How Trusted Rehab Care Helps Players Recover Strong

The AdventHealth Orlando Magic practice facility.
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In the NBA, it can be a huge blow to coaches, players and fans alike when a beloved team member is sidelined by an injury. And when it comes to their care and rehabilitation, there’s a lot of trust involved.

As the official health care provider of the Orlando Magic, AdventHealth has built a trusted relationship with our hometown team and our community. The Magic’s Director of Rehabilitation, Lindsay Winninger, sat down with us to explain how that important relationship works, and what it takes to get athletes back out on the floor in top form.

Building Trust with Magic Players

Lindsay Winninger knows her way around high-profile athletes. After working with the US Women’s Alpine Ski & Snowboard team and Olympic Medalist Lindsay Vonn, Winninger joined the Orlando Magic’s training staff in 2019. She knows that athletes at the highest level have invested a lot in their bodies, and they want to know their trainers are invested in them, too.

“We have a great staff-to-player ratio with the Magic,” says Winninger. “This enables us to cater to individual player needs. We collaborate with our strength and conditioning department to identify asymmetries or underdeveloped muscle groups that aren’t as strong, which could lead to injuries.”

Such personalized care puts the players at ease — knowing that the Magic staff has their back. “Our medical staff collaborates on a daily basis with players. Communication is the key to dialing it all in. We create personal relationships that build trust over time, so each player knows we have their best interest in mind. Those relationships are really at the root of helping these athletes recover as fast as possible so they can perform. They know we aren’t going to push them back on the court before they’re ready," added Winninger.

AdventHealth and Patient Trust

As a Physical Therapist Manager for AdventHealth, Justin Talbott knows he’s in the relationship business as well as the health care business.

“I think a big part of our job is the human connection. It’s all about trust. Once we go through the rehabilitation, and the patient begins to see that they can do the exercises, they gain confidence in the recovery process. We aren’t just telling the patient what to do; there is a whole psychological component to the healing process. When they trust you, and trust the rehab experience, you can see on their faces it eases their pain.”

Talbott knows that in the physical therapy game, the frequency of contact with the patient is more than they see any of their other doctors. Talbott says, “We often get to see our patients for multiple hour sessions, sometimes three times per week. So, we really get to know them. We treat the whole person and the total health that goes with it. It’s not just their torn knee or sore shoulder, we get to know their family and their interests. It’s part of our whole process.”

Knowing When to Get Back in the Game

Results on the court matter. So, one might think that there is a temptation to rush players back to action before they are healthy to help the team. Winninger and the Magic training staff know better.

“Obviously the NBA is a business, but no one benefits by rushing a player back. It just tees the athlete up for other possible injuries or poor performance. We are lucky to have the staff and resources we have, to get the job done at the highest level."

Winninger also discussed the important difference in strategy dealing with a short-term injury versus a long-term injury: “Short-term injuries, we are looking at the number of games missed, the number of days it will take for the player to get back on the floor. Long-term injuries can carry a bit more of a mental component. Will the player miss the season? Will they need surgery? Will they even be able to play again? Those are the heavier things the player is thinking about when they are out for an extended period of time. Short-term injuries, while frustrating, are not as stressful mentally. The player knows they are going miss 'x' number of games but will be back on the court in a few weeks.”

The staff-to-player ratio Winninger mentioned also applies to managing players’ psyches during these injuries. “Player personality plays into that. Some are reserved about rushing back due to past injuries or experiences, while others want to rush us to get back on the court before we think they are ready.”

Goals are important to maintain morale, especially during long stretches of rehabilitation. “If it’s going to be a five-month process, I’m very realistic with them about the timeline. Setting goals to keep them on track and giving them something else to focus on. Checking those boxes on short-term goals during a long-term rehab helps us ensure we don’t lose them mentally during the process.”

The Rewards of Seeing a Patient Complete Their Journey

The relationships that AdventHealth Physical Therapist Justin Talbott builds are more than muscle-deep. And he says they can be one of the more rewarding parts of the job. “I mention to our staff the role we play in our patients’ lives. They remember us. We have an impact on them. It is a big responsibility to leave such a mark on a person. I’ll run into patients from years back who remember all we did for them and thank us. It is motivating for me. When they see the whole process to completion, and you have gone through the journey back to health with them; it’s why I do my job every day. It’s the appreciation that they give that keeps us going.”
Injuries can be scary. Both for the Orlando Magic’s professional athletes and our fellow Central Florida residents. Trust and honesty — and expert providers — are key components to get back to the life you want to lead.

Whether you’re looking to recover from an injury or reach your peak physical fitness, learn more about how the team at AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab can help.

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