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  • Triathlete, Legally Blind, Returns to Running After Injury, Thanks to Physical Therapy (Did We Mention He's 73?)

    When Charlie Plaskon says he's committed to removing the "dis" from "disability," believe him. Those aren't just empty words—it's the way he lives his life. And it's the drive that moved Plaskon, legally blind since childhood, to take up running at age 55 and then overcome a series of injuries—including a severe back injury—with the help of a physical therapist (PT). Now 73, Plaskon is back on track, and ready to add more races to the more than 50 marathons and 8 ironman triathlons he's already completed.

    Now available on Move Forward Radio: Charlie Plaskon's story of how he came to fall in love with running and triathlon sports, how he faced the devastating possibility that an injury would prevent him from ever doing those things again, and how his PT helped him reconnect with the try-harder attitude that sustained him throughout his life. Plaskon is also the subject of a brief video created by APTA.

    In the podcast, Plaskon explains how he never let his macular dystrophy prevent him from achieving what he set out to do, personally or professionally. From early on, Plaskon says, he felt the choice was simple: "I could either fold like a deck of cards, or explore opportunities to give myself a full and complete life."

    The same drive was behind his decision to take up running at 55, and to push himself not only in terms of the distances he would cover, but the injuries he would endure, including meniscal tears, a rotator cuff tear, and hernias. He just kept going. But, then, Plaskon suffered a back injury at the Boston marathon, and doctors told him that running might be off the table permanently.

    "My whole world fell apart," Plaskon said. Blindness was a condition he had lived with his entire life, and his ever-darkening world was something he was prepared for, "but I was more afraid of not being able to move my body how I want to move it when I want to move it," he said.

    But Charlie Plaskon doesn't give up. After finding a surgeon who could make the needed repairs, Plaskon connected with a PT who helped him achieve his goal to return to running.

    "The physical therapist, and the physical therapist regimentation, is the only thing that has me where I am right now," Plaskon said. "[My PT] didn't treat me like the blind old man—I was somebody who was hungry to do good."

    In the podcast, Plaskon talks about how his PT not only put him through the rehabilitation exercises necessary to regain mobility, but how she helped him reset his attitude and rekindle his love of taking on a challenge.

    "The therapy part was great,” Plaskon said. “But what she did to my brain … she used a featherduster approach, but to me it felt like a sledgehammer. She bred into me something about 'do more, do better.'"

    Move Forward Radio is featured and archived at MoveForwardPT.com, APTA's official consumer information website, and can be streamed online via Blog Talk Radio or downloaded as a podcast via iTunes.

    APTA members are encouraged to alert their patients to the radio series and other MoveForwardPT.com resources to help educate the public about the benefits of treatment by a physical therapist. Ideas for future episodes and other feedback can be emailed to consumer@apta.org.



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