Covering all the bases
For Josh Johnston and his mom, Janice, sports medicine and physical therapy have been a family affair.
Get MedInfo in your inbox
We'll send you a notice when we publish new stories.Subscribe
Like many baseball-mad kids, Josh Johnston spent a good chunk of his childhood on a ball field. He’d picked up a bat at age 6 and played every position before junior high.
What he loved most was pitching. But looking back, he admits his mechanics on the mound weren’t exactly fine-tuned. “I was just up there chucking the ball,” said Josh, now 27.
All that chucking began to take a toll on his body. When he was 12, his elbow started to bother him so much he went to see a physician at The Sports Medicine Clinic in Ballard. The diagnosis: Josh was a few chucks away from an overuse injury.
He was referred to Vicki Luebbe, a physical therapist at Advanced Manual Therapy, the physical therapy portion of The Sports Medicine Clinic. She treated him for tendonitis, sent him to a pitching coach to sort out his mechanics, and got him back out on the field.
Vicki and The Sports Medicine Clinic have been a part of his life—and his mother’s—ever since.
Between various baseball injuries and two torn ACLs from playing football, Josh jokes that he’s spent two years of his life in Vicki’s office. His mom, Janice Gatti, figures she’s spent even more time with Vicki; she’s had countless hours of physical therapy for chronic back and neck issues stemming from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.
“The delivery of her care is what keeps us going back,” said Janice, 65. “She has that right blend of nurturing and knowledge.”
But Josh’s and Janice’s relationship with The Sports Medicine Clinic goes beyond physical therapy. Just as Josh has played every position on the ballfield, the clinic has covered all the bases of healthcare for the two. From muscle tears and cranky backs to primary care and surgery, the Ballard natives see the clinic as a one-stop shop for their health.
Which is precisely what it is, said Dr. Christian Peterson, an orthopedic surgeon who treated Josh’s second ACL injury and whose father, Dr. Keith D. Peterson, founded The Sports Medicine Clinic in 1963.
“Our patients can walk down the hall from their physician’s office to get an X-ray or MRI. We perform surgery in the same building. And we’re a close-knit team, because you get better outcomes with greater communications,” he said. “We really have the complete program to get people back to the sports and activities they love.”
‘I’ve got my life back’
Josh, who still plays and now coaches baseball, will testify to that. So will his mom.
Janice is no stranger to the world of healthcare. When she was 21, she had a rod implanted in her back to treat her curved spine. She’s had physical therapy off and on ever since. Like her son, Janice instantly hit it off with Vicki 15 years ago. She started to see her for as many physical therapy appointments as her insurance allowed.
Four years ago Janice’s back issues progressively got worse, and they started to interfere with her job as the orchestra coordinator for the Seattle Youth Symphony. Pain flared up shortly after lunch, and she spent her afternoons watching the clock.
She didn’t truly panic until her hands started to hurt. Besides her son, art is the most important thing in her life. As a textile artist her materials tend to be tiny, like beads and fine thread for making French knots.
“If I couldn’t sew, I couldn’t live,” Janice said. “Vicki knew that.”
Vicki realized something wasn’t right. She knew Janice’s (and Josh’s) primary care physician at The Sports Medicine Clinic, Dr. Thomas Jansen, was on vacation. So Vicki recommended Janice make an appointment with Dr. Daniel Lazar, a neurosurgeon at Northwest Hospital. The X-ray was clear as day: the rod she’d had for so many years had become completely detached from her spine.
Dr. Lazar referred her to another UW Medicine neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Bransford, who removed the rod. (She kept it for a future art project.) Janice woke up from surgery and waited for the pain to return. It never did.
Today, Janice is back to logging long days for her students and sewing tiny, intricate knots in her free time. “I’ve literally got my life back,” she said.
Janice still sees Vicki for physical therapy, now for carpal tunnel syndrome. Josh, meanwhile, periodically pops in if he tweaks a muscle playing baseball or snowboarding. Both marvel at Vicki’s understanding of how the body should move.
“She addresses it all, from how to throw a baseball to how to hold a needle and everything in between,” Janice said.
Both also consider Vicki more than just a healthcare provider. As Janice puts it, she’s family.
“Vicki really has had a hand in raising Josh,” she said. “From a mother’s point of view, I appreciate that.”
For her part, Vicki appreciates building long-term relationships with her clients. She’s worked at The Sports Medicine Clinic since 1999, and Josh and Janice are among her longstanding patients.
“Josh is the same age as one of my sons,” she said. “I’ve been honored to watch him mature into a charming young man.”
Josh and Janice say they’ve seen Vicki grow as well. Like the rest of her staff at Advanced Manual Therapy (AMT), she’s a lifelong learner, keeping up to date on the current research and practices. Fewer than three percent of physical therapists have advanced fellowship training. Everyone at AMT does.
“The beauty of medicine is that our science keeps moving forward, and we get to bring that back into the clinic for our patients,” Vicki said.
And it’s all to return her patients back to the things they love. Like Janice to her art and Josh to baseball.
Today Josh coaches for Ballard High School (his alma mater) as well as a youth select league. He looks out for the younger players; he knows what a toll baseball can take on a growing body. “I have a lot of experience about what not to do,” Josh said.
If any player does have an injury, he never hesitates to recommend Vicki and The Sports Medicine Clinic.
To find out more, or to make an appointment at one of The Sports Medicine Clinic’s two locations, call 206.668.6100 or visit thesportsmedicineclinic.com.Facebook Share TwitterTweet