program has tuition costs, but they are covered by my employer who then pays me a reduced salary. Residents are also expected to attend one national conference with expenses paid by the employer. So, although I don’t get paid a full salary, some of that is made up through continuing education (residency costs, travel/course expenses).

What opportunities have you or will you seek out after finishing the sports residency program?

I recently just accepted my next job! I would have probably never found out about the opportunity had it not been for Twitter (STRONGLY recommend all PT students/New Grads/any PT to get on Twitter). I am very excited about PT’s role in population health, and so I will be pursuing education and opportunities in that realm in the near future. I am also interested in completing an orthopedic manual physical therapy fellowship.

What have you gained from attending the sports residency program (knowledge, skills, etc…) that you may not have gained otherwise?

There is great value in completing a residency program. Mentorship, continuing education, networking, and unique opportunities (i.e. teaching) are some of the benefits I have gained through residency. I would say the biggest benefit and most enjoyable experience has been creating relationships with those in the program. I became great friends with one of my co-residents and it’s been fun collaborating and learning with him. Having someone in your contacts you feel comfortable reaching out to at any time for some honest advice is hugely valuable!

What advice do you have for students that wish to pursue a sports residency after graduation?

Reflect – think about where you would like to see yourself in 10 years…what’s your dream job look like? Then, work backwards from there. Write out goals (i.e. “In 10 years, I will..” and continue that for 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 6 months, until you have an action plan for the immediate future.

Ask – Talk to others who are at where you would like to be. Ask what they did to get there. Ask those who you know and trust for some honest advice as well. And trust your gut. If residency education still aligns with your goals and circumstances, then research programs online, talk to the program directors, and talk to current/past residents. Don’t limit yourself either, explore lots of options (whether those options are residencies or not). Find the right fit for you!

Decide – Make a commitment to your goals and…

Act – Go for it! And have lots of fun along the way.

Want more great information on residencies?

Visit our residency corner

Sports residency for physical therapists


About Brett Kestenbaum

NSU grad 2014. I took my first job at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego shortly after graduating, and since then built newgradphysicaltherapy.com and covalentcareers.com for all the new grad PT's out there :).

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