Discover How Olympians and Paralympians Prepare for the Games

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Physical therapists attending the London Games share their experiences and answer your questions live.

ALEXANDRIA, VA, July 12, 2012 —The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games will play host to a combined 14,690 athletes competing in 46 different sports. In total, 805 medals will be awarded to athletes who have reached the pinnacle of their sport. To offer a glimpse into how these athletes prepare to compete on the world's biggest stage, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) will host a one-hour program on Move Forward Radio called "Reaching the Top of Your Game" on Tuesday, July 17, 7:00 - 8:00 pm, ET.

Amber Donaldson, PT, DPT, M Physio (Manip), SCS, CSCS, manager of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sports Medicine Clinic in Colorado Springs, will join other APTA members, including Scott Weiss, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, physical therapist for the US Sailing Team and owner of Bodhizone for Human Performance and Sports Physical Therapy based in New York City, and Denise Hutchins, PT, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics Classifier and vice chair of Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports, USA. People across the country can listen online and call in to the show to ask questions or submit them in advance via Twitter by tweeting @MoveForwardPT and using the hashtag #MoveForward.

Physical therapists are among the select group of health care professionals credentialed by the USOC and IPC to treat athletes during the Games. Athletes may also choose to bring their own medical teams. While physical therapists treat a lot of common injuries such as shoulder and back strains and bruises, they also play a critical role in injury prevention during the games.

"We try to be consistent with the athlete's usual treatment plan, but we also educate and help guide their recovery, which is critical for the prevention of injuries," said Donaldson. "We encourage the athletes to prevent injuries by addressing things when they are small, before they become real issues. There is not a lot of time when they are in competition to address large issues without impacting training time and performance."

During the Paralympic Games, elite athletes with a variety of disabilities, such as mobility disabilities, spinal injuries, amputations, visual impairments and cerebral palsy compete. Athletes must undergo classification, which is a two-step process whereby they are evaluated to determine if their impairment level meets the minimal disability criteria established for their sport and which category of impairment best matches their impairment. Physical therapists are among the medical classifiers who perform neurological, coordination, range of motion, and manual muscle testing to determine how an athlete's impairment impacts their performance of the sport.

"This categorization of athletes allows the "best athlete" to win rather than the athlete with the least impairment," said Hutchins.

Physical therapists who specialize in sports work with athletes of all levels and abilities to help them enhance performance through sports-specific strength, conditioning and flexibility programs. Because physical therapists are experts in the way the body works, they are uniquely qualified to, and are often called to, help elite athletes reach their peak performance.

About APTA
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 80,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.