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Not Your Average Physical Therapists - List of PT's Around the U.S. for Climbers

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

A recent article came out in the American Physical Therapy Association‘s June 2020 magazine. The cover story featured physical therapy for rock climbers! As the sport of rock climbing continues to grow (despite the setback with Covid-19), there grows an ever more frustrated subset of injured climbers. They look to medical experts for help hoping to gain insight on how to recover. Unfortunately the answer they often hear is, “rest it out for 6-8 weeks, you don’t need surgery, stop climbing.” It’s unfortunate. There is a void in climbing rehab knowledge. But all over the country physical therapists are rising up to fill in that gap! Very exciting times.

In the article there lists 6 physical therapists and 1 physical therapy assistant that have been interviewed because they treat a lot of injuries related to climbing! And Chicago was lucky enough to have two therapists, me and Oliver! I will try to give a description of each person and links to their practices as well as a couple other therapists I know that work with climbers. Hopefully this list will help a handful of disgruntled climbers who are hanging on a thread losing trust in the healthcare field!

There’s no specific order to the therapists besides following the magazine's order from top to bottom. I took most of their bio info directly from their respective websites. I looked up each therapist with their linkedin profiles, work website and social media handles so if there is any outdated info feel free to reach out and I’ll make the changes!


Dr. Jason Hooper, PT, DPT, OCS, CAFS San Diego, California

It’s rare to be able to combine a career you love with a sport you’re passionate about, which is why Jason feels lucky every day to be helping fellow climbers as a physical therapist. Spending every weekend camping in his parents’ VW Vanagon or skiing in the Sierra’s, Jason’s passion for the outdoors was deeply instilled in him at a young age. He also knew since the 7th grade that he wanted to do something where he could help people and work with the human body. When he stumbled his way into the incredible community that is rock climbing, a light bulb came on — he had found a group of people who love the outdoors as much as he does, and who also have a very specific need for injury recover and prevention. Whether its further education and research as a PT or new training techniques for climbing, Jason’s goal is always to improve. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but with the help of science he knows he can be a positive influence in the community. Bio taken from:


Dr. John L Huang, PT, DPT, DJ Huntington Beach, California

Dr. John provides individualized, one-on-one evidence-driven movement retraining, exercise programming and manual therapy for the active rock climber and outdoor athlete of all levels. Sport-specific nutrition coaching is coming spring 2020!

Our mission is to help climbers and outdoor athletes build both a strong physical and mental foundation for moving smarter and climbing harder – without the use of pain meds, injections or surgeries! We believe the key to mastering the MOUNTAIN is mastering your MOVEMENT – allowing you to tackle your personal goals through mindful movement and conservative practice. Our ultimate goal is to get you back on the wall pain-free and sending even stronger than before!


Dr. James Lee PT, DPT, FAAOMPT Chicago, Illinois

Born and raised in Chicago, James has been a physical therapist since 2010. He has a strong background in treating all orthopedic conditions. In 2017 James received his Fellowship title by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT). This is a national organization committed to excellence in physical therapy practice, education and research. This title serves to recognize his competence and expertise in the highest levels of advanced clinical, analytical, and manual therapy practice for the treatment of musculoskeletal orthopedic problems.

James has been rock climbing since 2009 and has been to various parts of the world to climb. Naturally, He came to specialize in treating many climbing injuries from tendon strains, pulley injuries, shoulder pain, nerve impingement, medial epicondylopathy, etc. James is passionate in educating and mobilizing people to keep doing what they love to do in a safe manner.

James started Lee Physical Therapy in 2016 in hopes to try and bridge the gap between the institutional healthcare system and rehabilitation. The vast majority of injuries people experience will never require expensive X-Rays or MRI's, nor will they need pharmaceuticals. If surgery is not required, a surgeon’s advice falls short. Physical therapists are the experts in movement. We help those along the spectrum of acute to chronic injuries. we educate and guide individuals through their recovery process and ultimately help to enhance performance.


Dr. Oliver Rivera PT, DPT, OCS Chicago, Illinois

Oliver is physical therapist working in the outpatient orthopedic clinic at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Oliver went west earning his doctorate in physical therapy at Touro University Nevada in 2017. After school, he completed an orthopedic physical therapy residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2018, followed by earning his board certified specialization in orthopedic physical therapy in 2019.

Being an athlete since childhood, Oliver enjoys treating sport related injuries, and also has clinical interests in chronic pain, manual therapy, and concussion rehab. Primarily a soccer player, he stepped out of his comfort zone when he began rock climbing while in school in Nevada. His passion for rock climbing inspired his capstone project which was accepted and presented at a national physical therapy conference. In addition to treating patients in clinic, Oliver continues to conduct research at the AbilityLab and assist with the physical therapy programs at UIC and Northwestern.

In his spare time, you can find him on a soccer field, rock climbing with his friends, falling on his skateboard, and spending time with his wife and dog.

For questions, you can reach Oliver at


Alexandra “Alex” Ortiz, LMT, PTA New York, New York

Alex is a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist with a degree from Finger Lakes School of Massage in upstate New York. Alex is also a New York State Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant with a degree from LaGuardia Community College. She became interested in massage to further her education in body work and enhance her manual skills in physical therapy. Alex is a member of a contemporary jazz dance company in NYC and teaches dance to middle and high school kids in Westchester, as well as a teacher and therapist at Dancing Dreams Dance for kids with disabilities. Alex has been working in rehabilitation facilities since 2006 and continues to seek learning opportunities. She believes manual therapy, in combination with therapeutic strength and exercise, is necessary for a healthy functional body. Alex specializes in myofascial release, deep tissue and sports massage for competitive athletes. In her free time, Alex participates in dance shows, outdoor activities such as rock climbing and surfing, and finds the adventure in everything. Bio taken from:


Dr. Allison Stowers PT, DPT Chattanooga, Tennessee

Allison Youngblood Stowers is a licensed physical therapist who earned her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Georgia State University. A love of rock climbing and a dedication to its outdoor community recently brought Allison and her husband to Chattanooga, TN. That same love of climbing and the rehabilitation of common injuries seen among climbers are what ultimately lead Allison down her professional path. Along her journey, she was intrigued by the common issue of pelvic pain and urinary incontinence among high-level athletes and women in general. Thus, her further educational pursuit into pelvic floor rehab through the Herman and Wallace pelvic rehabilitation institute.  As a mom herself, she loves to help keep women moving during pregnancy and beyond. At Peak Fitness and Physical Therapy, she provides one on one guidance for climbers & other outdoor athletes in the Chattanooga community and offers virtual consultations via Zoom for those beyond. Allison teaches free workshops for climbers in her community and has presented at national conferences for physical therapists.  She serves as an area rep for the Southeastern Climbing Coalition and is a Wilderness First Responder. Bio taken from:


Dr. Jennifer Truong PT, DPT Bend, Oregon

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jen has spent her time hiking and climbing throughout California, as well as in British Columbia and France before making her way up to the Pacific Northwest. She has volunteered at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, in research labs at UCLA and UCSF, with blind veterans at the VA Hospital, and at various other hospitals and medical/PT clinics throughout her life.

She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2016 from the University of California-San Francisco/San Francisco State University (UCSF/SFSU) joint program, and completed clinical internships in orthopedics, sports rehabilitation, and neurological rehabilitation while also being an anatomy teaching assistant for medical and pharmacy students at UCSF and Stanford University. Her approach combines manual therapy (with special interest in fascia work), therapeutic exercise, and neuromotor re-training for better movement quality and return to activity.

“My experience as both a rock climber and a PT has helped me better understand how different parts of the body work together as a whole, functioning unit. In the clinic, I combine nuanced movement analysis with a holistic view of my patient to shape a personalized treatment plan tailored to patient goals for better quality of life.” Bio taken from:


Other Climbing Therapists!

So the remaining physical therapists below are ones that were not featured in the magazine but they are people that I’ve encountered or have heard of in the past 10 years of my PT career.  If you know of any other therapists that focus their efforts on helping climbers, please let me know and I will add it to this list. I’m hoping for this to be a helpful resource for people to reference when they are in need of a climbing PT near them!

