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Athletico’s Michael Shirilla Treats Elite Athletes as the Chicago Fire’s Team Physical Therapist

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Athletico’s partnerships with over 150 professional sports teams, performing arts companies, endurance events, golf associations, rugby clubs, high schools, colleges, and special events offer Athletico staff unique opportunities and experiences to develop skills in diverse settings.

AthletiCo’s Michael Shirilla Treats Elite Athletes as the Chicago Fire’s Team Physical TherapistMichael Shirilla, PT, DPT, PES, is one Athletico employee who has found himself in sought-after roles with professional sports teams.  During the 2010 season, Shirilla worked with the Chicago Red Stars when they were part of the Women’s Professional Soccer league.  After the Red Stars season ended, he transitioned into his current role as the team physical therapist for Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire. Alongside treating elite athletes in professional sports settings, Shirilla brings his knowledge and expertise to the local community, treating patients at Athletico Evanston.

Shirilla shares with us his experiences working for Athletico and the Chicago Fire.

What is your role with the Fire?
I am the team physical therapist.  As part of the Fire’s medical team, my role is to head the rehabilitation of those players who are on injured reserve and assist the training staff in the treatment of all players’ musculoskeletal injuries.

What is the most rewarding part of your experience working with the Fire?
As the team physical therapist for the Fire, I am able to be an integral part of a sports medical staff for a professional team.  I am very passionate about the sport of soccer, and it is great to be able to work and develop my professional skills with this specific population of athletes.

I’ve also learned that professional athletes are really just people like you and me who love to have a fun time and crack jokes.

How does your role with the Fire make you a better physical therapist?
It allows me to work with elite athletes and highly skilled medical staff to treat the many injuries that can occur to athletes at this level. Working at this level of sports medicine really allows me to hone my skills at treating all of my patients.  Some examples of the injuries that I see with the team are ankle sprains, muscle strains, and a variety of knee, hip, and lumbosacral pathologies.

How does the position challenge you?
The biggest challenge is the pressure to get these athletes back on the field as fast as possible, while at the same time making sure that each player is medically ready to return to action.

How does your experience with the Fire enhance your work with the patient population at the clinic?
My treatment with the Fire players allows me to further my skills in treating all the orthopedic and sports injuries that I see with my clinic population.  With both athletes and non-athletes, I am in charge of all aspects of their rehabilitation to get them back to their prior level of function with manual skills, exercise progression, and patient/injury education.  Treating both populations can be very similar in the early stages/acute phase of an injury in regards to decreasing swelling, pain, and inflammation, and restoring range of motion and functional strength. The difference comes after the acute phase as you have to return an athlete to a more physically demanding functional stability and strength level than a non-athlete with a similar injury.

What opportunities and mentoring have you had available at Athletico to allow you to become the clinician you are today?  
Athletico has always been very supportive of my professional growth and goals as a physical therapist, from my clinic manager to the staff at the corporate office to Mark Kaufman himself.  I took advantage of all the great opportunities provided by Athletico early in my career, one of which was being involved with Athletico’s Performing Arts Program.  This included taking courses offered at Athletico University, shadowing staff who worked with the USA Women’s Soccer team, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Northwestern University Athletics, and Loyola University.  I feel as if my career advancement in the sports medicine and physical therapy field compared to my fellow classmates has been faster due to the vast amount of opportunities Athletico offers to work with athletes and teams of all levels.

What would you say to a new employee considering a career at Athletico?
I would tell them if you are driven and willing to work hard, you are joining a company that will work with you to reach your professional goals.

Michael Shirilla received his MS in Biology from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and his DPT and MPT degrees from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  He has been with Athletico since 2006.

If you are interested in exploring a career with Athletico, we are now accepting applications! Please check out our Career Opportunities page!

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