Rehabilitation medicine

Rehabilitation medicine

Newest specialty poised for growth in areas like post-surgical rehab, agility, pain management
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Aug 01, 2010

The American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR) received approval for specialty status by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education. In a Q&A with DVM Newsmagazine, Janet Van Dyke, DVM, talks about the significance of the specialty designation and the trends with animal rehabilitation.

Serving on the boards of directors of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) and the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV), Van Dyke is also on the steering committee for the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. In 2002, she founded the Canine Rehabilitation Institute with intent to train and certify veterinarians, physical therapists, veterinary technicians and physical therapist assistants in canine rehabilitation. Van Dyke lectures nationally and internationally and consults with state veterinary and physical therapy boards on legislative issues related to veterinary rehabilitation.

DVM: How is the growth in sports medicine evolving?

Van Dyke: There are two areas of growth in this area of medicine. Veterinarians and physical therapists want to add a new dimension to their existing practices and will continue to seek out continuing education and certification programs in this area. The new growth is represented by the American College of Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR), which will provide residencies to people interested in pursuing board certification in this specialty. There will continue to be a great demand for certification programs, as many veterinarians are saying, "I want to do this in practice but don't have time to do a three-year residency."

DVM: What was your response to AVMA's recognition of sports medicine rehabilitation as a new specialty?

Van Dyke: The American Board of Veterinary Specialists sent their approval to the AVMA Executive Committee for final approval this spring. This was a huge step because this is the first new independent college since The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists received approval for their college in 1992. We are very excited at the possibilities that now exist for the specialty of sports medicine and rehabilitation, and congratulate the steering committee whose members worked over seven years to reach this goal.

DVM: What trends do you see in this area of medicine?

Van Dyke: Clients are interested in getting their dogs back to peak performance after injury from various sports.

There is public-driven demand for improved care of the canine patient. One of the big drivers for this is interest in agility — it is hugely popular sport around the world. Many of yesterday's "soccer moms" are today's "agility moms," pursuing this new weekend sport with the same passion they showed in supporting their young soccer stars. It may seem frivolous to the uninitiated, but people attending agility events and agility training classes are spending millions of dollars each year in the U.S. alone. These same people are willing to fly to anywhere in the U.S. to find out how to make their dogs better. Veterinarians are waking up to fact that this owner is willing to drive across town to another veterinarian who offers sports rehab medicine, all the while driving right by my practice. They're realizing the missed opportunity.

Agility is not alone. There are many other sports that involve frequent injuries, such as field trials, flyball and dock diving.

DVM: What are common injuries in canine sports medicine?

Van Dyke: Overall, what we're seeing in a lot of these dogs are front-end injuries: lameness due to injuries to the muscles around the shoulders and soft tissue injuries. Veterinarians now are recognizing and treating soft tissue; in the past, veterinarians were really focused on bone and joint issues — orthopedics — and not focused as much on soft tissue. A physical therapist's strength actually lies in the ability to treat soft tissue injuries. Front-end lameness would have been a reason to retire dogs in the past, because we didn't know what to do with it. Today's client is saying, "No way. We want to get the dogs back up to speed." Today we can find and diagnose injuries around the shoulder and begin to provide treatment protocols, whereas we didn't even know how to find the injuries 10 years ago.

As for treatments, most of what we're involved in are manual therapies. Yet some medical treatments are getting a lot of attention, such as stem cell therapy, which may help speed the rate at which soft tissue injuries can heal.