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J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Mar;39(3):221-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2857.

The physical therapist as a musculoskeletal specialist in the emergency department.

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  • 1Northern Arizona University, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Flagstaff, AZ, USA.


Because patients with musculoskeletal injuries commonly seek intervention in the emergency department (ED), it has been proposed that practitioners with expertise in musculoskeletal practice can be of benefit in this setting. This clinical commentary describes the rationale for utilizing physical therapists as musculoskeletal specialists in the ED. Evidence indicates that physical therapists have the knowledge and skills to provide such expertise. Literature describing ED practice suggests that the management of patients with musculoskeletal conditions would be improved through the consistent integration of evaluation and treatment principles associated with physical therapy practice. Furthermore, early access to physical therapy, as can be provided in the ED setting, has the potential to positively influence patient recovery. Based on prior research and recent evolution of practice, further consideration of physical therapists as consultants in the ED is warranted, and, therefore, additional dialogue on the subject should be encouraged.

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