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Theresa Chiaia On The Workout Routines Of Professional Athletes

An Interview With Maria Angelova

Openness: Being a student always — never stop learning: always learning from those with more experience, different experiences. I learn a lot from colleagues as well as my patients and pass along to other patients. At HSS, we are surrounded by knowledge.

Professional athletes have to perform at the highest levels. While not all of us will share Professional athletes’ athletic skills, we can learn insights from their workout routines about how we can improve our own exercise regimens. In this interview series, we are talking to professional athletes from all sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, Soccer, Olympics, Golf, Tennis, etc.) about the workout routines that they use to help them achieve top-level performance. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Theresa Chiaia, PT, DPT.

Theresa Chiaia is a Clinical Lead in the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). She has over 30 years of experience at HSS in many sections of HSS Rehabilitation and Performance. Theresa earned her PT degrees from NYU and her transitional DPT from University of New England. She has been an integral part of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center since its inception in 1996 and serves as the rehabilitation liaison for the HSS Patellofemoral Center. Her interests include working with the female athlete and conditions related to the Patellofemoral joint, ACL, shoulder impingement, adhesive capsulitis, and Return to Play. Theresa can see patients Direct Access (without a physician referral), is young athlete competent, and an HSS Advanced Hip Clinician. She is a Master Clinician in New York University’s Doctoral PT program. Theresa has served as the team PT for the NY Liberty of the WNBA, and consulted for NY Power soccer team, and NY/NJ Metrostars.

Theresa and her colleague, Polly de Mille RN, RCEP, CSCS have developed a Quality of Movement Assessment (QMA) to help guide athletes in their journey to return to play following lower extremity injury, and to aid the medical team in the return to play decision-making process.

She is published on topics such as the Quality of Movement Assessment, Osteoporosis, Hip Arthroscopy, Patellofemoral Pain, and Musculoskeletal Profile of Soccer Players, and Adhesive Capsulitis as a co-author with Dr. Hannafin.

Theresa enjoys mentoring on a formal and informal basis to help develop clinicians and in turn making herself better.

Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you please share a brief third person bio to be used for the interview.

Theresa Chiaia, PT, DPT is a Clinical Lead in the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). She has 32 years of experience at HSS where she has grown as a physical therapist (PT) by the many opportunities afforded her. Her career started as an inpatient PT working with acute post-operative orthopedic patients and medical patients with rheumatologic conditions. During this time, Theresa started to build her foundation — treating patients, hours after they had surgery and gaining a unique understanding of their immediate needs. At the same time, she was also able to build professional relationships with the medical team, orthopedic surgeons, surgical residents, and fellows who are leaders in their field today, as well as nurses and physician assistants. Theresa then began her outpatient career working in general orthopedics, treating individuals with arthritis and arthritis-related surgical procedures such as joint arthroplasty. Theresa worked with patients on land as well as in the pool. Presented with an opportunity, Theresa enhanced her PT skills by working for 6 years as a Seating and Mobility PT for individuals who require a wheelchair for mobility. She also worked in the Motion Analysis Lab and used technology to understand an individual’s physical impairments and track their progress. Since 1992, Theresa has built her career in Sports Rehabilitation at HSS. She treats a broad spectrum of injuries — both non-operative and post-operative with a particular interest in the shoulder and knee. In 1996, the Women’s Sports Medicine Center (WSMC) was developed at HSS — the first in the country. Theresa works closely with the center’s team which includes orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine physicians, physiatrists, exercise physiologists, and nutritionists to build a collaboration between rehabilitation and the WSMC. She has been an integral part of the WSMC since its inception. Theresa also is the PT liaison for the HSS’ PF center.

Theresa earned her first Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Adelphi University. While playing basketball for Adelphi University, Theresa injured her knee. This helped steer Theresa towards a career in physical therapy, thus she went on to earn a BS in Physical Therapy from New York University. As the PT profession continued to evolve, Theresa furthered her studies and received her Clinical Doctorate from the University of New England in 2009.

Theresa is a Master Clinician in New York University’s Doctoral PT program and has served on the faculty of Columbia University’s DPT Program, as well as Hunter and Touro PT programs.

Theresa has lectured extensively on various rehabilitation topics in the field of Sports Rehabilitation. She also developed and ran an ACL Injury Prevention Workshop at NCAA Hoop City Basketball 2000 Final Four in Philadelphia. Theresa and her colleague, Polly de Mille RN, RCEP, CSCS have developed a Quality of Movement Assessment (QMA) to help guide athletes in their journey to return to play following lower extremity injury, and to aid the medical team in return to play decision-making process. She played collegiate basketball and maintains a keen interest in basketball.

Theresa was team PT with the New York Liberty of the WNBA. Prior to that, Theresa consulted with and performed Pre-Season screening examinations of the New York Power women’s professional soccer team, the NY/NJ Metrostars of the MLS, the New York Liberty women’s professional basketball team, and local college soccer programs. Theresa’s research focuses on Quality of Movement following injury. Her work has been presented at the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Sports Medicine (AOSSM), American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Her work has also included creating musculoskeletal profiles of athletes to help identify risk factors for faulty movement patterns and injury. This work was presented at APTA National Conference, Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF), and at the APTA’s national meeting.

Theresa is published on topics such as the Quality of Movement Assessment, Osteoporosis, Hip Arthroscopy, Adhesive Capsulitis, Patellofemoral Pain, and Musculoskeletal Profile of Soccer Players.

