A chance meeting with a sports physical therapist while in high school left such a strong impression on Elizabeth Hinkle that it sparked a career interest for her.
While excelling throughout her Hudson High School cross country years, a career that included two individual top-50 state meet performances and one 4th place team finish, Hinkle and her teammates participated in an Akron Children’s Hospital injury prevention clinic.
Lori Ross, sports physical therapist, remembers it being one of her department’s first such clinics.
“We were real excited and prepared loads of information to share with the athletes,” she recalled. “We even paired the girls up to have them assess each other’s running technique.”
Lori distinctly remembered Elizabeth listening intently and taking the responsibility seriously.
“She listened to our explanation, took a critical eye and kindly corrected her teammates,” Lori said. “She asked thoughtful questions and I remember being so impressed and excited to see the fruit of our work.”
Teaching athletes the “how” and “why” behind injury prevention
Injury prevention works, Lori said, as the athletes’ skill and mechanics improve. But if you can get them to understand the why and how, she added, it will have a longer-lasting impact. That is the objective of the sports injury clinics.
Today, Elizabeth is a junior at Butler University studying health sciences and pre-physical therapy. She hopes to go to graduate school for physical therapy.
She ran on Butler’s cross country team as a freshman, but after a series of injuries turned her full attention on her studies.
“It was an insane increase in training mileage at college and the pressure not only on my body, in particular my hips, knees and IT band, but pressure in general was more intense,” she said. “The main benefits of the injury prevention program came out, though, and were important because I was experiencing some of the very conditions we talked about.”
Elizabeth said in high school she would run 30-35 miles per week and, in college, it shot up to more than 50.
“And there was an increase in pace, too. We would run no slower than 7:30-mile recovery runs,” she said.
Her own running injuries helped fuel her career passion
Once injuries struck, she relied on the training she received in high school.
“It jogged my memory to what I learned in the injury prevention clinic, and I was able to apply it,” Elizabeth said.
Now she wants to work with other athletes. She reached out to Lori and asked if she could shadow Akron Children’s Hospital physical therapists.
“She showed the same enthusiasm in her interactions with patients and clinicians in our clinic; always willing to try a new exercise, asking for clarification on what interventions we were performing, and why,” Lori said. “She’s the best kind of student! I have no doubt she will be an incredible addition to our profession.”
Elizabeth says the active lifestyle out west appeals to her, particularly the skiing and snowboarding scene, but she is open to staying in the Midwest closer to home.
“I just know I will always want to work with athletes,” she said.
Contact Akron Children’s for an individual plan
Akron Children’s Hospital offers the only pediatric-focused sports rehabilitation programs in northeast Ohio. Children age 12 and up are treated with individualized plans for each athlete. The program works closely with the hospital’s sports medicine physicians and orthopedic surgeons.
Contact the department for more information about its services.