Athletico Physical Therapy’s Gymnastics and Cheerleading Program [Interview][Transcript]

amy_bell_pt_dpt_-gymnastics_rehabilitationGuest: Amy Bell, PT, DPT
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Amy Bell has been a physical therapist at the Niles Athletico since 2005. She joined the company after completing her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Central Michigan University. Amy attended the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree and competed on the Women’s Gymnastics Team. While at Michigan, Amy was a 2-time All-Big Ten Team Member, a member of 4 Big Ten Championship Teams, and competed in 3 NCAA Championships during her college career.

Segment overview: Amy Bell, a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy, talks about the Gymnastics and Cheerleading Program that she founded.

Health Professional Radio – Athletico Physical Therapy

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, glad you could join us today. Our guest in studio is Amy Bell, she’s a Physical Therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy based in Chicago and she’s with us today to talk about a gymnastics and cheerleading program that she founded, how she’s still involved with those athletes and some of her physical therapy philosophies as it were. Welcome to the program Amy.

Amy Bell: Thank you so much for having me today.

N: Now you’re a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy based out of Chicago. Are you located just in Chicago or are there some satellite offices as well?

A: We actually are in nine different states right now. We are founded in Chicago but we’re expanding.

N: Right. And how long have you been a physical therapist with Athletico?

A: I’ve been a therapist for 11 years.

N: With all of your experience with Athletico?

A: Yup, all at Athletico at the same clinic.

N: Great. Now were you an athlete, were you interested in physical therapy just because of some personal experiences or how did your career come about?

A: Well I was a gymnast for 20 years and through that experience I unfortunately had some injury and so I was exposed to physical therapy when I was first just 12 and then many more times through high school and college and so I retired from gymnastics at age 22. So I was very familiar with the field early on.

N: And these injuries that you sustained and thereby started getting experience into physical therapy, I mean were these potentially career ending injuries or was it the physical therapy that made it not so?

A: I mean, I guess I had some serious back injuries but I always work with great physical therapists who were positive and kind of let me know that things will get better if I did my exercises and I followed their advice and I also worked with many knowledgeable doctors who gave me hope that things would be okay and luckily I was able to have a successful 20 year career in the sport.

N: Great. Now as a physical therapist, are there different levels of a physical therapist or I mean are you a junior physical therapist or are you at the top of the field? Or how far or are there more for you to go to become a much better physical therapist?

A: Well when you come out of school you have enough knowledge to be a great physical therapist but obviously with experience and time you grow your knowledge base and your skills set and there are advanced specialties that you can pursue if you’re interested in doing that and different techniques that you can become certified in. You need to also go back to school for a PhD if you wanted to teach.

N: There’s a program that you started, having to do gymnastics and cheerleading. Now you were a gymnast for 20 years, were you ever a cheerleader at all or how did that interest come about?

A: I wasn’t a cheerleader ever. It was something that I thought was neat but as I started being a physical therapist I realized that a lot of the injuries may overlap with gymnastics and cheerleading and so there was a lot knowledge that could be shared by partnering the two sports together.

N: And as far as staff are you always required to work with medical practitioner on site or does your practice stand alone and as far as referrals when those referrals do happen from a medical practitioner, how much back and forth is there once they refer to you? Do have to keep their doctor abreast of what is going on with them?

A: Yes, I mean we luckily have a chance to go to a lot of relationships with great physicians all around Chicago and now in another states. And so then they’ll refer their patients to us and then we’ll communicate with them regularly, giving them updates on how their patient is progressing and then once they’re completed with physical therapy we send them more communication just letting them know what the plan is for them getting back into their sport.

N: Now this gymnastics and cheerleading program that you founded, is this something that is exclusive to Athletico Physical Therapy and yourself or is this a program that you can give to say a high school or a college and say ‘Here’s the program, you can deal with your cheerleading and gymnastics staff thusly as far as physical therapy goes with your own therapist’. How does that work?

A: So it’s actually a program meaning that there’s a network of people. So we have probably 50 clinicians that are part of the program and we all share the same passion for treating gymnasts and cheerleaders. And we meet several times a year and share our educational experiences and then we go out into the school, into the high schools, middle schools, private clubs and share that knowledge with the athletes, the coaches, the parents, teaching them things about injury prevention nutrition, injury management, just so that they can stay healthy and stay in the sport and that beyond the side lines with injuries.

N: And what kind of response have you received from folks when they implement your program after having tried some others?

A: Well I think there’s a very positive response because one the gymnastics and cheerleading program is made up of clinicians that have various levels of expertise in being a gymnast or a cheerleader as their background so right away we speak the same language as our patients. We can say the different terminology such as no back handsprings or flip-flops and things like that that that maybe someone who doesn’t know anything about gymnastics wouldn’t bring up and we ask them what level are you? What skills you want to get back to? And it just right away it’s so neat to have someone understand exactly what you’re going through and I think with our background in being a physical therapist and then also being a gymnast or a cheerleader it really helps the treatments to be more effective and efficient so they can get back to doing gymnastics or cheerleading as fast but also as safely as possible.

N: Where can our listeners go and get more information about Athletico Physical Therapy?

A: I would direct people to go to our website which is and they can learn all about the different services that we provide, we have so many specialized programs that they can learn more information about. They can learn about our locations and all the different opportunities we have within our company.

N: Great. Well it’s been a pleasure talking with you today Amy.

A: Thank you. It’s been great being here.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Amy Bell, physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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