Experience in sports helped solidify career for physical therapist

An ACL injury in her past has helped Carlie Flake find her calling in physical therapy.

An anterior cruciate ligament tear and completing the necessary rehab for it helped Carlie Flake realize her calling while she was in high school.

Several years later, Flake has succeeded in her career and relayed the same effort of care her former therapist provided to her, to her patients.

Flake played soccer and lacrosse at Seneca High School and she said she was always interested in the medical field during her studies. After tearing her ACL during a game in her junior year, Flake was ruled out of the sport for eight months for physical therapy.

When I was in physical therapy, I appreciated that my therapist was able to be with me. I was able to ask questions and she guided me through my recovery,” Flake said. “I like that I was able to build a relationship with my physical therapy.

Flake continued her career path following completion of her undergraduate studies in outpatient general orthopedic physical therapy as she became an aid at 3-D Physical Therapy, where she works currently, while applying for graduate school.

That was when I settled on outpatient because we deal with sports, balance, geriatric and postoperative stuff, so that’s kind of a combination of everything,” she continued. 

The deciding factor between therapy in a local office versus with a sports team or school was the variety of ailments she treats. She continued that treating people who need a physical therapist has helped her “stay on her toes” and retain the knowledge she gained from graduate school.

Challenges come with her job and Flake said the most difficult is when she receives patients who are injured, but don’t reach rehab for weeks, sometimes months, for a myriad of reasons. She has held extensive sessions with said patients on learning about them and their injuries to help “undo a long time of pain” or to assist those going through chronic issues.

We also treat vestibular patients and they’re the people with concussions, vertigo, dizziness and all of that kind of stuff,” Flake added. “I’m starting to get my feet into that stuff because it’s a different realm of challenges.

Doctors across the country have ran into instances where their family members inquire on questionable pains or sensations they experience on a variety of body parts. Flake is no stranger to that.

During the day, my sister will send me a picture of her knee, point to a part of it and say ‘what is this, it hurts,'” She said with a laugh. “It’s all day, every day, especially because I come from athletes like my brother who coaches a lot, so people are active and I’m getting the questions.

Despite the familial run-ins she has had with her job, Flake said it brings her joy and she hopes her patients are trilled during rehab when they successfully complete an action without assistance, something she loved from her treatment.

Milestones Flake said she overcame included being able to raise her legs straight up in the air, getting her quad muscles to react and having the ability to participate in high impact or agility-driven activities.

It’s nice to be on the other end of things and be able to comfort (patients) and know exactly how it feels to be so vulnerable after surgery,” she added.

Patients will often have a rough time going through rehab, which Flake said she tries to ease by explaining her personal experiences to let the patients know she has been in their position.

As enticing as it may be to relate to patients, Flake admitted she does it in a “tasteful” way to let her patients know the session is about them and not her.

You want to make sure that the patient is the priority, you’re not oversharing your experiences with them and that it’s their experiences and not yours,” Flake explained. “There are times when patients are vulnerable and emotional, and it’s those times when I can say, ‘I know how you feel, just trust me on this.’

Flake has been afforded the opportunity to see patients across a spectrum of injuries or surgeries.

In many cases, she said, she will have someone who wants to regain the ability to complete simple tasks without assistance such as sitting down or walking up stairs. Helping them complete the activities, Flake added, brings her personal joy as she sees them achieve a goal they’ve set and reminds her why she’s a physical therapist.

With the official opening of a new location in Tabernacle nearing, the Seneca graduate said it is a major step for her as she advances in her career.

The office will be where Alfors Pharmacy was located before ceasing business. Flake, who has extensive roots in Tabernacle, is given the opportunity to reach people she normally wouldn’t have in the Medford practice (near the NJMVC).

The new practice will help her reach “as many people as possible” in a new area and provide them with access to said care, which she said is a personal goal of hers.