Part Two: Digital Force Plates Enhance Accuracy & Patient Experience
When South Carolina-based sports physical therapist, Dr. Nate Harris, opened his practice, Velocity Sports Physical Therapy, he was in pursuit of an ambitious goal: to bridge the care gap that exists between professional and amateur athletes.
As a former staff physical therapist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Seahawks, Harris has first-hand knowledge of how sophisticated the techniques and tools used to train and rehabilitate professional athletes are. When he opened his practice in 2021, he sought to bring that same level of care to student and club athletes, and other recreationalists.
Harris got one, significant step closer to that goal when he found the K-Deltas Force Plates from KINVENT. The Bluetooth enabled plates allow him to run tests on more athletes, more quickly, and with more accurate data than he was ever able to with analog methods, alone.
“The plates are faster, easier, more reliable, more accurate, and streamlined from a therapist perspective,” said Harris who, as a self-described “nerd,” always wants to ensure his numbers line up. “The numbers I get from KINVENT are a huge help for my patients.”
Those numbers are critically important in both preventative and rehabilitative care, and strength and conditioning programs. They boost accuracy and engagement and help validate what patients are feeling – all hallmarks of pro athlete-level care.
Part one of our case study explored how Harris uses the plates on his patients. Part two dives deeply into the benefits Harris and his patients have enjoyed since he started using the K-Deltas.
One of Harris’ patients has struggled with on and off elbow pain for some time. As is customary, Harris had the patient working to strengthen the injured limb. Unfortunately, the pain hadn’t fully subsided.
When the plates arrived, Harris had the patient perform push-ups on them. The data captured by the plates showed the patient was using the injured arm 20% more than the non-injured arm. It was valuable data, that even the most seasoned therapist would never be able to capture with his or her eyes alone. With the data in hand, Harris adjusted the plan to lighten the patient’s training regimen.
The patient’s experience is just one example of how the plates “drive better outcome” because, according to Harris, “you don’t have errors that might normally slip through.”
Those “error-less” results guide Harris’ decision making in the rehab process and help him capture more reliable baseline numbers in preventative assessments. Now, instead of estimating a patient’s readiness for sport or guessing at red flags, his decisions are based on numbers.
The numbers also provide greater consistency and standardization – a sea change for field that typically relies on “feel” and guesswork.
“What I see or assess could be wildly different from another physical therapist,” said Harris.
The plates remove inconsistencies and guessing from the process – and make it easy for patients to progress without having to see the same therapist for every appointment.
When Harris travels to schools to conduct athletic performance assessments, the numbers stoke the students’ competitive spirits.
“Now that they have numbers to compare, they get really into it,” said Harris. He added that it isn’t unusual for students to retake tests to vie against their teammates for better numbers.
That level of engagement can be rare when testing produces data that is more qualitative than quantitative. When patients have hard numbers to compare – instead of more general feedback – they are more likely to remain motivated. That motivation doesn’t just express itself as friendly competition among teammates – it also pushes individual patients to continue to train and engage with the physical therapy process.
Harris has seen this in his own practice since receiving the plates. Weeks ago, one of his patients, a recreational golfer, completed leg strength measurements with the plates. After practicing on the green, the golfer felt his strength increasing – but he wasn’t sure whether it actually had. He returned to Harris who re-ran the tests. Testing confirmed that the golfer’s strength had, in fact, improved.
According to Harris, the numbers increased his patient’s enthusiasm about training, because he knew “the numbers don’t lie.”
Superior Patient Validation
For the past two and a half years, Harris has treated a college soccer player for a variety of conditions. One small, nagging issue the patent struggled with was mild hip pain that flared whenever the season ramped up. Because the pain ebbed and flowed, she wasn’t sure whether it was all in her head – which started to knock her confidence.
To alleviate her concerns, Harris conducted tests with the plates. The tests provided data that confirmed that deficiencies existed.
“It was validating and important to her to realize, ‘I’m not a wimp – there is a reason why I’m not feeling 100%,’” said Harris.
He adjusted her training plan using the data from the plates and, as a result, the soccer player reported to Harris that it was “the best she ever felt at the beginning of a season.”
Bridging the Care Gap with KINVENT
Harris’ goal to bridge the care gap between professional and amateur athletes – and the philosophy behind his practice – was an admirable one. The K-Deltas plates allowed him to deliver on it.
“With KINVENT, you’re able to assess instead of guess,” said Harris. “That’s the best way to progress in physical therapy as well as strength and conditioning. Having as much data as possible is the way forward.”