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From time to time I will highlight women with careers in sports to give readers a perspective on the vast influence that woman can and do have on the lives of athletes. Today’s interview is with former GladiatHer, Dr. Shefali Patel, PT, a Physical Therapist.  Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable occurrence for athletes.  When injuries are so severe that they require surgery, Dr. Patel, and others like her, step in to help with recovery and rehabilitation.  Dr. Patel, a former tennis player, is a licensed, practicing Physical Therapist in Columbia, SC.  Read more about her background here.  Check out what Dr. Patel has to say about her work:

Question: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about your career.  What led you to the field of physical therapy?

Answer: I have had a lot of knee surgeries; my first when I was in the 5th grade. I’ve been through physical therapy so much that I decided that I would be a great therapist because I could relate to my patients. For as long as I can remember, becoming a Physical Therapist is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Question: Wow, knee surgery in the fifth grade?!  That’s pretty major.  So for the readers who may be interested in physical therapy, can you talk about the educational background you need and what certifications you must have in order to become a Physical Therapist?

Answer: To become a Physical Therapist you have to obtain a Bachelors Degree and meet the prerequisites to enter Physical Therapy school including volunteer hours and class requirements. Physical Therapy school is then a 3-year doctorate program.

Question: Sounds pretty intense.  So who are your typical clients and what types of injuries do you see most often?

Answer: I currently work in an outpatient orthopedic clinic’s youth department. My youths vary from, but aren’t limited to, postoperative ACL [Anterior Cruciate Ligament] patients, meniscus repair patients, and MPFL [Medial Patellofemoral Ligament] reconstruction patients to patients who have suffered patella maltracking, ankle sprains, shoulder injuries, and scoliosis. The ages of most of my patients range from 8 years to up to 22 year old.

Question: Do you find that the females that you see are prone to similar types of injuries?

Answer: I see a lot of females with patella maltracking problems. I also see a lot of females with overuse injuries, such as rotator cuff issues, or chronic ankle sprains. Athletes now days, especially females, participate in sports all year long. Soccer and basketball are no longer 3-month sports. There are summer leagues, church leagues, and school leagues that occupy an entire year. There isn’t any time for student-athletes to rest. When you combine that with a growing female body, injuries are inevitable.

Question: It sounds like some parents may need to force their children to rest a bit during the year, in order to avoid serious injuries.  What do you like most about your job?

Answer: I enjoy helping people. As a Physical Therapist I get to spend one-on-one time with my patients (athletes and non-athletes) while assisting their recovery from an injury. I love the population that I work with because I get to train high school and middle school athletes without a lot of pressure, and for the most part they are willing to put in the work because they are ready to get back out and play.

Question: What hours do you usually work and do you have much free time?

Answer: I work a flexible 40-hour work-week. There are some days that I am at the clinic as early as 7:00 a.m. or as late as 6:00 p.m. to accommodate to patients’ schedules. I have plenty of free time to do the things that I like to do.

Question: Why do you think that it is important for females to be involved in sports and have sports-related careers?

Answer: Getting involved in sports is a great way to exercise and stay active, as well as socialize. Getting involved in sports as a young adult gives you a hobby that you could keep for the rest of your life. It is also a great way to meet new people. It is so important for females to be involved in sports-related careers because sports are male dominated even though some of the most amazing athletes are females. It is important to keep females in these positions to serve as role models for young athletes and students.

Question: If a young girl were interested in following your career path, what would be your advice to her?

Answer: I could go on for hours with advice on how to become a Physical Therapist but the most important things are to study hard, make good grades and shadow a Physical Therapist to experience their jobs first hand.

Question: I know you’ve taken a look at my definition of a GladiatHer, but tell me what your definition of a GladiatHer is.

Answer: A female who exudes determination, pride, and knows what hard work is. One who leaves everything she has on the field, court, or gym day in and day out. When I think of a GladiatHer I think of a female who is dedicated to her sport. 

Question: Great definition! If someone needs a physical therapist, how can they contact you?

Answer: I will gladly accept emails at or phone calls at 803-227-8009.

Thanks so much for your time Dr. Patel!! Follow Dr. Patel on Twitter @Shefali_23


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