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Using Technology to Train Smarter, Alex Skacel DPT’15 is the Elite Athlete’s ‘Secret Weapon’

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on May 22, 2018

Alex Skacel training Joe HadenWorking with some of the world’s top athletes, Alex Skacel DPT’15 has established his own business as a sports physical therapist and performance trainer who may just help to extend an athletic career. 

Recently featured by ESPN, the news organization called Skacel Joe Haden’s “secret weapon.” Haden, a former ProBowl cornerback and first round draft pick, is in his late 20’s and hadn’t played a full season since his rookie year due to mounting injuries. With the help of Dr. Skacel, with whom he works on a near-daily basis, Haden has been feeling young and vibrant, ESPN reported.

“That's what pros do. You have to modify," Haden told ESPN. "This is what makes my living. [Dr. Skacel] is so smart at being able to tell me which body part triggers the other."

Dr. Skacel credits his education in the doctor of physical therapy program for making him a “biomechanical expert,” saying he can look at someone and watch them move to break down what is going right and what is not working. Using the slow-motion video tool, Dartfish, Dr. Skacel records his athletes on the field or performing specific exercises to dissect where their areas of strength or weakness may be.

With Haden, Dr. Skacel performed a full-body evaluation, and during a single-leg squat he noticed poor knee alignment and posture, diagnosing that weakness in his outer hip musculature was to blame. After four months of adjusted training, Haden had a more centered hip-knee-ankle line and improved strength.

“It’s one thing to be strong and fast, and it is another thing to move properly,” Dr. Skacel said. “We are really refining movements to be the most efficient.”

Dr. Skacel counts a roster of elite athletes among his clients. They span different sports including Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Although he is a physical therapist, Dr. Skacel thinks of himself as a sports performance specialist, who can care for an athlete whether injured or healthy with an eye towards making them more efficient and effective at their position.

Dr. Skacel knows what it takes to be an athlete coming back from injury, because he has had to do it himself. Injured in his senior year after several seasons as a star of the University of Delaware’s Swim Team, Dr. Skacel rebounded physically and only after working with a physical therapist in his own recovery. Although his days as an athlete were over, he was inspired to pursue a career as a physical therapist working with the top athletes to help them recover and rebuild.

“There can be a lack of communication and congruency in treatments as an athlete goes from a surgeon, to a physical therapist, to a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer,” Dr. Skacel said. “I’m all of those things, so when I’m working with someone, from the first day, it is about regaining performance.”

After earning a master’s in exercise physiology at Temple University where he also worked as a strength and conditioning coach in the university’s athletic department, he continued his education, enrolling in USciences’ post-baccalaureate Doctor of Physical Therapy program. At USciences, Dr. Skacel said, he was found a tight knit program with professors and advisors who would help him pursue his unique career goals.

“I was able to gear the program a little bit more towards what my career goal was and had more access to advisors that helped me find those opportunities,” Dr. Skacel said.  Advisors helped him earn clinical rotations tailored to his interests in sports medicine, including at Cincinnati Sports Medicine and a specialized orthopedic clinic in Kentucky.

“I don’t know that I would have had the option to pursue those unique experiences at a larger school,” said Dr. Skacel.

In the future, Dr. Skacel hopes to continue to grow the list of elite clients that he works with regularly. He advises that those who are hoping to pursue a similar career path should keep their eye on the prize, while also taking a step back to look at the long-term path and create a 10-year plan, as it will help put the hard work into perspective.

 “Know what the steps are, where you have to go and how you have to get there,” Dr. Skacel said. “Look long-term and choose unique experiences that separate you from the crowd so that you form a unique skill set. That’s what makes it possible to do what I do.”

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