SOCCER TO PROFESSIONAL: HOW I BECAME A PHYSICAL THERAPIST
SOCCER TO PROFESSIONAL GOALS: HOW I BECAME A PHYSICAL THERAPIST
by Karyn Farrar, DPT
As a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary’s University in 2006, I played for their NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer Program. At that point in my life, soccer was the focal point. Everything else, including my education and future career, was second to my performance on the field.
Through hard work, I solidified a starting position and found success on the field. After a four goal game the week before, I excitedly stepped on the field for our first conference game. However, I had no idea how the next 90 minutes would drastically affect the rest of my life.
During this game, a plant and twist at low speed resulted in a torn anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee.
I was devastated. This injury turned my world upside down.
Instead of a successful sophomore soccer season full of scoring goals, I faced an invasive knee surgery, a grueling 6-12 month rehab, and a harsh reality that I may never be the same dynamic, speedy soccer player again.
Little did I know that this “tragedy” forged the pathway to my future career. I spent the next month in pre-rehab strengthening my injured leg and preparing for surgery.
After the operation to graft my ACL, I spent the next 8 months in a steady rehab program where the limits of my leg -- and my patience -- were continually tested.
During my long hours at rehab, I realized how transformative the field of physical therapy can be for injured patients. The way my therapist could hone in on my deficits and give me a plan to treat them inspired me. My knee was injured, but it was plastic and malleable. Major improvements could occur, giving me hope of returning to the game I loved so much.
Yet, my newfound intrigue for a career in physical therapy wasn’t totally realized until I returned to the soccer field for the first time after my rehab program ended.
Walking onto the grass for kickoff, I realized that from the moment my physical therapist met me, she had given me hope that I would one day play competitive soccer again. Even when my mind could not look past the stitches, swelling, and weak musculature, she could.
My physical therapist knew I had the potential to return to my previous level of play. She continually set her expectations high and encouraged me to work toward achieving my long term goals. I realized that without her motivation I probably would not have been able to step back on the field with confidence in my mobility and mind.
After graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s University with degrees in psychology and biology, I set my sights on entering PT school. Many grueling hours in the lab and a fifth year of undergraduate courses later, he University of Maryland- Baltimore accepted me into the doctorate of physical therapy program.
During my three years at UMB, the depth and impact a physical therapist can make continually resonated with me. My PT program exposed me not only to sports physical therapy, but also the fields of pediatric, acute, chronic, and long term care. In all PT cases, physical therapists have the unique opportunity to encourage and motivate their patients to see past their injury and look toward the future.
Upon finishing my DPT degree, I spent the first three years of my physical therapy career at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Hopkins offered me broad opportunities to work in acute care, burn care, and specialty neurological outpatient care.
These patient populations face lifelong challenges and struggles, which are far different from what I had experienced as a student. Yet, as a physical therapist focused on helping patients form a better functional future, I could see room for betterment in their lives. Working together, each patient and I could strategize ways to make tasks easier, make movement less painful, and make life more fulfilling.
My unique background as a patient and as a practitioner instilled in me a strong appreciation for the struggles which patients face in their body, mind, and spirit.
As a physical therapist, my job is to not only positively affect a person’s physical function, but also to assist them in their day-to-day mindset and goal setting. My professional hope is that each patient walks away from our session with a strong and confident outlook about recovery, much the same way my therapist helped me many years ago.