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Ryan Brooks, PT, DPT, MA, CSCS, USAW-L2, is a 2021 graduate of the division of Physical Therapy’s DPT program, housed within the Department of Allied Health Sciences. Following graduation from UNC, he began a PT residency program at the University of Miami where he works at a sports-based outpatient orthopedic clinic and in the athletic training room for the University of Miami’s athletic department.

Miami Residency Focuses on Sports PT and Orthopedics

Brooks’ interests revolve around sports physical therapy and orthopedics. “I am currently engaged in a sports PT residency and my eventual goal is to work in collegiate sports as a therapist in the training room and on the sidelines at sporting events,” he said.

Brooks explains that his background in strength and conditioning, which he honed during his time in UNC’s Masters of Exercise Physiology program, is closely intertwined with his passion for PT. “My goal as a physical therapist is to blend both strength and conditioning principles with rehab principles to enhance the return to sport process in high level athletes. Specifically, within sports PT I am most interested in jumping sports, especially basketball.”

At University of Miami, Brooks primarily works with the basketball, football, and track and field teams; he has assisted with other sports including volleyball and rowing. In addition to serving in the clinic and athletic department, he participates in didactic education, mentoring, and research.

Building a Foundation at UNC

“UNC’s physical therapy program was very formative for me and my clinical reasoning process,” said Brooks. “To this day while treating patients, I still hear the words of one of my mentors saying `test, treat, and retest.’” Brooks notes the professors at UNC prepared him well and helped build his foundational PT knowledge that he now applies to a sport-specific population.

“Knowledge gained in orthopedic and sport courses at UNC have proven invaluable to me during my time in Miami. Other courses such as neuro, health and wellness promotion, and cardiopulmonary principles have proven vital in the sports setting and have applied much more to my work than I had anticipated.”

Furthermore, Brooks said his time spent within the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), particularly working with interpreters, has helped him in providing care in the outpatient clinic, given the large Spanish-speaking population of Miami. The interdisciplinary nature of the SHAC clinic allowed for improvement in communication skills that aids him now in navigating the sports physical therapy setting.

Taking Steps “Down the Road”: An Upcoming Fellowship at Duke

As his residency at University of Miami comes to a close, Brooks will take the next step in his career at “the school down the road,” Duke University, where he will complete his fellowship and additional training in physical therapy for D1 collegiate athletes. He will primarily work with football, basketball and then the olympic sports team as one of the team PTs during their respective season. He will also work at an outpatient clinic with ortho/sports populations.

The Duke fellowship will include working with strength and conditioning staff, athletic trainers, sports psychologists, dietitians, coaches, and other PTs to coordinate care of athletes and return them to their sport after injury.

“I will be mentored by some of the best sports PTs in the collegiate setting who will teach me how to navigate patient cases and training room dynamics,” said Brooks. “I hope to be able to take a step back in this fellowship, reflect on my experiences from residency, and combine that with additional training provided by Duke to ultimately provide high quality care and return injured athletes to the highest level of competition possible.”

Planning A Future in Sports Physical Therapy

Brooks has found a niche in the physical therapy realm that seems to be his perfect match, and he has set exciting goals to work toward in his career as a PT. He hopes to begin as a director of rehab within the collegiate setting, ideally as a blend between physical therapy and strength and conditioning. After time/experience in this setting, he would like to gain experience working as a PT for a professional sports team.

“Eventually, after fulfilling my time at the collegiate and profession level, I see myself moving into a teaching role within a university DPT, residency, or fellowship program,” he said. “I have always had a strong passion for both learning and teaching others, and I was able to hone some of these skills during my time within UNC’s program when I served as a teaching assistant for MSK1 and hosted a journal club related to sports and orthopedics.”

Brooks is eager for the learning to continue as he grows in his profession.