Dr. Alison Gardiner-Shires, PhD, ATC, is an associate professor and athletic trainer in the Department of Sports Medicine at West Chester University (WCU) in West Chester, PA, outside Philadelphia. She also became a HawkGrips course instructor in 2015. Dr. Gardiner-Shires recently shared her thoughts about integrating HawkGrips into her professional practice, how they compare to other instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) products on the market, and why other clinicians can benefit from taking a HawkGrips course.
How did you first learn about HawkGrips?
Through my husband, Mark Shires, MS, ATC, PES, who is an athletic trainer for the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Mark met [HawkGrips Founder & President] Frank Osborne at a conference and learned about HawkGrips there. Then the three of us went to lunch one day and Mark and I have exclusively used HawkGrips ever since.
How have you incorporated the instruments into your professional practice?
In my current role at WCU, I’m responsible for out-of-season athletes with long-term rehabilitation needs. So I treat a huge variety of conditions, both post-operative and non-operative. I utilize HawkGrips every single day to improve pain, range of motion, strength and function.
Are there any unique applications or innovative techniques you’d like to share?
I treat patients while they’re doing range-of-motion, strength, dynamic and proprioceptive exercises. The multi-modal approach yields far better outcomes than anything in isolation.
What benefits do HawkGrips provide to student-athletes versus other treatment methods?
I find student-athletes to be very curious about the vibratory feedback from the instruments. Immediately they begin to ask questions. I’m able to educate them on what is happening at the soft tissue level. As we make progress, it’s rewarding for the patient to identify positive changes in their symptoms and daily activities, and have tangible results in their tissues as well.
Can you share a specific HawkGrips success story?
The first patient I treated with HawkGrips was my most rewarding: a fellow faculty member who suffered a tibial/fibular fracture after falling on ice. She received a plate and several screws in her distal tibia and fibula. Though her fracture site healed, she suffered from significant range-of-motion, strength and functional deficits. She completed a six-month course of rehabilitation with little to no improvements. She also suffered from depression and anxiety and was told she’d never return to competitive running.
Our paths crossed randomly one day on campus and she told me her story. She had heard about IASTM from a friend but the clinic she had been going to didn’t offer it as a treatment option. After evaluating her, I felt confident I could help. Over the course of that semester (16 weeks), I treated her with IASTM, ankle-joint mobilizations, strength and proprioceptive exercises. I gave her a home exercise program to do as well since our schedules only allowed me to treat her once a week. Within those 16 weeks, she returned to running by following a couch-to-5K program. The transformation in her physical and mental health was incredible!
What do you like about the instruments compared to other IASTM tools on the market?
The number-one reason I exclusively use HawkGrips is due to Frank and his team. They are always open to new ideas and value the opinions of their practitioners. I also love that the instruments don’t slip out of my hands during treatment.
What would you say to clinicians thinking about taking a HawkGrips course?
Absolutely recommend! There’s no substitute for a well-designed, hands-on course that allows you to take knowledge and skills back to your workplace that you can incorporate immediately.
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