Designed to educate and motivate, Spear’s #LetsKeepMoving Blog is our official stream of fitness tips, exercise advice, and healthy lifestyle inspiration. Our articles and features are written and produced in direct partnership with our physical and occupational therapists! Disclaimer
Summer is heating up: the world has got its eyes on the 2020 Olympic games starting this month. Our very own CEO and Co-founder, Dan Rootenberg, jetted off to Japan to continue his work with the Israel national baseball team as their official physical therapist!
Team Israel is up against some of the biggest players in the world, with a need to be physically ready to perform at optimal levels for the international sporting event. Holding a true passion for baseball, Dan is excited to be able to help rehab and guide the all-star players. “It’s just about putting these professional athletes in the best position to be successful,” he says of the importance of his role.
Dan has been involved with the team since 2012, during the World Baseball Classic qualifiers. He also offered his attention and rehabilitation skills at the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Seoul, South Korea, helping the players by providing strength and conditioning and physical therapy guidance. “I played in the Israel baseball league, a pro league in Israel in 2007. My first son, Jack, was just born. I went out there and the relationships that I established there, that’s where a lot of this really came from. It started there during that league,” Dan recalls of his time. “The manager of the team, Eric Holtz, was a good friend of mine. Nate Fish [Third Base Coach] was another guy—we all played together. Shlomo [Lipetz], who’s a pitcher here, was a teammate of mine; Peter Kurz, who’s the general manager— his son was a teammate of mine. There’s a lot of personal connections here, and it’s amazing to see how much the sport of baseball has grown.”
SPEAR has been involved in the treatment of Team Israel players in the past as well. “We’ve treated a number of players in our SPEAR facilities; different physical therapists on the team have worked with a lot of these guys,” Dan recalls. “It’s nice to have that continuity because then they come here, I can talk to the therapist that treated them and then have a continuous program for them…it’s helpful to be able to take whatever they’ve been doing in the clinics, pair it with what they have to do on the field and then help them here…really it’s just about putting these professional athletes in the best position to be successful.”
Team Israel is up against some big contenders this summer: the United States, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. Currently ranked 24th in the world and 7th in Europe, the team is the competition’s endearing underdogs. The full roster consists of 12 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders, and 3 outfielders. The world’s got their eye on second baseman Ian Kinsler, former MLB all-star, who played for 14 seasons for the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and San Diego Padres. The Summer Olympics are bound to be a hot one! Team Israel’s first match kicks off next Thursday, July 29th, against South Korea.
“Nobody expected us to be in the Olympics,” Dan says. “The fact that we’re there is pretty incredible in and of itself, and we’ve got a lot of a lot of high hopes about coming back with a medal.”
We are so proud and honored to have Dan there representing the field of physical therapy and its vital importance in the competition and the overall health and safety of the athletes.
Here’s a teaser of some awesome content we got on the pipeline, sure to be a home run:
Six years ago, during a game, Kristen Markoe was dodging a trap at half court when she heard a sharp pop and felt her knee give out. Her left ACL had torn. She was out for the season and would require reconstructive surgery. But her experience of being sidelined and undergoing extensive physical therapy would go on to inspire her to become a physical therapist and coach who is dedicated to helping other athletes not only recover physically and mentally, but also focus on injury prevention.
As part of the Hunter College Women’s Basketball team, Kristen was a star player and team captain who broke numerous records, becoming the first player at Hunter ever to record over 1,000 rebounds and earning the second all-time career points in women’s basketball. She was named CUNYAC Rookie of the Year and then Player of the Year three times. Now an Assistant Coach, Kristen remains heavily involved in developing the team’s conditioning program, emphasizing proper warm-up body mechanics and strength/agility/stamina workouts to improve performance. Have a seemingly inexplicable pain? Coach Kristen’s the first point of reference. Don’t have access to the department’s PT/conditioning staff during off-season? Coach Kristen’s door is always open.
This October, she hosted her third injury prevention screening for Hunter’s basketball teams, focusing on familiar foe and the number one culprit for sidelines: ACL injuries. Rallying over 15 SPEAR Therapist and Tech volunteers, Kristen designed eight stations for over 20 participating players to provide assessments that were unique both to each player and their athletic goals. Players were able to get direct feedback on their leg stability/ROM, landing control, push-off and landing, running/cutting mechanics, and more. Throughout the event Coach Kristen poked, prodded, demonstrated, and encouraged before sending each student home with an individualized exercise program to help them work on any weaknesses and avoid potential injuries.
Having organized the event a couple times now, Kristen says she’s gotten to learn and improve a lot. When first bringing up the idea to her SPEAR director, Joe Costello, last year, it was just an idea, something she’d tried as a PT student. But by the end of her meeting, “Joe was giving me deadlines to make things happen.” There were people to coordinate with, spaces to reserve, clinical exercises to design, materials to gather. Before she knew it, Kristen’s passion for bringing physical therapy to student athletes before they’re injured, and the experiences that allowed her to empathize with her team, turned her into a SPEAR leader.
In addition to providing SPEAR the opportunity to connect with more patient athletes, Kristen says these injury prevention screenings also “allow [therapists] to hone skills in movement assessment at high levels of athleticism.” Not only do these outreach efforts provide us with opportunities to connect with our communities, but they also help us develop as healthcare providers.
When asked about her next goals, Kristen says, “I am definitely looking to hold a screening for other teams at Hunter College—the women’s volleyball team, men and women’s fencing team, and men’s soccer team coaches have reached out with interest. Within SPEAR I am interested in becoming Assistant Clinical Director.” On November 6th, it was announced that Kristen Markoe would be promoted to Assistant Clinical Director of our W 57th clinic.
Thank you to all the Hunter College basketball students who joined us at Kristen’s ACL injury prevention screening–stay safe!
Last week, SPEAR was honored to help 9/11 Veterans and Service Members through the Wounded Warrior Project, while also enjoying some great basketball.
SPEAR Physical Therapy, proudly displayed at the World’s Most Famous Arena
For the third year in a row, SPEAR was the official Physical Therapy Provider for the 2K Empire Classic at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden! This annual college basketball tournament raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project and brings together top NCAA basketball teams from around the country.
SPEAR on a courtside banner! Proud to help support the Wounded Warrior Project with a 2K Classic sponsorship
This year, the #14 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes defeated UConn to become the tournament champions, beating out top teams like Syracuse and #18 Oregon.
Bol Bol, son of late NBA star Manute Bol, earned all-tournament honors. Picture credit: SPEAR Regional Director Lisa Yirce, PT, DPT
SPEAR Physical Therapy has an additional unique connection to this event. All-Tournament standout Bol Bol is the son of the late NBA star Manute Bol, who played college basketball at the University of Bridgeport. Mr. Bol’s coach at Bridgeport was the father of our own Jimmy Olayos, PT, DPT!
Basketball star Manute Bol, father of 2K Empire Classic standout Bol Bol, playing pickup basketball with the father of SPEAR Regional Director Jimmy Olayos.
Mr. Bol was a true activist and great person, who became good friends with Jimmy’s family. In fact, in the picture below (circa 1992), that is Mr. Bol letting a young Jimmy Olayos nap next to him on the Olayos family couch.
Manute Bol helps SPEAR’s Jimmy Olayos, PT, DPT catch up on some sleep
Being a part of this year’s 2K Empire Classic was especially meaningful for the SPEAR Physical Therapy team. With our close connection to the Bol family, and our ability to help 9/11 Veterans and Service Members, we truly appreciated this opportunity.