Have you ever wondered what those people over in our MoveTru building are doing?  Many of them are working with our Certified Athletic Trainer, Julie Holt (the rest are doing our MovNat Classes).  And you should too!  Just kidding, not EVERYONE should see Julie.  But seriously, if you’re an athlete struggling to return to your former performance standards after an injury, you really should work with Julie.  Today’s post is all about Julie and how she is helping us bridge the gap between physical therapy and athletic training.

What is an athletic trainer (or more precisely, what does Julie do)?

I decided to go fun and personal first, and just describe Julie and what she does.  Julie completed her Bachelor’s degree in athletic training from UNM and is now working toward her Masters in Health Science through the University of St. Augustine.  She was also recently certified as an impact-trained athletic trainer (ITAT), which means that she knows WAY more about concussions than the rest of us.  She worked as a tech at Langford while she went to school, and now is our full time AT (athletic trainer), as well as the AT for the Albuquerque Sol.  At the clinic, Julie works with athletes (yes, you have to be an athlete to work with an athletic trainer, although you don’t necesarily have to be a professional or collegiate athlete) to help return them to playing at their previous level of competition/performance.  With the Sol, Julie spends tons (and I do mean TONS) of time on the field at practices and games to provide medical support and initial interventions for acute injuries, and as to provide interventions for some of these amazing professional soccer players who have chronic injuries or minor sprains and strains that don’t require physical therapy.

Julie’s average day goes something like this (did I mention how busy she is?!):

6:30 AM Arrive to work with Albquerque Sol players to prepare them for practice (taping for injuries, kinesiotape, manual work for some injuries).  Julie works with our PTs when she needs assistance improving her interventions for any of her clients, especially for things like TMJ issues (see our blog on this and our specialist Monet Supple!).

8:00 AM Julie is on the field during practice, doing rehab with injured players and wathching for new injuries during practice.  Then she sets players up post-practice with ice and other appropriate treatments to help with recovery.

9:00-5:00 Work at Langford, working with her clients on higher level return-to-sport testing and drills, some manual therapy to improve symptoms and tolerance for the intense exercises these athletes are performing.  Julie also teaches MovNat classes which, by the way, are awesome (see our MovNat information here).

How is athletic training different than physical therapy?

So now you know what Julie does, let’s talk about how this is different from physical therapy.  Here is where it gets sticky.  We do a lot of the same stuff, and we can work with the same populations, which is why we are working together rather than trying to separate out what are essentially overlapping, complementary fields.

First read the description of an athletic trainer, from New Mexico’s licensing board:

“Athletic trainer” means a person who, with the advice and consent of a licensed physician practices the treatment, prevention, care and rehabilitation of injuries incurred by athletes. “Athlete” means a person trained to participate in exercise requiring physical agility and stamina.


Now let’s see that modified to the description of a physical therapist (see more at the APTA, our professional organization):

“Physical therapist” means a person who communicates with a licensed physician (but does not require a referral/diagnosis first) to practice the evaluation, treatment, prevention, care and rehabilitation of people of all ages and abilities with an injury or disease in order to help them “improve and maintain function and quality of life.”

You can see some major common themes–we BOTH provide treatment and preventative care for those who need it, although at least in New Mexico ATCs are required to work only with athletes (albeit a more loose definition of athlete which encompasses any form of exercise “requiring physical agility and stamina”), while physical therapists work with people of ALL ages and abilities.  We BOTH communicate and coordinate with doctors in order to provide more comprehensive, holistic care, although an ATC must work under a physician while a PT can work independently but is required to communicate with a physician regarding any patient’s care.  And we BOTH focus on prevention of injuries (keep your eyes peeled for a blog on our screening and outreach activities here at Langford!).

How and why are we bridging the gap?

Because of this overlapping ground, we at Langford are working to utilize Julie’s skills and abilities in order to help serve more people more effectively collaboratively.

Jimmy Minner, PT, DPT, SCS just gave a  presentation with Chad Jones, MS, LAT, ATC, CES, PES at the New Mexico State conference for athletic trainers about collaborative care for athletes.  Jimmy says, “collaborative care was something I was exposed to more in-depth during my residency [in South Carolina] and is something that is lacking in New Mexico”.  Collaborative care is a patient-centered approach which aims to improve efficiency and effectiveness of care and reduce cost of resources by integrating information and care across the many health care fields.

In addition to the emphasis on patient-centered or relationship-centered care, there is a deficit in the number of physical therapists compared to the number of people NEEDING physical therapy.  If we can utilize other good resources to progress people beyond discharge from physical therapy , and if we can utilize Julie and other good ATCs as a first line of screening after an acute injury, we can reduce the overall cost of health care (yay!), and reduce the monetary burden on individual athletes.  This also frees up our physical therapists so that you, as a patient/client can get in and see one of us (we often have a huge waitlist because we are so awesome)!

As an example, let’s use an athlete with an ankle sprain.  Currently things would go something like this: Soccer player injures his ankle playing soccer, goes to urgent care and gets xrays and an aircast.  Then sees an orthopedic specialist and gets an MRI.  Then gets referred to PT for rehabilitation, and when discharged hopefully is fine (or ends up re-injuring himself within the first 2 years because insurance doesn’t like you to spend too long in PT and there aren’t perfect return to sport tests as of yet).  The cost of all of these interventions and examinations is huge, and there is often very little communication between physicians, PTs and patients.

OK, so here’s a more collaborative approach: Soccer player injures his ankle at a game and sees an ATC for an initial screening.  The ATC screens the player for fracture risk (did he break a bone?), and decides the player does NOT need any xrays or MRI.  The ATC communicates her findings with the physician, and then treats the player.  If he gets better, he keeps working with the ATC until he’s back in the game.  If he doesn’t get better fast enough, THEN he sees the doctor and/or a PT in order to figure out what else he may need.

The second approach is much more cost-effective, care is initiated more quickly, and the player is in the right hands from the start (if he needs more intensive examination/treatment a good ATC, like Julie, will refer him to the right person).  So this is what we’re aiming to do at Langford, and what Julie is doing with the Sol.  And I personally think it’s the right thing to do.

When or how can you see Julie?

Here are the main ways you can and should see Julie

  1. After being discharged from PT but not ready to return to play just yet
  2.  If you have a minor injury that doesn’t require PT
  3.  If your school’s athletic trainer is very busy
  4.  If you don’t need to or want to use insurance
  5.  For sport-specific training and rehabilitation
  6. If you’re on the Albuquerque Sol (right?!)

If you’re not the right fit for athletic training, Julie will refer you to the right person, be that a doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor, etc.  Call and make an appointment today to get a screening or if you are an athlete struggling with an injury or working ot return to your previous level of play!  Ask for Julie, and she’ll start guiding you!

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