Full Body Approach to Sports Physical Therapy

by Janel Carter, PT, DPT, ATC
March 1, 2019


“… the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone…”

This familiar song brings to light a few concepts that are wildly important in sports physical therapy: that the whole body is a chain and that what happens at one link of the chain can affect others, whether it be the immediately surrounding areas or even a completely different region. The more technical terms for these concepts are “kinetic chain” (Ellenbecker & Davies, 2001) and “regional interdependence.” (Derrick G. Sueki, 2013)

Picture what it takes to run, jump, kick, throw, swing, hit, swim, dive. While playing sports the human body works as a whole to bend, extend, rotate, squat, and more. Every joint has an ideal role which is a unique combination of mobility and stability. On top of that, the body needs to know how to control the joint during movement. It’s complex! If one area of the body doesn’t do what it needs to, another along the chain will find a way to get the job done. This is great until the demand becomes too much and an injury occurs.

So, if a soccer player injures his or her knee, is it important to treat pain and normalize range of motion, strength, and motor control at the knee? Yes! Is it also important to make sure the ankles, hips, spine and shoulders are playing their part in functional movement patterns? Absolutely! Assessment by a trained healthcare profession to identify underlying contributing factors and the cause of injury can help ensure pain and dysfunction stay away and normal athletic participation can be resumed. Consult one of our physical therapists to evaluate your sports injury and movement quality today!

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Although no physician referral is needed to see a physical therapist, be aware that some insurance companies may require a referral for coverage.



Ellenbecker, T.S., Davies, G. J. (2001). Closed Kinetic Chain Exercise: A Comprehensive Guide to Multiple-Joint Exercises. Human Kinetics.

Sueki, D.G., Cleland, J.A., Wainner, R.S. (2013). A regional interdependence model of musculoskeletal dysfunction: research, mechanisms and clinical implications. Journal or Manual and Manipulative Therapy, 21(2). doi:10.1179/2042618612Y.0000000027

About the Author: Janel Carter is a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist Physical Therapist and Certified Athletic Trainer with additional certifications in movement assessment through Functional Movement Systems (FMS) and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI). Check out her bio for more details.