Sports PT Spotlight

Lisa Pataky, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, USATF-1

Women's Tennis Association

Lisa received her Bachelor of Science from Duke University in 2008 where she played rugby for 4 years. She then went on to receive her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Boston University. She is a board certified sports clinical specialist and completed her sports physical therapy residency from Proaxis Therapy in Greenville, SC where she completed a research study involving humeral adaptation differences between high school baseball and softball players. Lisa has worked at several sports medicine clinics working with athletes of all ages and skill levels. She has participated in clinical research, assistance in teaching in residency programs and has volunteered at local high schools and colleges assisting in the athletic training room and with on-field coverage of events. She currently works for the Women’s Tennis Association which fulfills her passions of working with high level athletes as well as traveling.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in Sports PT?

I have always been interested in sports medicine since a young age. I grew up playing sports and being interested in the field of medicine. As i learned more about the profession of physical therapy and decided this was the field I wanted to pursue I always knew that Sports PT was the specialty I wanted to work in. Even during school and in clinical rotations in other specialty areas my passion for working with athletes never wavered.

What type of athletes or teams do you work with now? How did you get there?

I currently work for the Women's Tennis Association as a physical therapist for all the professional female tennis players on tour. I worked in the outpatient sports medicine world for 5 years prior to this job. I completed a sports residency after working for a year and then worked in Fort Worth, TX at a sports medicine clinic that treats many high school and collegiate athletes. During my time there I volunteered at a local high school helping out in the athletic training room and on the sideline during football season. I also assisted with some lectures in the residency program as well as with clinical research. I also have completed two volunteer rotations at Olympic training center facilities which is what led me to my current job. I tried to just keep pursuing my passion and meeting as many people as I could that worked in the professional sports world to try and create opportunities for myself.

What do you feel makes treating the sports population different from the orthopedic population?

The sports population is different from the orthopedic population in several ways and I think depending on which level of athletes you are treating you will have different challenges. I think time frames are one of the biggest challenges when working with the sports population, especially in professional sports, because being injured doesn't just mean missing out on playing the sport they love but it often means losing money since they are unable to play. In professional tennis you also are never just dealing with an athlete but their coach, their parents who might also be their coach, their agent, and entire player support team. It really takes a collaborative effort and ability to interact with several different people to provide the best care for the athlete.

What forms of manual therapy do you implement into your practice and what benefits have you seen from these techniques?

I use several different manual therapy techniques, taking pieces from each facility of worked in and from all my mentors over the years. I don't think I could pinpoint exactly one style of manual therapy that I use, it's very varied depending on the athlete, the goal, and the situation. I do a lot of joint mobilizations and manipulations, I use a lot of muscle energy techniques as well as different soft tissue interventions and I augment all of this with dry needling, cupping, and instrument assisted soft tissue. I think they are all great tools and get benefits from each one. I think the most important thing is to learn which techniques work best for which athletes you are working with. The longer I have been on tour and the more I get to know the individual athletes I'm working with, the more I can fine tune which techniques I use with which athletes. I rarely find that just one technique will have the full effect that I want so I typically combine different schools of thought to get my desired effect.

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 would give is that no matter what level you get to or how long you're in the field of sports PT, to always be open to and proactive about multidisciplinary care for the athlete. I have learned so much from athletic trainers, strength and conditioning professionals, chiropractors and other sports physical therapists and I don't think I would have gained as much knowledge if I hadn't been open to learning from anyone who was willing to teach me. I think that more openness, collaborative care, and knowledge about what your own strengths and weaknesses are will only help the athletes you're treating.