The Impact of a Sports Performance Concentration on Post-Graduate Outcomes
Purpose/Hypothesis: There has been a recent motion submitted to the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy to institute specialization, in the form of post-professional training/residency, upon completion of the entry level DPT degree. To that end, there are over 40 residency programs that promote specialization towards board certification in Sports Physical Therapy. In response to this call for specialization, the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement & Rehabilitation Sciences at Northeastern University developed a Sports Performance Concentration (SPC) for its Doctor of Physical Therapy students in 2014. The SPC is designed to provide a focused exposure to this practice area through specialized didactic, research and clinical education opportunities within the existing curriculum. The effect of participation in this concentration on securing Sports Residencies, employment in Sports Medicine, and improving practice is currently unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to measure the outcomes and perceptions of SPC alumni regarding preparation for clinical practice in the sports medicine workforce, as well as their decision to pursue post-professional training. We hypothesized that more than 75% of alumni would perceive completing the SPC made them more prepared to provide physical therapy services to patients with athletic or sports medicine conditions; and that completing the SPC made them more marketable to potential employers upon graduation, and more likely to pursue post-professional training. Number of Subjects: 26 Materials and Methods: All current alumni of the SPC (n=81) were sent a Qualtrics survey with 23 questions, including a combination of yes/no, multiple choice, and Likert scale questions asking about demographics, current clinical practice, and plans for the future, as related to their experience in the SPC. The data were analyzed quantitatively, by calculating the proportions of respondents selecting each possible response. This study was approved by the Northeastern University IRB. Results: Twenty-six (26/81=32%) of alumni responded to the survey. They were 48% male and the mean time since graduation was 3 years. The majority (54% (n=14)) currently spend more than half their practice time treating athletes. 85% (n=23) of respondents credited the sports physical therapy clinical rotation as benefitting them in their practice since graduation. 67% (n=18) felt they were more marketable while seeking employment in a sports medicine setting, and 62% (n=17) felt the concentration directly influenced their choice of employment setting. A majority, 63%% (n=17), are not considering a sports residency program. Within the cohort, 2 alumni have completed a sports residency and 2 more are currently enrolled in one. 3 students ether have completed or in the process of completing their athletic training degree. Conclusions: This study is the first to our knowledge to explore the outcomes related to alumni who have completed a sports performance concentration during their DPT curriculum. While only approximately 50% of respondents work with athletes the majority of the time , as hypothesized, the majority of them felt that the completion of the SPC was deemed to be very important to their development as novice sports physical therapist, particularly as related to having a sports performance-specific clinical rotation and didactic training. Perhaps surprisingly, however, almost 2/3 of respondents reported they are not planning to pursue residency training. A qualitative study is planned to assess more deeply the perceptions of these alumni towards practice and post-professional training. The low response rate may indicate some bias in the results, although it is difficult to determine whether it is systematic. Clinical Relevance: The study results illustrate that the Sports Performance Concentration provides important opportunities necessary for students wishing to specialize in sports physical therapy early in their career, and gives graduates the perception they are better prepared for finding jobs and practicing in sports medicine. However, in many students it did not seem to foster a desire to pursue post-professional training. The reasons for this are currently unknown but will be assessed in future research.