If you don’t rehab correctly, and get back on the board too soon, you run into the risk of compensating and injuring something else.
– Dr. Kyle Brown
the Dr. Kyle Brown interview.
06 February 2018 / interview: Matt Beare
Have you ever heard of a doctor with a board sponsor? What about a physiotherapist that specialises in rehabbing skateboarding injuries? Dr. Kyle Brown is a rare breed that ticks both of these boxes. Based in California, he's worked with a wide variety of pros; Kelly Hart, Walker Ryan, Sebo Walker, and Daniel LeBron, just to name a few. Skate-healthcare professionals like Kyle are similar to filmers in the way they dedicate so much of their energy to skateboarding and do so much for it, but often don't get the recognition they deserve. Aches, pains, and injuries are an innate part of skateboarding and Kyle is out there on the daily educating skaters on how they can hurt less, rehab their injuries effectively, and improve their skating. Although he's not out there dropping the heaviest hammers, he plays a big role in the progression of skateboarding, and he'll be one of the ones to thank when your favourite pros are still releasing parts when they're 40+. It's definitely fair to say the skate world is a better place because of him.
In this interview I had the pleasure of milking his brain on everything from how to prevent injuries, to the importance of injury rehab, to whether or not Reynolds will be able to kickflip when he's 70, and much more. So listen up kids, and let this priceless, exclusive knowledge that we're really lacking in the skate world, leak into your brain.
I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and guess that there aren’t more than 10 sponsored skateboarders who are also doctors of physiotherapy, or doctors of anything for that matter, on the planet. How does it feel to be so exclusive?
It feels good to be in a position to help skaters. Skateboarding has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. I’m psyched that in a small way, I am able to give back to something that has meant so much to me over the years. As far as exclusivity, I honestly wish I wasn’t such a lone wolf in this skateboarding/physiotherapy world. I’m hoping that as time goes on more and more skaters decide to get into physical therapy or any sort of healthcare profession so we can help as many skaters as possible.
Studying for skateboarders usually means slow-moing videos of tre-flips in hope of figuring out the scoop. What drove you to study physiotherapy?
I kind of semi-accidentally fell into physiotherapy. Mid way through college I had to make a commitment to a specific major. I basically wanted to be in a profession where I was interacting with people and helping people. My mom is a speech therapist at a hospital. Speech therapists and physical therapists work closely together in the hospital setting. She suggested that I shadow one of her physical therapy colleagues. I went for it, eventually got into P.T. school, and it’s been a fun ride ever since.
Do you work solely with skateboarders?
No, my patient load is about 15% skaters. I work with a variety of other orthopedic and sports related injuries as well.
Are there any differences when it comes to rehabbing skateboarders compared to other people?
Skateboarders get a lot of the same injuries as other athletes. Ankle sprains, ACL injuries, hip injuries. Although the injuries are similar, the treatment is different. I try to make my exercise prescription specific to the sport my patient participates in. The exercises that I give to a skater will closely mirror what that skater will have to do when he gets back on the board. The exercises that I give to a basketball player will mimic what he or she does when back on the basketball court.
What are the most common injuries skaters go through?
I would say ankle and foot injuries are the most common followed by knee injuries, especially ACL tears.
Why would a skater want to get physiotherapy?
When you’re healing from an injury, physiotherapy will get you better faster. Getting good strength and mobility back through specific exercises will also decrease the likelihood of re-injury. Also, coming back from a major injury can be scary. If you have a good physiotherapist giving you the right exercises specific to your sport, it improves your confidence when getting back on the board.
What are the repercussions of not properly rehabbing an injury, for example an ankle sprain?
You have a significantly higher chance of re-injuring that ankle if you don’t properly take the time to rehab it and let it heal adequately. Also, if you don’t rehab correctly and get back on the board too soon, you run into the risk of compensating and injuring something else, like your knee or your hip. I see it all the time. The initial injury starts with something minor like an ankle sprain. But then the athlete will come back too soon on a stiff and weak ankle and have a major injury like an ACL tear.
Could a lot of injuries be avoided by doing things like warming up or preventative exercises?
Absolutely. I’m guilty myself. Some of my worst injuries have been at the beginning of the session without warming up properly. At the very least, all skaters should be spending 10 minutes doing dynamic stretching prior to the session. In addition to warming up correctly, performing preventative exercises on a regular basis (2-3x/week) can also be helpful. Performing a regular proprioception training (balance) routine can help prevent things like ankle sprains and ACL injuries. I also recommend a consistent glute training/strengthening program, which can prevent a wide variety of ankle and knee injuries. In short, spend 20-30 minutes challenging your balance and giving your ass muscles a good burn a few times per week! It’ll go a long way. I have plenty of options for balance and glute training exercises on my Instagram.
