APTA Responds to AP Story on Representative Giffords' Rehabilitation

January 25, 2011

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your January 23 article, "Rehab aims to help Giffords regain her life" by Marilynn Marchione.

Ms. Marchione did a disservice to your readers by saying, "Just a couple of decades ago, rehab was little more than physical therapy for shuffling stroke victims and quadriplegics in wheelchairs, a last resort after doctors had done all they could."

For years, rehabilitation involved careful collaboration among physical therapy, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social work, and psychology to develop appropriate plans of care. In the 1990's a revitalization occurred in the understanding of the potential for the brain or spinal cord to recover with intensive, specialized movement interventions that train the nervous system to recover some of the functions lost after injury or disease.

There is strong support for the benefit of specialized rehabilitation services for people with traumatic brain injury or stroke. We know that organized rehabilitative care results in long-term reductions in death, dependency, and the need for institutional care. Findings over the past decade have revealed the potential for physical reorganization of brain tissue in response to challenging task-specific practice. Clinical trials to understand how to optimize brain reorganization and recovery through therapeutic exercise prescribed by rehabilitation specialists including physical therapists are ongoing.

Evidence and technologies alone, however, cannot heal a patient. It is the determination of those with stroke, quadriplegia, or devastating injuries, such as Rep. Gifford's, to do the excruciatingly hard work - in partnership with their physical therapists - to bring about restoration to their lives.

Readers may visit www.moveforwardpt.com to learn more about how physical therapists can help.


R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association