Building Community While Rebuilding Strength

Maria Iannotti was a high school student-athlete who loved being active and rowing with her team. But when she found out that the pain in her hip was a labral tear, her high school experience wouldn’t be anything like she had imagined. She may have come to physical therapy to rebuild her strength after surgery, but she left with something greater than she could have imagined.

Why She Entered PT

Maria sustained a hip labral tear that required her to have surgery that put 5 anchors in her hip. For a 17-year old high school athlete, this was life-changing. She was unable to participate in any sports or do simple activities like walking. Going from participating in multiple sports to becoming wheelchair-bound and eventually using crutches was an extreme adjustment. Her journey with physical therapy began with her hip surgery rehabilitation, but during that process, her other hip began to deteriorate. She worked with a physical therapist for both injuries and continued with physical therapy on and off in the three years that followed. Throughout her recovery, she was treated by Dr. Yvonne Swanson and Dr. Megan Marcello in the East Greenwich clinic.

Developing a Community Through Physical Therapy

Maria knew that putting in the work in her physical therapy treatment would make all the difference. She was excited to see the progress. She recalls, “this is what I’m doing to get better and what was important was everyone made it fun and it was cool seeing progress. You were doing PT as a team and exercises that simulated rowing. There’s a reason for going back – community.” She attributes the success of her physical therapy treatment to the community she developed at Performance Physical Therapy. Her physical therapists saw the transformation from a quiet, injured high school athlete to a collegiate athlete, then a more seasoned collegiate rower who was competing at a higher level.

As she progressed in her treatment, Maria’s confidence soared. Not only was she able to walk without pain, but she could also participate in the sport that gives her joy with a team of rowers that she trusts. Her journey with physical therapy created a community in the clinic and allowed her to continue building her community on the water.

Keeping Her Motivation

Before she began physical therapy, she couldn’t work or do anything without pain. Rowing was her primary motivator when she had difficult moments throughout her recovery. “I don’t think I got my old life back and that was for the better. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be rowing after my injury,” Maria said. “You have to know what it’s like to not have your body do the things you want to. Physical Therapy was important to get me back to doing what I wanted – but with a better perspective.”

She also wanted to do the work in her physical therapy treatment so she could come back to her teammates and give her all during competitions.

Maria’s Advice for Patients

Although the injury Maria sustained was career-ending for some rowers, she’s grateful that she can still compete in the sport that she loves. She believes that one of the most important things an athlete can do during recovery is to rely on their team. “You have a team off the water who is just as excited to get you back out there – given that it’s medically possible, of course,” she said.

She advises patients to shift their perspective to what they can control – their outlook and their actions moving forward. “At the end of the day, everyone’s injury is their own, but controlling what is controllable whenever possible will make all the difference,” Maria stated.

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