Angela Gordon, PT, DSc, MPT, FAAOMPT, COMT, ATC, OCS, is the co-owner of Advanced Kinetics Physical Therapy and Sports Performance in Falls Church, VA. Angela has more than 17 years of clinical experience in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. She earned her Masters of Physical Therapy from Andrews University in 2002, and her Doctorate of Science from Andrews University 2012. Angela is a certified athletic trainer and earned her orthopedic manual therapist certification through NAIOMT in 2012 and graduated from NAIOMT’s Clinical Fellowship Program in 2018. Angela served as the lead physical therapist for the Washington Nationals for 7 seasons.
What drew you you to PT as a career? When and how did you start your journey?
I was drawn to the health field in high school. I didn't know initially what career I wanted to pursue until I had to do a career paper for a class. I shadowed a neighbor who was a physical therapist and I instantly knew that was the direction I wanted to go.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
I worked in outpatient orthopedics for a big corporate company. It started my path into sports medicine. They were supportive in my sports interests very early on and allowed me to pursue my interests with the local high school sports teams. They also given me opportunities to meet good sports medicine doctors.
Erl then proceeded to talk for three straight days without moving the slide off the first one. I was in awe.
Where did you take your first NAIOMT courses and what was your first impression?
My first course was a level I with Erl Pettman. I remember the start of the course distinctly--Erl walked in, turned on his powerpoint to the first slide that said "NAIOMT Level I Lumbar." Erl then proceeded to talk for three straight days without moving the slide off the first one. I was in awe. I was five years out of school and felt like I knew nothing. That was all it took to get me hooked and want to be a therapist like Erl.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I love to help people, whether it's patients achieving their goals or fellow PTs achieving their goals. It is very rewarding to watch PTs grow and learn.
Was fitting the NAIOMT Fellowship Program into your lifestyle challenging?
I first started out doing my DSc through Andrews University with the NAIOMT COMT track. At the time I started the program, I was pregnant with my first child, working full time, and soon after got contracted to work with the Washington Nationals Baseball Team. It was very challenging time, but I had a very supportive husband that made it easier since during the four years it took me to complete the program, we had had two boys with a third on the way. I took a break for a few years and then decide to return to complete my fellowship after the kids had gotten a little older, and I stopped work for the professional team.
What were some of the challenges you faced during your time as the lead physical therapist with the Washington Nationals baseball team?
Being the lead PT for a professional baseball team was a great experience but it did come with its own set of challenges. The biggest hurdle that I faced was being one of only a handful of female medical providers during my seven years. Earning the support and trust of the players, coaches and other fellow male medical providers was difficult and took time. Overall the best thing I did was just let the results of my treatment speak the loudest words. Once players saw positive results, the job became easier. The clinical reasoning skills and manual skills I learned through the NAIOMT system really helped me quickly figure out the cause versus just putting band aids on symptoms, and players really appreciated that approach.
After a few years and earning the trust of the coaches, I was called in to figure out why one of our starting pitchers was having arm pain and felt as though he lost his arm slot. After evaluating the entire kinetic chain and analyzing videos, I figured out that his ankle was the issue from a previous ankle sprain. Restoration of his ankle mobility allowed him to get over his front side and arm slot was back to normal and pain was gone.
As a PT/ATC I didn’t find integrating into the medical staff as much of a problem as I understood the hierarchy of command when in a training setting versus a clinic. But I know that can be a struggle for some PTs.
The clinical reasoning skills and manual skills I learned through the NAIOMT system really helped me quickly figure out the cause versus just putting bandaids on symptoms, and players really appreciated that approach.
How did your time as the lead physical therapist with the Washington Nationals baseball team influence your career?
Working for the Nationals completely changed where I thought I would be as a PT. I earned creditability not just with professional athletes but with coaches, orthopedic surgeons and the community. My first love was female athletes and ACLs early on. That quickly changed to baseball players. At one point during the thick of my career with the team, I would beg for a female knee patients. My whole caseload would be males from little league to professional and I’d go home to three boys! God works in funny ways!
I grew to love a sport I didn’t know I would, and now love treating this population and making a difference with these unique athlete. I especially love being able to take my NAIOMT knowledge and integrate it into the baseball world where I am able to bring new and more advanced treatment strategies into a rather old school mentality. After completion of my time with the team, I decided to create an overhead athlete course to educate other PT and ATCs on some advanced concepts for this population. I always felt there was a gap in knowledge and education for all overhead athletes, and now this has become my mission. Although I still love my female knee patients!!!
Outside of major league baseball, can you give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a patient.
I had a young female college athlete with post concussion syndrome that was not improving over a span of six months. The physician had referred her to get my opinion on her symptom presentation as it wasn't fitting the norm. I was able to pick up CV instability that eventually caused drop attacks. The patient then had C1/2 fusion with chiari decompression and was able to return to school and life with no headaches/dizziness. She went on to win awards for her college basketball team and school for her perseverance and courage.
What TV or movie character would you love to treat and why?
Gal Gadot - because I already got to treat her!
Can you tell us a bit more about your role working as a PT at major motion film sets?
We got a random call one day to do PT for the cast during their five-week stay in DC. At first we thought it was a joke but persistence prevailed and within a week we were working on set. Myself and two other PTs worked seven days a week for five weeks covering on set (12 hour days) and two days on call for cast treatments. The injuries themselves were pretty typical. Being on set was really cool although exhausting. Watching the stunts were particularly stressful days and frightening. We got to treat a multitude of people including directors, actors and stunt people. Overall it was an amazing experience.
Is there a specific patient case from this environment that was particularly challenging or rewarding?
I can’t say that there was. Most of the treatments where shotgun treatments mostly to get people through the day and manage their injuries during the filming. It was kind of hard and frustrating for us being limited in our approach due to the short nature of their stay and the stunt work they did daily.
I love to help people whether it's patients achieving their goals or fellow PTs achieving their goals. It is very rewarding to watch PTs grow and learn.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have three boys so most of my spare time is spent with my family. I also like to read and run triathlons.
How do you combine these interests with your PT profession?
I believe life experiences provide me with insight and empathy to better help my patients.
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