Dr. Mauricio Elizondo is originally from Ciudad Obregon, México. He graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training in 2008, from the University of Idaho with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science in 2010, and from the University of St. Augustine in 2016 with a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. Dr. Elizondo has spent the past ten years working as a full time Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist in professional baseball, working with the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays. In addition to his current role as Minor League Physical Therapist with the Toronto Blue Jays, Dr. Elizondo also works as a physiotherapist with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), covering the men’s professional tennis tour. He has worked in a variety of leadership positions, including Latin America Medical Coordinator and Minor League Medical and Rehabilitation Coordinator, overseeing all organizational medical operations. Dr. Elizondo specializes in manual therapy as well as functional movement and has completed a variety of continuing education courses that include dry needling, kinesiotaping, dynamic neuromuscular activation, and active release techniques. Dr. Elizondo is also bilingual in English and Spanish.
Why did you decide to pursue a career into Sports PT?
The reality is that it was a combination of being exposed to both, the sports and the medicine world at a young age. My parents are both physicians in my home country Mexico, and sports have always been my passion since I was a kid. I participated in competitive swimming for almost 20 years, as well as recreationally playing soccer and basketball during my childhood. During my swimming career I had an injury to my right shoulder, where I had to go to Physical Therapy for, and at that moment I knew I wanted to help other athletes with physical therapy as a career. Shortly after that, I researched colleges in the United States to start as an Athletic Trainer and then pursue my passion of going into Physical Therapy.
What type of athletes or teams do you work with now? How did you get there?
I currently work in Professional baseball, as Assistant Rehabilitation Coordinator with the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin FL and with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) as a tournament contractor physiotherapist. My career in pro sports began in 2008, with an internship with the Boston Red Sox organization as an Athletic Trainer. I was then hired in 2009 as a full-time staff member in the minor leagues, and continued my career there until 2015, making it as far as Latin America Minor League Medical Coordinator. For people that do not know baseball, been a medical coordinator requires to oversee all medical operations. In 2016, I moved to Phoenix AZ, as I became the Minor League Medical Coordinator with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and I stayed there for 2 years. In late 2017, my wife and I decided to move back to FL and was hired by the Blue Jays to my current position. During my time in Phoenix AZ, I had the pleasure to meet Todd Ellenbecker, Vice-President of medical services with the ATP, who gave me the opportunity to take a part time roll as a contractor physiotherapist with the organization. Most of my experience is with over-head type athletes.
What do you feel makes treating the sports population different from the orthopedic population?
The biggest difference to me is the quick decision ability that you need as a sports therapist with athletes compared to the orthopedic population. Not only in an emergency type situation, but on a daily basis. The expectation in sports currently is of athletes being on the field as much as possible to perform, and your ability, as a therapist, to make that happen needs to be sharp. Anything from prevention to manual therapy, therapeutic exercise to taping, daily monitoring to performance testing, all needs to be at the elite level for you to perform your job without putting the athlete at risk. In addition, there are other obvious differences like the average age of your patient, the accessibility you have to patients (you usually see them daily instead of 3 times per week), and the functional goals that you are working towards, as they are more athletic based than in the orthopedic population. However, I think the challenge you have to make decisions on the go is the one you need to master to be a great Sports Physical Therapist.
The staff around you when you are a sports therapist is much different than in an orthopedic clinic a swell. Usually in a sports setting, you have the collaboration of Strength and Conditioning specialists, team chiropractors, nutritionists, Athletic Trainers, etc. All in the same building, which makes a multi-disciplinary approach to health care a lot easier than in orthopedic settings. This will challenge your communication and team-work integration skills that you may necessarily not be exposed to in the orthopedic clinic.
What forms of manual therapy do you implement into your practice and what benefits have you seen from these techniques?
I am a firm believer that treatment should be individualized per the athlete or patient you are treating and their individual needs. Therefore, I believe that the more “tools” you have in your box regarding manual therapy in combination with critical thinking knowledge, the better clinician you become. Daily, I mostly implement the principles of Maitland, Stanley Paris, and Cyriax to restore or improve functional mobility if needed of my patient before he takes over his daily practice. The method I use to achieve that functional mobility changes and most of the times is a combination of patient’s preference or how much time I have for a treatment. For example, If I need to improve shoulder IR in a patient where the main limitation is the posterior capsule and I have limited amount of time, my preferred method of choice would be a muscle energy technique. If I had more time in the same scenario but the main restriction is the rotator cuff musculature, I can opt to use some IASTM to facilitate blood flow to the area and then utilize some PNF stretching techniques. Sometimes, therapeutic exercise is the best way to go. Overall, my most common manual therapy techniques that I utilize include joint manipulation thrust and non thrust, dry needling, IASTM, muscle energy techniques, and dynamic taping.
I believe that a good manual and sports therapist should be able to apply the new functional mobility and perform the appropriate neuromuscular facilitation and training required to stabilize that new mobility. Some of the concepts I use daily include DNS, FRC, PRI, etc. This is where your communication with other colleagues or S&C specialists is key to make you a successful all-around sports therapist.
What's the best professional advice you would give a clinician in order to be successful in the field of Sports PT?
The best advice I can give a Physical Therapist to be successful in the world of sports PT is to emphasize early in your career in the critical thinking and diagnosis process to help your patient as quickly and effective as you can. Athletes want quick results, so the more effective you can be it will go a long way. A lot of young professionals make the mistake of pursuing treatment oriented continuing education courses, without a good foundation of evaluation and treatment. I recommend you do the opposite and focus your early career in courses that will make you understand the anatomy, biomechanics and physiology of the human body, and then add tools for you to work with. I have the fortune to have worked with some great mentors along my way that include Jason Bartley, Jesse Ellis, and Dan Dyrek who all taught me that.