By BRAD KEITH
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
STEPHENVILLE (October 26, 2015) — Everyone thinks to wear pink and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October, and rightfully so.
But most folks are simply not aware it is also National Physical Therapy Month.
Mark Blackburn is aware. Blackburn has owned Stephenville Sports Rehab and Physical Therapy since 2007 after partnering up in 2003 with Brad Bettis, who he first started working for in 1998.
A Stephenville native, Blackburn is proud to maintain a tradition of quality physical therapy in his hometown. And just because “sports” is in the name, doesn’t mean it’s close to everything Blackburn and staff do at their clinic over on the Northwest Loop.
“Sports rehab and sports medicine are a big part of what we do, but certainly not the only part. We are a full orthopedic clinic,” explained Blackburn Monday, as he began a new week of serving patients along with the four other physical therapists on his local staff. “We see a wide range of patients from infants to those in their upper 90s for everything from rehabilitating after a knee injury to beating arthritis and geriatric care.
“What makes it so great and the reason I’m so passionate about this profession is we can physically see people improving as they go. People get better while they’re here. Sometimes it’s painful and difficult, but they see themselves getting better week to week,” Blackburn added. “It’s easy to be passionate about something when you see the positive effect your having on someone’s daily life.”
Blackburn said he was a high school athlete interested in science, and when he tried to come up with the best combination of the two for a career choice, the answer was physical therapy.
“I don’t have a big injury and rehab story from when I was a kid. I just put my love of athletics and science together and physical therapy was one of the things I came up with, so I started college with the goal of becoming a physical therapist,” Blackburn said. “Everything went according to plan and I went the University of Oklahoma for PT school, then I was blessed with the opportunity to get right into a practice here in my hometown.”
Blackburn came to work for Bettis, who now operates the Kimmell Wellness Center in De Leon. Blackburn now owns not only Stephenville Sports Rehab, but also Weatherford Physical Therapy, where the staff also branches out into Aledo.
“I have four physical therapists there, too, and I oversee it and go over there occasionally,” he explained. “I don’t see patients there, all my patients I see here in Stephenville.”
Patients don’t usually begin treating ailments with physical therapy, but often end up there.
“By the time they get to us, they have usually been to a doctor, and perhaps they’ve even had surgery,” Blackburn said. “Even if it isnt’ a surgical case, by the time they’re here they have been dealing with the issue for a while.”
But he says that doesn’t have to be the case.
“If something has been bothering you for two or three weeks and it’s limiting function, see your doctor, or ask your doctor if he thinks physical therapy can help,” Blackburn said. “A lot of times therapy is the last phase of the process, but it doesn’t always have to be.”
A lot in the industry has changed in the 17 years since Blackburn first started at Stephenville Sports Rehab, especially with advances in technology.
“I have two monitors on my desk now and I’m not even sure what the second one is for,” he quipped, before being more serious. “Where technology has really made us more efficient is in the way we measure progress. Everything is so precise now, we can get such a more accurate indicator of how a patient is progressing.”
The best example of such advances may be in modern day concussion testing.
“In concussion testing, you gather data for a baseline test, and when someone is affected, you can measure to see how close they are to returning to their base scores,” he said. “It’s the same methodology here. Technology allows us to more efficiently measure the starting point and progress of patients and how to compare and use that data to make sure they are moving in the right direction.”
He said similar baseline tests are often used in measuring strength, balance and more.
“That’s the most direct way technology effects physical therapy,” he said, before adding. “Having all electronic medical records on file is good too, and also helps us to manage things more efficiently.”
But when it boils down to it, like anything else, the basics still matter the most.
“There is no advancement in technology that changes the fundamentals of therapy. I know we live in a quick fix society, but that’s not what physical therapy is about,” Blackburn said. “It’s science and it’s a process. The way the body moves and treating someone, the foundation is still the same. We just have more things we can do and more efficient ways to do it. But it’s a gradual thing and it takes work on the part of both the therapist and patient. It’s not something that happens all at once.”
Which is exactly what makes it so rewarding, especially when it leads to a change in lifestyle.
“Because it’s a small town and we have such strong relationships with our patients, I’ll see someone a year, two years, even a decade later, and its so rewarding when they tell me they continued doing some of the stuff from their therapy or that therapy led them to be more active in other ways. When I see them doing well even years later, I take great pride in that. We all do.”
That’s why he’s made a special point to think not only of his own practice this October, but of his profession as a whole.
“Life gets busy and we all fall into the daily grind of just making it day to day and week to week, it’s nice to have a month like this where it reminds you to think of the profession, how far we’ve come, where we’re going in the next 5-10 years and what we can do to guide the young and upcoming therapists into the future.”