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  • 2018 NEXT: 'You're Changing People's Lives' NEXT 2018 Attendees Told

    Professional beach volleyball player Gabrielle (Gabby) Reece told attendees at the opening event of NEXT 2018: "To serve others and help other people is a really important thing. You're changing people's lives."

    2018 - 06 - 28 - Gabby NEXT

    Although she didn't take up volleyball until 11th grade, Reece won an athletic scholarship to Florida State University, where she majored in communications and played volleyball. While there, she says, she developed sciatica. "They said I needed back surgery. That was a pretty serious situation. I went instead to a therapist and was able to play again" she said, explaining her growing appreciation of physical therapy. From that point, she continues, "I'd go to a physician and ask for physical therapy. That kept me going. Even then, I knew what a tool your craft is."

    Reece thanked her physical therapists (PTs) for the quality of attention and care she received. "I was always looked at as an individual person, not treated with a ‘cookie cutter' approach," she said. "In return, I was a very compliant patient because I knew their advice was designed specifically for me."

    As a professional volleyball player, Reece and her 4-person team took first place at the first-ever Beach Volleyball World Championships. She also competed domestically in the 1999-2000 Olympic Challenge Series. Reece was a contributing editor for Yahoo Health and has hosted "Insider Training" on the Fit TV/Discovery channel.

    A recent experience led her to offer the NEXT 2018 attendees another suggestion: "Two years ago, I finally had a knee replacement. I knew I had a lot of life left, so I was compliant. I forced the change, invited the change. You don't realize how powerful it is telling patients, ‘You'll get there.' That alone is powerful. Therapy got me back to my previous level."

    One action she didn't take, however, was using opioids for the pain. In addition to the danger of opioid medication, Reece explained, "I knew it would delay my recovery. The pain is there for a reason. The body is ready to figure out a way to health, and physical therapists help with that."

    2018 - 06 - 28 - Opening Sharon

    She also spoke about the importance of good nutrition and exercise, and offered this suggestion to people who might not regularly exercise or eat good food. "It's a lifestyle. I've created a system in which I can be successful. It's not about wanting to exercise every day," she said. Earlier in the evening, APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, had spoken on the importance of building communities. Reece echoed this point when discussing a lifestyle to stay healthy, saying the key is "about finding your community."

    She concluded, "I'm inspired by you and take my hat off to you. It's a really honorable profession."

    Dunn, in her earlier remarks, also addressed the subject of change. She said, "There are so many opportunities in change…and I'm so excited where physical therapy fits in. It's the answer to a broken health care system. We're at a very pivotal point. We're thrilled with the alignment [of the many health care issues]. It's fun to be here right now."

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