By Ileta Pizano

dpt students group

I fell in love with adaptive sports before I was accepted in MSJ’s DPT program. While studying health sciences at The Ohio State University, I was a caregiver for a stroke survivor for five years and was introduced to adaptive sports through attending stroke camp in 2019. I then volunteered in Columbus with Adaptive Sports Connection and got to experience adaptive kayaking and cycling. When presented with the opportunity to be the adaptive sports lead at MSJ, I knew that I wanted this role. I had dedicated time to learn about disability etiquette, read books written by disabled authors, and followed various disability advocates on social media. This role is extremely important because I feel that all physical therapists should know what resources are out there for future patients, as PT appointments are just a small part of their everyday life.

As the student liaison for my cohort, I work closely with Dr. Heinrich, who is in charge of helping me with this role, and I tell my classmates about the different experiences and opportunities there are in the Cincinnati area. Additionally, I present the role to the next cohort and select someone taking my position the following year. With this role, I have networked with many amazing people doing incredible things for individuals with disabilities. I have got to connect with individuals including other physical therapists, but also individuals who are not in the healthcare field and continue to make a difference. Through this position I have had so many great opportunities seeing what resources are available in Cincinnati including Ice Breakers, CP soccer, The Bridge, and Iron Core. Working closely with Dr. Heinrich has truly been a blessing. Dr. Heinrich is just as passionate as I am when it comes to adaptive sports and helping out others in any way possible. She is one of the head coaches for CP soccer and ultimately got me to fall in love with this sport and team. It has truly been inspirational to have a professor/mentor dedicate the time to pursue her passions and give back to the community. Dr. Heinrich's presence always puts a smile on my face and continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders.

Recreational sports, gyms, and exercise classes not only benefit the person’s health, but have the chance to enhance someone’s quality of life. Having accessibility to recreational sports that fit the needs of each individual that has a disability is life changing and is needed in every city. The Bridge is a local Cincinnati program that strives to achieve this in their community, offering various programs for individuals with various disabilities. Unfortunately, our society is lacking accessibility to playgrounds, buildings, schools, churches, etc. and I believe the only way that we can change that is to continuously bring awareness and advocate for change. I want my future patients to know that I see and hear them, and as an able-bodied person, I will continue to fight for accessibility everywhere. During my years in physical therapy school in Cincinnati, I have seen how Ice Breakers Adaptive Sled Hockey, Cerebral Palsy soccer (CP), and individualized programs like Iron Core (which is a strength and conditioning program led by PT students from two universities) have changed the lives of children and their parents. Having a sports team that recognizes each individual’s abilities and empowers and encourages them, and advocates that they belong in this community, is truly remarkable and rewarding to witness. One of my aspiring goals that I have after I graduate PT school is to create a CP Soccer team in Columbus and hopefully play against Cincinnati’s CP soccer team.



I have fallen more in love with adaptive sports since starting PT school and have met so many inspiring people and children. This adaptive sports student liaison role is something I am extremely proud of and passionate about, and I hope that others see the wholesomeness that adaptive sports have to offer the way that I do.