Many physical therapy (PT) clinics that offer aquatic therapy have discovered that treating athletes can be a lucrative way to dominate their market share. Whether the athletes are “weekend warriors” – those individuals of all ages who have a penchant for working out but aren’t making money on their sports – or elite professionals, they can boost a PT clinic’s revenue stream considerably. The secret is to understand what they want, how to woo them and how to keep them involved.
What Athletes Want to See in a PT Clinic Environment
Athletes who are looking for a PT clinic for rehab or performance training purposes may come from a wide array of backgrounds. Many aquatic therapy professionals work with high school athletes, triathletes, competitive runners and even pros. However, most of these athletes share common needs when it comes to working within a clinical setting that offers aquatic therapy and exercise.
In general, athletes of all ages and representing all stages want a setting that provides them with:
- Creative Solutions. For instance, many athletes may not be able to come to the facility during traditional 9-5 working hours. To attract them, it might be necessary for the clinic to extend its hours or stay open for one weekend day.
- Competitive Programs. Athletes are competitive by nature, so their rehabilitative and training solutions need to represent their penchants for competitiveness.
- Rehab for Common Athletic Injuries. These can include sprains, strains, knee problems, Achilles tendon injuries, fractures, dislocations, repetitive stress injuries, shin splints, hip problems, plantar fasciitis, ankle issues and the after-effects of reconstructive surgery.
- A Well-Rounded “Menu” of Services. Giving athletes a customized “menu” allows them to pick out what they want and need in an a la carte way.
- A “Give-and-Take” Experience. Athletes are often determined to continue activity, even if they are injured. Physical therapists have to be open to this fact, and willing to work with – not against – athletes’ desires.
- Private Pay Options. PT clinics working with athletes must create private pay options, because not all athletes will have the insurance to pay for the therapy they need. Additionally, if the clinic offers exercise classes or opportunities for athletes to work out in a HydroWorx pool, customers will need to know how payments can be conveniently made.
- Support and Encouragement. What athletic person doesn’t want a cheering section? Positive feedback from a clinician who understands the mindset of the athlete is essential to keeping the motivation factor high when challenges, such as overuse injuries or surgery rehab, are faced.
Ironically, changing the average physical therapy clinic atmosphere into one that athletes find attractive can prove challenging. In the end, though, it will help not only the clinic’s new clientele reach their goals, but also the clinic’s team members learn and try new aquatic therapy and physical therapy methodologies.
How to Woo Athletes to Your Physical Therapy Clinic Setting
A promotional plan is necessary to make athletes aware that the clinic is focused on offering creative, aquatic therapy solutions that will fit their needs. Some of the marketing techniques that have worked well at clinical facilities across the country include:
- Advertise locally to inform the community of services, including gift certificates.
- Offer pre-paid punch cards with a discount (e.g., a free visit after 10 paid visits.)
- Work with a local running club, triathlon club or other team and offer member’s discounts.
- Provide student discounts, and advertise them at local competitions.
- Provide a free in-service at the PT clinic at the start of a sporting season (e.g., track and field, football, basketball.)
How to Keep Athletes Coming Back to Your Clinic… and Talking about It, Too!
Once athletes are accustomed to coming to the clinic, the marketing shouldn’t end. After all, the more they become attached to the clinic and its underwater treadmill and facilities, the more likely they are to share their success with fellow athletes. Encourage current clients to talk about the clinic’s offerings, and prepare brochures and sales documents for them to distribute. Make sure coaches are kept “in the know” about the clinic’s open houses and other special events related to physical therapy and exercise for athletes.
By remaining innovative, physical therapy clinic owners and personnel can greatly increase both their community visibility and their competitive advantage with some well-thought-out targeting of the athletic market in their areas.
Free Webinar: The Use of Aquatic Therapy for Neurological Rehabilitation
On January 27, 2015 from 1:00pm-2:00pm EST, join Jan Black MS, PT, Clinic Director at NeuroWorx in Logan, UT, as she discusses the value of aquatic therapy for those affected by neurological conditions. This webinar will explore the application of neurological rehabilitation principles in an aquatic environment including locomotor training to accelerate progress and improve outcomes for gait, balance, kinematics and overall functional mobility.
Over the weeks during voting we would like to share the expanded story of each nominee of the 2015 Healthcare Excellence in Aquatics Award. The nominees are being introduced in alphabetical order and voting is open until January 28, 2015 at 11:59pm EST.
