94 : Lessons Learned After 23 Surgeries w/ Rebecca Schumer Lee, DPT

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Rebecca Schumer Lee is a Sports Physical Therapist at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network and was a dual sport (soccer and softball) division-1 athlete at The George Washington University. Currently, Rebecca primarily works with athletes of all levels and patients with orthopedic injuries and/or post-surgical recovery at the US Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, Maryland.  Rebecca reached out to me after coming across our Instagram account. She was understandably intrigued by our podcast after having 23 surgeries of her own throughout her athletic career.  Rebecca believes her injury-proneness stemmed from the natural hyper-mobility in her joints. During our interview we learn about how although mobility and range of motion are important for both performance and in reducing the risk of injury, but joint stability is also important.  Additionally, Rebecca feels her competitive drive and not knowing when to stop was also a contributing factor of her high injury rate.  I can certainly relate to Rebecca on that one!  Rebecca wishes she knew more about the importance of active recovery during her athletic career, which is a topic she touches on more than one occasion throughout the episode. 

Sixteen of the 23 surgeries were on her left foot after suffering a Lisfranc injury on October 6th, 2004 during her Junior year soccer campaign at GW.  Rebecca remembers this day vividly and recalls her athletic trainer encouraging her to find a hobby, knowing her injury would required surgery. Easier said than done for such a competitive athlete who saw no life outside of sports. 

During our conversation she described her left foot as looking like a bag of screws (see picture below). I think that is a pretty accurate claim. Although she admits that it has taken time to come to grips with her various injuries and the resultant limitations those have placed on her active lifestyle, she has learned to make light of the situation (see below). 

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"Pain is your body's warning signal that something is not right"

With all these injuries, Rebecca talks about the struggle of having the injury prone tag.  She remembered having both a walking boot and an arm sling at one point while still in college.  Rebecca gives advice in this episode on how to use your injury to your advantage.  This isn't referring to the use of elevator services and getting sympathy from your friends, teachers and family.  There is a lot that can be learned from watching from the sideline.

Believe it or not, since high school Rebecca knew she wanted to be a physical therapist even before all the injuries. Below, she is pictured treating one of her patients with dry needling.

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As Rebecca states in her Instagram caption (above), there is not one tool that is going to solve everything.  During our conversation, I asked Rebecca about some things injured athletes and their families should look for when choosing a PT facility.  Not all PT practices are created equal.

What to look for in a PT facility:

  • What is the population?

    • Athletes or hip replacements?

  • Take a tour of the facility to see their space and equipment options

    • Rebecca's new favorite tool is the Owens Recovery Science blood flow restriction device featured in episode 84.

    • The most commonly treated injury in Rebecca's practice are ACL injuries

  • Are you progressing?

  • Are your exercises always the same?

  • Are you always off on your own or working with an aide?

    • If any of those are true, you should look into finding a new facility.

Throughout the recoveries from all her surgeries, Rebecca has found peace in her thirst for knowledge.  Reading books and listening to podcast are two of her favorite hobbies outside of physically active activities.  Below are some of her favorites.  Personally, I am a huge fan of fifth one on the list, The School of Greatness, by Lewis Howes.

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Some other topics covered throughout the interview are listed below:

  • Fostering an environment of healing in a PT practice

  • Tips for transitioning to a life after sports or back to sports

  • The pillars of health Rebecca lives by in her day-to-day life

  • The demands of playing two division-1 sports

  • Sports specilization

WHERE CAN you FIND OUT MORE ABOUT Medstar Sports Medicine?




Download Episode 94 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud