Touchdown for Physical Therapy: The Bell of Fantasy Football

PT Profile: Touchdown for Physical Therapy 

By Stephanie Stephens

She's living her dream and fulfilling her career fantasy. Stephania Bell, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS, of Redwood City, California, tackles the 24-hour day, even when it's not totally planned. "I can't wait to see what happens next," she says.

She carries the distinction of being the only female physical therapist who professionally analyzes injuries and player performance for fantasy football. Bell is a huge sports fan whose current career began as a hobby, after a referral from a friend connected her to this ever-expanding fantasy sport and multimedia opportunity.

New to fantasy sports? You and 11 buddies pick a team composed of players from real teams. Players score points for you based on how they perform. "Strategy plays a big part," Bell says, adding that the National Football League (NFL) endorses the pastime that's become "a multimillion-dollar business in a very short time. It parallels the real football season."

Bell, who grew up in Palo Alto, California, holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a master of science degree in physical therapy from the University of Miami, Florida. "Stephania is a leader, an innovator, a clinical expert, a holistic and empathetic practitioner," says Sherrill H Hayes, PT, PhD, professor and chair for the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, and Bell's longtime friend and mentor. "Her career trajectory has always been upward. She has been an excellent teacher and a published author and now holds a position that is likely envied by many, but few could carry it off so well."

Bell taught at the University of Kansas 5 years before returning West to join Kaiser-Permanente San Jose, where she happily sees patients on Wednesdays and mentors younger therapists. This physical therapy ambassador teaches a sports medicine elective at Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, California, on Tuesday afternoons. Thursdays, she flies to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, to do her shows, and then—whew!—returns home on Monday night.

Sundays, it's a 15-minute player injury update on Fantasy Insider on ESPN News Network, as well as camera face time on ESPN.com and its wildly popular Internet endeavor, Fantasy Football Now, dispensing late-breaking game information. She spent 2 years getting her fantasy feet wet as an injury analyst at Rotowire.com and appeared weekly on XM Radio's fantasy sports show. Early on, she figures she worked for "approximately 25 cents an hour and often until to 3 or 4 am."

The payoff? Fans crave her insightful and authoritative commentary. "Fantasy audiences want insights as to what current injuries exist, how they may impact players, and how long players may be out," Bell says. In fantasy football, you can add and drop players and make trades, and injuries are important. Bell makes sure to be respectful when making assessments based upon information released. "I'm not evaluating the player," she says.

Clarity and accuracy are job one, sparked with imagination and enthusiasm. "I make my life up as I go along, and I like that. My message to my students: Think outside the box. Find what you're passionate about, and connect your skills. My passion was sports, my skills, manual therapy and sports medicine."The mix matched beautifully. Just ask John Walsh,

ESPN executive editor. "Her approach is far-reaching, inclusive, and insightful. She's not afraid to take a strong viewpoint on any topic, based upon her knowledge and her interpretation." "In three, two, one!" Red light on, and an elated Bell is introduced on-camera as a "licensed physical therapist." "It's great for our profession, which usually goes about quietly doing what we do so well. The general public can now understand more of the wealth of knowledge we all bring to the table."

Perspectives for New Professionals of the American Physical Therapy Association, Supplement to Physical Therapy, February 2008, pages 27-28 

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