Our fourth nominee is: UP Rehab Services for the Remarkable Recovery of a Quadriplegic Patient
Meet Alex Guizzetti. Alex was in a car accident which resulted in a severe spinal cord injury from a break in his neck. Alex was paralyzed from the neck down and spent 1 year in Chicago receiving treatments. Following those treatments, Alex began aquatic therapy with the team at UP Rehab Services in Marquette, MI.
Prior to his accident, Alex was a very active adult. However, after his car accident, Alex was unable to walk and had to re-learn multiple tasks, activities and movements to get where he is today. At the time of his initial evaluation with UP Rehab Services, Alex was able to walk with a walker along with a gait belt and a nurse with at least “contact-guard” assistance.
For Alex, a typical aquatic therapy session in the HydroWorx pool ranges from 45-60 minutes, 3 times per week. He sees the occupational therapist for 1 hour before seeing the physical therapist. When Alex first began his therapy in the pool, he was walking around 2.0 mph for 10 to 15 minutes. After almost 4 months of intensive therapy, Alex is able to walk on the underwater treadmill for 30 minutes straight at 2.6 mph. He is also using the stairs to get out of the pool instead of the chair lift.
In addition to the walking program, Alex performed numerous exercises in the pool to increase his muscle strength and stamina, including the following:
- Single leg squat
- Kick board push down for core strength
- Heel/toe raise
- Back extension stretch with the railing
- Jumping jacks with dumbbells
- Step ups and step downs
- Rapid squat jumps
He now walks into therapy every day independently with Lofstrand crutches. He is able to do a number of therapeutic activities and exercises with assistance from physical therapists and occupational therapists. His aquatic therapy sessions have helped him increase the muscle strength of his core, hips, legs and feet- all of which are critical in improving his endurance, gait and functional mobility.
I am lucky enough to be able to work with Alex in the pool and occasionally- “on land”- as well. I remember the first time I worked with him on land, we were doing some mat table exercises with focus on transferring from his hands and knees, up to kneeling and then bringing one leg up for a half-kneel position. With a Swiss ball in front of him, I asked him to try and bring his left leg up into the half kneel. His response was, “Um, I don’t know about that.” With encouragement, he gave it a try. His reaction when he was able to bring that left knee up and plant his foot on the mat, is the reason that I love my job. With a restrained smile on his face and big eyes, he said “That’s the first time I’ve been able to do that.” – Katie Bowlby, Physical Therapist at UP Rehab Services
Learn more about this case and watch Alex’s pool rehab program in the two videos below:
Neuroworx is an outpatient physical therapy clinic in South Jordan, UT specializing in neuro-rehabilitation of individuals with paralysis due to spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and strokes.
Join us on January 27, 2015 from 1:00pm to 2:00pm EST for the free webinar, “The Use of Aquatic Therapy for Neurological Rehabilitation.” Jan Black, Clinic Director at Neuroworx, will demonstrate the application of neurological rehabilitation principles in an aquatic environment. She will review the properties of water that are beneficial for the treatment of neurological conditions. She will also describe how aquatic therapy can be combined with other interventions such as locomotor training to accelerate progress and improve outcomes for gait, balance, kinematics and overall functional mobility. These concepts will be illustrated with a case presentation of an individual with a traumatic brain injury.
Attendees will learn:
- The properties of water that are beneficial for neurological conditions
- How combining other interventions along with aquatic therapy can accelerate progress
- The improved outcomes that can be seen from aquatic therapy
- How to implement locomotor training in an aquatic setting
- The effect of these concepts on a specific case study
Over these weeks during open voting, we are sharing the expanded story of each nominee of the 2015 Healthcare Excellence in Aquatics Award. The nominees are being introduced in alphabetical order.
Our third nominee is: Pullman Regional Hospital for the Innovative Therapy Program for a 3-year-old Patient Recovering from a Brain Tumor
At the age of two, Jackson was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with hydrocephalus and a brain tumor that needed to be removed.
As a result of the tumor location and the surgery procedures, Jackson had expressive language, voice and gross motor delays and difficulties.
Jackson began speech and physical therapy on land prior to the installation of the HydroWorx pool at Pullman Regional Hospital. He was making gradual gains but was beginning to plateau. Once the pool was installed in the early fall of 2014, Ambyr Henderson, MS, CCC-SLP and Tim Williams, PT, DPT, were inspired to try an innovative form of therapy by combining speech and physical therapy in the HydroWorx pool and the results were astounding!
