Physical therapist aims to share sports, training expertise – for free

Scott Swanson

Josh Walters played sports throughout high school and into college and now he’s into competitive weightlifting.

He’s also into seeing young athletes stay healthy, which is why he and his bosses at Samaritan Health came up with the idea of a free Bumps and Bruises clinic for local kids who’ve suffered minor injuries playing sports.

Walters is now a physical therapist at Sweet Home Physical Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, located behind Sweet Home Family Medicine.

Each Wednesday, from 4 to 5 p.m., athletes who have been injured can stop by the clinic, at 646 Holley Road, and get a free assessment and education about the injury and what they can do to treat it.

This service is available to any student athlete in east Linn County, age 6 to 18. The student’s parent must be at the appointment as well.

Walters graduated in 2017 with a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from the University of St. Augustine in Austin, Texas. He brings a broad resume of sports experience to the field.

Walters grew up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area of Texas, where he played quarterback and linebacker for four years at the massive Allen High School, where he also competed in track and field.

He played football briefly at Abilene Christian University before opting to concentrate on his studies, he said.

That’s when he got interested in Olympic weightlifting, competing and eventually earning certification as a USA Weightlifting performance coach. He’s a volunteer trainer and physical therapist for the USA Weightlifting team and is lined up to volunteer as a trainer at the Youth World Championships in March in Las Vegas.

“I like heavy stuff,” he joked.

He’s been a physical therapist at the Sweet Home clinic for two years.

“I can’t believe it’s been two years,” he said as he sat in the therapy center last week.

Walters said that after he arrived in Sweet Home he asked Robert Long, his boss, what sports medicine was available to the public.

“He said, ‘Not much,'” Walters recalled. Long, an endurance athlete himself, liked the idea of what became Bumps and Bruises, Walters said, noting that Long had started a similar sports medicine program in north Lincoln County.

Walters said the goal is to help athletes in east Linn County, “whether they be in AYSO soccer or the Boys & Girls Club or in high school.”

He said he appreciates that “do-it-yourself” mentality he sees in the community. The Bumps and Bruises program emphasizes self-help when possible.

A big emphasis is education, he said. “We want to offer them ways to manage things on their own, offer educational resources.”

Walters said that athletes with “soft tissue” injuries, sprains, “twisted ankles” are encouraged to come in for free assessment, to warrant whether further treatment is necessary.

He’s working to raise awareness of the program and connect with the local athletic community.

“The next piece of the puzzle is to connect with coaches,” he said, adding that he can help young athletes ward off injuries with his background in strength and conditioning.

“I don’t want to step on coaches’ toes, but if there are ways that I can help minimize that risk, I’d like to have that conversation,” he said.

To learn more about the Bumps and Bruises program, contact Walters at (541) 451-6272.