Powers delivers 2019 G. Maureen Rodgers Visions for Physical Therapy, emphasizes the APTA’s vision statement

Powers works with students in Muscoluskeletal Lab
Chris Powers works with students in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory to examine movement. Photo by Nate Jensen.

November 18, 2019

Professor Christopher Powers PhD ’96 delivered the 2019 G. Maureen Rodgers Visions for Physical Therapy at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif. on Oct. 24.

The annual lecture provides a platform for national leaders and researchers to think critically about the profession of physical therapy.

Powers’ lecture, titled “Transforming Society by Optimizing Movement: An Achievable Vision for Physical Therapy?,” reinforces the importance of incorporating human movement analysis, in research, practice and education as stated in the APTA’s vision statement adopted in 2013.

“Research has shown that abnormal movement underlies many of the clinical conditions that physical therapists treat,” Powers said. “As such, movement analysis should be the centerpiece of the physical therapist examination process, therefore it’s integral that it’s emphasized in entry-level education to then be carried forward in practice.”

According to Powers, a year-long course in movement analysis was added to the USC curriculum nearly eight years ago to establish the physical therapist’s role in the evaluation and treatment of movement-related problems early on in their education, but other institutions across the nation have not followed suit.

“The research is pointing us to the movement domain, but it’s not really being taught that way, and as a result it’s not being carried over in clinical practice.” Powers said.

Powers is co-director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory and director of the division’s Biokinesiology program. His own research and teaching interests relate to the biomechanical aspects of human movement. For more than 20 years, he has been studying the underlying causes of lower extremity injuries with a primary focus on knee pain.

“Much of the work that we’ve done has shown that poor movement patterns lead to knee pain and while strengthening surrounding muscles and joints — such as the hip — helps, it does not change the underlying movement pattern,” he said. “Therefore, physical therapists need to consider movement-related approaches in terms of evaluation and treatment of knee pain.”

Powers’ clinical instruction is also designed to bring the technology of movement analysis to the clinical setting. The Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab is a 2,500 square-foot motion capture laboratory with nearly two dozen computer workstations for graduate students to process data and analyze movement.

“If we are going to truly achieve this vision for the profession, we need to do a better job of incorporating movement principles into the educational setting,” he added.

Powers joins fellow division thought-leaders and visionaries as Associate Dean James Gordon, Professor Carolee Winstein MS ’84, Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy Beth Fisher MS ’80, PhD ’00 and the late Helen Hislop in delivering the prestigious lecture.

“This lectureship is about visions in physical therapy, and it’s an honor that they would consider my opinion on something as important as the vision for the profession,” Powers said.