Both Ambyr and Tim were pioneers in combining speech and physical therapy services within the pool just as they were with creating a potential protocol for this style of therapy. Some of the exercises for this protocol included:
- For Physical Therapy: Exercises that focused on kicking techniques, using bent and straight knee, reciprocal arm movements, catching and throwing with a ball, floating for trunk stability, jumping on an elevated surface and more.
- For Speech Therapy: Their target was to increase Jackson’s volume of speech, increase the amount of words that he is producing and improve his articulation skills.
Ambyr and Tim saw noticeable results within the first two sessions of this combination therapy. For speech therapy, Jackson made the best progress in voice projections ever documented in his year of outpatient care. For physical therapy, they saw the greatest change in amplitude of movement. The therapy within the pool provided an environment that challenged Jackson to speak louder, articulate more clearly, produce longer sentences, elicit stronger movements with greater control and reignite his engagement in therapy.
The installation of the HydroWorx therapy pool allowed Ambyr and Tim to try a unique way of providing therapy. Initially, they were unsure what Jackson’s response was going to be, but after seeing such a dramatic improvement within the first session, they decided to continue this style of therapy and plan to expand the program to other pediatric patients!
From the second that Jackson saw the HydroWorx pool he was elated with a huge smile on his face. For the entire session, Jackson was engaged, animated and participated better than he had in while. As therapists, it has been an absolute joy to see all of the progress that Jackson has made in such a short time with introducing therapy in the pool. – Ambyr and Tim
Learn more about Jackson’s story and watch him in action in the pool in the video below:
She may be the youngest athlete that the Oregon Project, headed by world-renowned distance runner Alberto Salazar, has on its roster, but Mary Cain is no newbie to athleticism. She quickly rose to stardom during her high school years, possessing phenomenal speed and astounding teammates as well as competitors. Of course, she worked hard, too, which is something she continues to do under Salazar’s careful and pragmatic coaching. And like her Oregon Project colleagues, such as gold and silver medalists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, she cross-trains in their HydroWorx pool.
After Cain joined the Oregon Project in late 2012, she caught the public’s eye at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics, held in Moscow. She placed 10th, an incredible achievement for the youngest middle distance runner ever to compete for the United States. As part of team USA, she got the opportunity to experience elite running at its finest… something that most high school students (Mary graduated in 2014) never have the chance to do. More successes followed on the heels of these accolades, including snagging a gold medal in the 3000m race at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Athletics. There, she ran a personal best of 8:58:48. A self-described “curmudgeon” with a fast wit and winning smile, Cain is focusing hard on the huge prize that awaits in 2016: The summer games in Rio.
Before she gets the opportunity to compete in South America for her country, there’s little doubt that she’ll be logging plenty of miles on the Oregon Project’s underwater treadmill. She has known the HydroWorx pool almost as long as she’s known Salazar and uses it as a regular part of her weekly training. This will enable her to gain the advantages that have led other runners to medals, honors and big dreams:
- Safe cross-training. Cain runs more miles in a week than some casual runners will in a year. However, she isn’t super-human. Her joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones take a beating with every footstep. In the water, she’ll be cushioned by buoyancy, enabling her to increase her mileage and boost her endurance without risking repetitive-stress injuries.
- Increased lean muscle mass. For runners at Cain’s level, having bulk isn’t part of the plan: It’s lean muscle mass that gets you to the front of the pack. Researchers at Texas A&M University have tested the HydroWorx’s ability to improve lean muscle mass for athletes, and have discovered that it’s a powerful way to get leaner overall.
- Improved speed. The water presents a unique amount of resistance for runners, especially when they are submerged to their xiphoid process (chest) areas. Unlike the feeling of running on land, running in the water forces the arms and legs to work harder. This may be one of the contributors to HydroWorx being linked to increased VO2 max in athletes like Cain.
The sky is the limit for Cain, although she’s wisely starting with her feet firmly planted on the ground and on the underwater treadmill. To learn more about this up-and-coming phenom, check out our exclusive video of her training hard in the HydroWorx and her thoughts on how using the underwater treadmill will affect her performance.
Learn more about how underwater treadmill running can impact fitness training and view sample workouts in the book, “Underwater Treadmill Running” by Alberto Salazar and Dr. Dennis Dolny. Download your free book here.