What’s the rehab process for a handrail sack or a credit card?
Ice and let that shit rest! And the preventative exercise I recommend is wear a cup!
Do you get skaters only coming to you for rehab advice or do you also get people who want exercises and advice to improve their skating?
Primarily when someone comes to the clinic, they are here for rehab, but sometimes the line is blurred a little bit. I had a patient come in for a knee injury or something and on the side say ‘Oh yeah, when I pop super high, my back foot comes off and it looks ugly, what can I do to prevent this?’ On Instagram though, I get a lot of DM’s from skaters with no injuries about ways to improve pop and flick and things like that, so I usually deal with those questions via social media as opposed to in the clinic.
Do you think we’ll start seeing more health professionals that work specifically in the skate industry?
I certainly hope so! There has been a trend of skaters taking better care of their bodies and being conscious of their health, which is awesome, but so far it hasn’t translated into skaters entering the healthcare world. There’s really only a few of us physios that skate. There’s @skateboardphysio in the Netherlands (Jeroen Stam). There’s @thecoachmitch who is an athletic development specialist. Other than that it’s slim pickings as far as I know. It’s a fun career and it truly is rewarding helping people and seeing skaters get back on their boards and killing it after a bad injury. There’s my pitch, c’mon skaters, lets do this, I need help!
Why do you think it’s so rare for skateboarders to seek professional advice for their injuries?
I think skateboarders have an inherently independent, DIY attitude with everything. Skaters learn how to skateboard on their own, they aren’t getting advice from a coach or depending on teammates. I think skateboarders might take this approach to healing from injuries as well. I think another issue is that skateboarders time and time again actually do go to the Doctor for advice and the Doctor tells them that skateboarding is dangerous and to stop doing it altogether, which is of course completely unhelpful. I think that until skateboarders feel like there is a healthcare professional that truly understands what they do, then they will be slow to seek advice.
Why do you think taking care of yourself and doing things like warming up, stretching, recovering after a session, are so uncommon in the skate world?
It’s getting better, but I think there is still a little bit of a stigma in skateboarding that taking care of your body is what football and basketball players do, and skaters want to separate themselves from that. I also think that warming up, stretching, and recovering has to become a habit. Most skaters start when they are young and are at the age where they can get away with not stretching. I think it’s challenging to all of a sudden start building those good habits as we get older. I’m a perfect example, I’ve really only been consistent with dynamic stretching for about a year now, and I teach people how to do this shit for a living. I think the last big reason these things are still uncommon in skateboarding is because it’s unclear to skaters what the benefits of doing these things are. It’s up to us as healthcare professionals to help build awareness.
Is taking care of your body and your health difficult?
It can be, yes. Like I said before, it really comes down to building good habits. Building those habits are easier for some than they are for others. For me personally it can be a challenge. But if you ask any skater who’s made the commitment to taking care of their body, they would tell you that once you build healthy habits, the challenge is well worth it.
This question is kind of unanswerable, but if skaters start taking care of their bodies and health, by how much do you think it could prolong their time on their boards? Do you think we’ll see 90 year olds throwing down kickflips?
I’m not sure about 90 year olds kick flipping, but maybe 60 year olds kick flipping! I think you’re already seeing a significant difference in longevity with skaters who make the effort to take care of their bodies. And it’s never too late to start. Perfect example: Guy Mariano. That guy was brutal to his body for the first 20 years of his career. But the last 10 years, he’s made some big changes in the way he takes care of his body and he’s been able to skate at a really high level into his late 30’s, early 40’s. Andrew Reynolds is also a good example, although he made his healthy lifestyle changes earlier on in his career. If I could predict, I bet he will be the oldest person to do a kick flip and I predict he will be able to do one at 70 years of age.
What is some health related advice you would give to the younger skater?
Don’t rush back into skating after an injury. Take your time, let your body heal, and ease back into skating. I see way too many skaters re-injure themselves because they rush back into things too soon.
In your opinion what are the 3 most important things to improve how you feel and how you skate?
Stretch every day, train your glutes every other day, and pace yourself back to skating after an injury, don’t be a hero and rush it!
What’s the best way for people to contact you?
My Instagram account is @dr.kylebrown. I do my best to answer DMs on there. I work in Santa Monica, CA at SportsFit Physical Therapy. You can contact us there to set up an appointment. Our website has all the details on how to contact us and set up an appointment - www.sportsfitpt.com. Come pay us a visit!
1 November 2017
Interview: Matt Beare
Dr Kyle Brown: @dr.kylebrown
Kyle's clinic: www.sportsfitpt.com