Helping athletes back on their feet

Letiwe Patton runs in the AlterG treadmill as Neil Chasan, owner of Sports Reaction Center physical therapy, looks on in Bellevue. Patton is rehabbing her hamstring, hoping to make the Zimbabwean national team in the steeple chase event. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Letiwe Patton runs in the AlterG treadmill as Neil Chasan, owner of Sports Reaction Center physical therapy, looks on in Bellevue. Patton is rehabbing her hamstring, hoping to make the Zimbabwean national team in the steeple chase event.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

It starts with an injury. The kind that keeps elite athletes up at night. Maybe it’s only a small thing, but enough to derail years of work, and postpone goals being met.

For the last 30 years, 15 in Bellevue, Neil Chasan has helped athletes of all types — professionals to weekend warriors — come back from what ails them.

At the Sports Reaction Center in Bellevue, located at 1750 112th Avenue, Chasan and a team of physical therapists work with all levels of athletes. The company uses cutting edge technology to help fix the problem, and spot things before they happen.

One of the company’s current strategies is partnering with local athletic groups, and working with the team from start to finish, providing services at games, practices, and in the office as well.

“For example, we cover five rugby teams at every game and every practice,” said Chasan. SRC works closely with several other groups in the area like VO2 Multisports, helping the triathletes, and Club Northwest’s track and cross country teams.

“As part of our relationship with the rugby teams, we see them here in our office for bumps and bruises, and we rehab their injuries, so we have good relationships with the medical team behind us — we’re tied in, in that way,” said Chasan. “And then we have a similar relationship with a similar group called V02 Multisport — we cover their 20 or so elite Ironman athletes and all of their clients. Similarly, they use us for basic screening, helping their coaches plan programming. We help them get back to competition — the multisport athletes are interesting because they are swimming, biking and running injuries, which are all different. They are so active and so busy, we really have to keep them tuned up. We also cover the Club Northwest Track and Field and Cross Country program which is based in Seattle, but we cover all of their elite athletes.”

Chasan, who lives on Mercer Island, has also done work with some of the many youth teams on the Island. Most recently, Colin Rigby, the company’s marketing director and soccer player from Mercer Island, helped teach the Mercer Island Youth Soccer club coaches how to identify concussions.

“One of the things we’ve done — we’ve actually done this with the Mercer Island Youth Soccer Club — is to coach all of their youth coaches on how to do baseline screenings for concussions,” said Chasan. He said they take the baseline testing for concussions one step farther, using the Impact test, but also using other technology to test dual function, like walking and moving around objects as another baseline for athletes.

“Every kid is unique and the concussion pattern needs to be evaluated differently,” said Chasan. “You can’t compare one kid to another, and you can only compare a kid to themselves. Focus on baseline testing in paramount. We go one step further to add this new technology to add the dual function, counting and walking.”

Outside of specific work with organizations, the clinic offers a full range of physical therapy technology, including some of the newest available, which attracts high-level clientele.

Steeple chaser Letiwe Patton, originally from Zimbabwe, was working on qualifying for the Zimbabwean national team, in the hopes of competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, when she hurt her hamstring. Since then she has been working with SRC in the AlterG. The special treadmill pumps 400 psi of air into the chamber around the patient’s legs, allowing them to control the percentage of body weight they run with.

“Technology like the AlterG allows you to work in increments,” said Chasan. “You can literally alter your weight bearing increments by 1 percent. This is a NASA developed technology.”

Mercer Island cross country and track coach Erica Hill, another client, has gone to the clinic for years, recommending it to many of her student athletes.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility, and Neil has brought in incredible equipment to help athletes get back on their feet quickly and to fulfill their goals,” said Hill. “Sports Reaction Center is a wonderful resource for all athletes, and I recommend cross country and track athletes go there for anything injury-related, or to learn how to make themselves stronger.”

Hill said the technology the clinic uses is amazing, wishing equipment like the AlterG was available years ago.

Another brand new technology that SRC uses is the OptoJump, which Chasan discovered last December at a sports medicine conference. Originally from Italy, the OptoJump records athletes’ movements between the two bars and captures it on video. The data is then examined to look for abnormalities.

“It’s an analysis technology that allows us to look at the way athletes behave and function,” said Chasan of the OptoJump. “We can actually evaluate athletic performance for physical performance at a frequency that’s much higher than our eye can see because we have technology that can see them with video, but can also collect data on their actual performance as well. Really, it’s a situation where a picture is worth a thousand words. They can see what they look like and make really quick adjustments that are going to help improve their form gradually over time.”

Chasan said the new technology is filling a void. Before, physical therapists simply had to use their own opinions to make judgment calls.

“I like to say there is all the science over here, and all the clinical over here, and between there is a big black hole. Up to now we just inserted that opinion into the black hole, but now that black hole is much smaller and we have a much smaller area of uncertainty because we’ve filled it with data. That’s incredibly helpful in a sporting environment...” explained Chasan.

While many of the clients are athletes of high caliber, the clinic also sees many patients referred by doctors for various reasons — broken hips, ACL recovery, knee pain, etc. The clinic also uses the Bellevue Aquatic Center with therapist Hilary Croft, who works with patients at the pool before getting back into the main clinic.

“We see everything you can imagine,” said Chasan.

SRC has recently launched a sales side, surrounding the OptoJump. Chasan said one of the projects that the team is working on specifically is helping to raise money to get OptoJumps at the U.S. Olympic team’s training facilities. Since Olympic teams are completely funded through private money, it falls on their shoulders to raise money for new equipment like the OptoJump.

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