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Cheerleading and Physical Therapy: A Case Study

June 24th, 2024 | 8 min. read

Cheerleading and Physical Therapy: A Case Study
Alana George

Alana George

Content Manager // EW Motion Therapy

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H.G. Wells once said, “We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment is a miracle and a mystery.” It’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routine and come to feel that our lives are mundane. But have you ever had a moment in life when you stopped and realized how special it was? Whether you work in an office, on a construction site, or are in the medical field, whatever you’re doing has a purpose and a plan that is far beyond the ordinary. 


I thought of this quote as I talked with Kayla Brook, one of our EW Homewood physical therapists who spent her early career as an all-star cheerleading coach. Multiple times throughout her career, both as a cheer coach and a physical therapist, she has realized the importance of the role she has held in someone’s life and is an example to all of us to never take for granted where life has placed us. I got to sit down with Kayla and discuss how her experiences with cheerleading and physical therapy intersect to make her a better practitioner and what we can learn from her life and career.


Download our Physical Therapy Q&A Here!


Kayla Brook, cheerleader and coach 

Like many young kids, Kayla’s parents put her in every sport possible. She enjoyed gymnastics, but as she grew in her skills, she realized that she missed competing and being on a team. Gymnastics had become integrated with Kayla’s life, so she did not want to leave the sport entirely. She decided to cheer, which was the perfect combination of her gymnastics skills with the added benefit of being on a team. 


“I was able to do school cheerleading to have time with friends and be involved in my school, but I also was able to get the competitive aspect with all-star cheerleading at ACE. I fell in love with the sport - I thought it was a great mix of a lot of the fun aspects of gymnastics and still allowed me to be part of a team, and taught me a lot about what that meant.”


During high school, Kayla competed on the Warriors competition team at ACE Cheer Company in Birmingham. Even throughout college, she continued to compete on the open team. With her experience, it seemed logical that she began cheer coaching as her first job, which she did for ACE’s Tumble Tots. Through this job, she discovered a new passion: working with children. As she coached tumbling classes, private lessons, and eventually the all-star competition team, Kayla realized what an important position she held in her students’ lives, and to this day, she never takes it for granted.


“You’re shaping young athletes on and off the mat, and I think that’s such a special thing to be able to do. Some of the biggest accomplishments are seeing the success of those that you coach and what they do with their lives afterward. It’s cool to see what little part that you had in the person that they become.”


When I asked Kayla about the accomplishments during her cheerleading and coaching career she was most proud of, she did not mention how many national titles she or her teams won. Instead, she is proudest of something difficult to measure. 


“The biggest accomplishment is just how much it shaped the person I am. All sports, but especially those with such a strong team aspect, teach you discipline and how to be a team player but also be a little more selfless. In a team sport, it’s not always about you, so you understand how to be a part of something bigger.” 


Kayla Brook, doctor of physical therapy 

With Kayla’s passion for coaching and working with people, she knew she wanted that in her career. Another passion of hers she wanted to explore is the intricate inner workings of the human body. 


“I’ve always loved the human body - I think it’s one of the most fun puzzles that’s ever existed, so I knew that I wanted to be in a career that allowed me to help people, but that also incorporated my interest in fitness and the human body and movement.” 


Physical therapy perfectly combines all of Kayla’s passions - she gets to work one-on-one with patients every day, learning their stories and figuring out how to help them move better. She went to the University of Alabama for her bachelor’s degree and then earned her doctorate in physical therapy at UAB in 2014. After an orthopedics residency and her first job working with athletes, Kayla determined that working with cheerleaders, gymnasts, and dancers is where she belonged, specifically young female athletes. 


“I think the world is very difficult for young females in general, but the stress of female athletes in those sports is a lot, and I think they need as many role models and people to look up to as possible. I want to make sure with my career that yes, I’m helping you physically, but I want to help them mentally as well and be that go-to person for them.”


Kayla desired a place to work where she could explore and develop her passions while becoming a better clinician. Through her friends Ally Edwards and Chris Brandt, she learned about EW Motion Therapy. She met with Ethan and Jon to discuss what she wanted for her career, and found EW to be the perfect fit. 


“I knew deep down that I always wanted to work with gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers, and that’s what led me to EW. I wanted to shape my career around those athletes because I’m still super passionate about those sports, about being a guide for young female athletes.”


Throughout her time at EW, Kayla has built EW Cheer, Dance, and Gymnastics from the ground up, with the guidance and support of her superiors. For her, this has been the perfect career move to fuel the fire of her passions while learning how to run specialized programs. 


“I think the company has done really well with guiding us through developing these programs and shaping how we can set it up but also giving us free rein to develop our passions with them. It’s the perfect balance of guidance and letting us run with the crazy dreams we have for physical therapy.”


Physical therapy and cheerleading: how do they mix? 

You might not believe that competitive cheerleading and physical therapy can overlap, but over the years, Kayla has found many parallels. First, cheer taught her the value of teamwork. Working with others is not always easy, but in the end, working together toward a common goal is always worth it. In physical therapy, the patient and therapist are a team—both must do their part to work toward success and well-being. 


As a coach, Kayla learned how to instruct and help her students adjust when needed. As a physical therapist, she uses that skill every day as she assesses, treats, and creates exercise plans for her patients.


“One of the things I really love about EW is that we really do one-on-one care and give specialized treatment that we’re able to adjust. Coaching taught me how to guide and teach and be very specific and analytical in the human movement as a whole. Being able to do that in physical therapy is super important.”


Coaching cheerleaders with different personalities has specifically helped Kayla understand her patients’ motivations. Her cheerleaders may have different goals, and her patients certainly do. Being able to see each patient as a unique person with a story, history, and motivation has helped Kayla become an attentive clinician who truly cares.


“Each kid that you coach is very different from the next, and you have to be able to adjust for personalities and motivations. That’s the exact same thing in physical therapy. Some people may want to get back on the competition floor and some may want to be able to pick up their grandkids, and if you’re not adjusting your treatment to that, then it’s almost a disservice to our patients.”


Kayla’s key takeaways 

So what can we learn from Kayla’s career? First, it’s important to find something positive in everything you are currently doing. Hard work builds character, especially in a difficult sport like cheerleading, but it’s vital to recognize what you’ve accomplished and be proud of yourself, even as you keep working and moving forward. Kayla understands the difficulties of cheerleading firsthand, but also knows the importance of slowing down to be proud of your accomplishments. 


“Take the time to enjoy it. Life is really hard for teenage girls right now - everything is a big deal, and there’s so much pressure in the sport. We get so bogged down with a lot of things from outside people. Our cheerleaders don’t take a step back to realize how much they’ve accomplished and to enjoy the ride - it’s a fun sport, it’s supposed to be fun.” 


For aspiring physical therapists, Kayla encourages you to realize the vital position that you’re in, especially in terms of the medical field. You have an opportunity to change someone’s life - don’t take it lightly.


“PT is a very unique field in medicine because we get to actually establish relationships with our patients. So many doctors don’t know their patients from Adam because they don’t get to spend time with them, and we get the chance to be with them for an hour at a time, multiple times a week. That’s super special in the medical field - appreciate that, because you get to meet some really cool people, but you also get a longer timeframe to make a difference in somebody’s life. You get to understand them and their motivations and everything they’re working for, and that’s why we do this. Soak in the fact that you get to build a relationship with these people.”


Self-respect and hard work are the keys to success for cheerleaders, physical therapists, students, and everyone in between. We always encourage our patients at EW Motion Therapy to never take the small wins for granted as we keep working toward your health and wellness goals. If you’re curious about how much your physical therapy might cost, click the button below to download our free pricing guide.


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