Theresa enjoys being part of the rehabilitation journey with her patients. Having been injured herself as a college athlete, Theresa is empathetic with the individual as they embark on their road to recovery.

Theresa enjoys mentoring on a formal and informal basis to help develop clinicians and in turn making herself better.

Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and the story of what led you to this career?

I grew up playing basketball. I had a significant knee injury playing basketball in college which led to a long rehabilitation process. I had firsthand experience of working with a physical therapist and being in a rehabilitation setting. This led me to pursuing a career in PT. My experience as a patient has helped build my career.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One thing that always strikes me is camaraderie among patients. When they are in the rehabilitation setting and dressed similarly, all recovering from an injury, no one knows the other’s background. People who wouldn’t otherwise cross paths or who wouldn’t necessarily interact with each other in different life experiences/ situations, are able to do so. All people are equal. Everyone gets along and has shared empathy.

Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Trustworthy: it is important to build trust with your patients. They feel vulnerable, emotionally and physically, so it is important that they trust your handling of them, your care, your commitment to their recovery. In addition, our medical, rehabilitation and surgical teammates must have complete trust in each other. This provides a level of comfort for our patients too.

Patience: with those you are working with and with their recovery process

Empathy: rehabilitation from an injury / illness adds another thing to someone’s already full plate. It takes them away from what they like to do or normally do without thinking. Understanding how this is impacting someone’s life is imperative.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

As my career was starting, I was taking my licensing exam — the oral boards. I was in a booth with 2 examiners, 1 acting as the patient. It was a cardiopulmonary question and I never took my stethoscope off from around my neck. The examiner kept saying reread the question. Pay attention to detail was the lesson there.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’ve been working on developing a tool to assess, understand, and grade movement quality -called the QMA, Quality of Movement Assessment. Initially designed to aid in return to sport decision making, the QMA is used in rehabilitation, to improve performance, to minimize the risk of injury, and aid in therapeutic exercise progression. Most injuries are non-contact in nature, occurring as a result of how an individual moves. Does the individual have the movement IQ, the mobility to perform a movement, and the strength to support the movement? Understanding an individual’s training regimen and getting to know them physically (range of motion, flexibility, strength) informs us about how a person may move. We can then develop targeted recommendations to help the individual achieve their goal in a safe and efficient manner.

Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about the workout routines of professional athletes. Can you share with our readers a few of the workout routines that you advise to help athletes perform at peak levels? Can you help articulate what each of those workouts achieves?

I come from a rehabilitation perspective. Workout routines need to be progressive, incorporate adequate rest and recovery, be comprehensive: have a foundation to build performance and ultimately skill training: mobility training so joints and muscles have adequate ROM and flexibility; strength and muscular endurance; cardiovascular fitness. Injuries occur when athletes do not have an adequate foundation of ROM, flexibility, strength-base, cardiovascular fitness. Working in eccentric control — the ability to decelerate and control movement is necessary.

What do you do to prevent injuries during workouts or during competitions?

Preparation is key. Getting in shape for your athletic endeavor or your functional goal. As a physical therapist, it is important to do a comprehensive evaluation of your patient: understanding their medical history, surgical history, history of present illness/injury, exercise experience/ activity level, their goals and physical demands throughout their day. A physical examination to identify impairments is then performed: ROM, flexibility, joint integrity, strength, neuromuscular, functional ability. Getting to know your patient through this comprehensive process.

What type of workout regime is best to help rehabilitate from injury?

A regimen that is individualized for that specific person. The rehabilitation program always begins with education about the injury and the rehabilitation process. This will help improve patient compliance. We always want to respect the healing process and teach the patient to do so too. Initially, we want to control swelling and pain so the individual can begin to regain muscle function and mobility of the body part. It is important to set realistic expectations for the individual. We then want to progressively introduce load and build tolerance to load through strengthening, ROM and flexibility exercises, and functional training (exercises that mimic life). No two injuries are the same as each person brings a different physical presentation and capacity to heal.

Do you suggest the practice mindfulness or meditation as part of an overall training routine? Can you explain what you do?

I do support mindfulness — I think it is a personal experience. People have to find what is right for them.

As a Pilates instructor, I’m particularly interested in this question. What core-strength exercises do you advise?

Quite simply, every exercise is a core exercise. I encourage my patients to engage their core during each exercise whether it is a shoulder exercise or a leg exercise. I think the key to core training is that the individual has the foundational ability to know how to engage their core. Once that is achieved, then the progression is much easier -working the core in different planes.

From your perspective and experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career?”

Passion for what you do.

Professionalism: respect the profession; do what you need to do.

Loyal to your cause: keep getting better; continue to care for your patients.

Openness: Being a student always — never stop learning: always learning from those with more experience, different experiences. I learn a lot from colleagues as well as my patients and pass along to other patients. At HSS, we are surrounded by knowledge.

Work-life balance to stay fresh and healthy.

Specifically for PT, it is important to be a people person and enjoy interacting with people. You will be on this journey with this person/patient. We see these people regularly — we are part of each other’s lives for weeks and months at a time. Being an integral part of the journey attracted me to physical therapy as a profession.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Believe me, I am a big sports fan and do enjoy sports networks. I wonder if we put medical experts together on a regular basis or other experts together on a regular basis in a collegial environment, would we be able to make advances quicker. Or for that matter just regular people getting to know each other better.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

https://www.hss.edu/rehabilitation.asp

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at angelova@rebellious-intl.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.

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Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.

Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.