Dr. Piotr Solowiej PT, DPT Northbrook, Illinois

Piotr is Co-Founder and treating physical therapist at Team Sapiens. Born in Bialystok (Poland) his family moved to Chicago when he was 3 years old. He attended UIC for his undergraduate degree completing a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology, and obtained a clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Midwestern University. He was team co-captain and earned All-Conference honors for high school varsity baseball, regularly plays 5-on-5 basketball, is an avid rock climber (mostly bouldering), and recently began attending BJJ classes. Bio taken from:


Dr. Karen Fernandez PT, DPT, FRCms Northbrook, Illinois

Karen is a Physical Therapist, Co-Founder of Team Sapiens, and 200-Hour registered yoga instructor (Bare Feet Power Yoga). Born in Chicago, she also received her Bachelor’s in Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She obtained her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Midwestern University. Karen was a varsity soccer player in high school, has been rock climbing for 6 years, and enjoys yoga. Bio taken from:


Dr. David Jung PT, DPT Long Island City, New York

At Lion Physical Therapy in Long Island City, Dr. Jung has created a physical therapy service that provides private 1 on 1 treatment with personalized treatment plans that allow them to reach their goals faster. His focus on building trust and connecting with his clients on a deeper level serves as a vital element embedded within the philosophy of Lion Physical Therapy. In addition, Dr. Jung’s interests in bio-kinetics has allowed him to develop a strong expertise in evaluating and creating customized functional movement plans aimed to treat, strengthen, and improve bodily movements and functions. He is an avid climber and a firm believer of leading by example and continues to strive for a healthy lifestyle in both the body and the mind. As founder of Lion Physical Therapy, Dr. Jung has instilled this very same passion throughout his entire team of physical therapists, registered dieticians, and fitness professionals. When he’s not treating, you can find him rock climbing, roasting & drinking coffee, and going on food adventures. Bio taken from:


Dr. Kevin Cowell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS Broomfield, Colorado

Dr. Kevin Cowell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic is the owner of The Climb Clinic located within G1 Climbing + Fitness. Kevin received his Bachelors of Science in Applied Health from Azusa Pacific University & earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Regis University here in Colorado. He has extensive traifning in treating all orthopaedic conditions as he is a Board-Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) and has received his Diploma in Osteopractic. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Kevin is a Fellow-candidate with the American Association of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT). Through the fellowship, he has become an expert in advanced clinical, analytical, & hands-on skills in the treatment of musculoskeletal orthopaedic movement disorders. He travels across the country to assist at courses teaching clinicians dry needling (Cert. DN), ultrasound-guided dry needling, spinal manipulation (Cert. SMT), extremity manipulation (Cert. EMT), and performance rehab. Kevin has served as a physical therapist in a variety of sporting events including the Bouldering World Cup in Vail as well as the Arcanum Mile High Crossfit Games. He has come to specialize in treating numerous climbing & sport-related injuries from flexor pulley injuries, rotator cuff tendinopathy, cervical nerve impingement, low back pain, lateral epicondylopathy, & more. Kevin’s passion for training and recovery involved in reducing injury while enhancing performance spills over into his day-to-day life. If he isn’t in the clinic, you can find him climbing, backcountry skiing, or mountain biking in Colorado.


Dr. Esther Smith, DPT, Cert. MDT, NTP Salt Lake City, Utah

Esther Smith DPT, Cert. MDT, NTP received her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Utah.  Since graduation, she has worked in orthopedic settings with a particular focus on the management of musculoskeletal problems and athletic performance. Esther offers education and treatment that addresses the underlying cause of symptoms and aids in the prevention of future injury. In 2014 Esther founded Grassroots Physical Therapy in Salt Lake City because she wanted to build a community network that bucks the conventional ideas of physical therapy delivery and celebrates wellness by giving clients the choices and solutions to put health care decisions back in their hands. Time with Esther means one-on-one, hands-on sessions that focus on client self-treatment education, tailored exercise, and manual therapy including spine and joint mobilization. Esther never stops educating herself, and has obtained certification in the McKenzie Method® of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy®, Pilates Instruction, Functional Dry Needling® and manual therapy for the spine through the Spinal Manipulation Institute. Esther is also certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), which gives her the ability to counsel clients regarding nutrition and develop individualized plans to help bring the body into balance. Outside of the clinic, Esther enjoys cooking up good food gathered from local producers, rock climbing in Utah’s wild places, and generally adventuring outside with friends and family. Bio taken from:


Dr. Jared Vagy, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS Los Angeles, California

Jared Vagy is an instructor of clinical physical therapy in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Southern California. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy in clinical practice, he completed a one-year residency program and became a board-certified Orthopedic Specialist. He then completed an additional one-year fellowship program in Movement Science at Kaiser Permanente Hospital. Dr. Vagy has published over a dozen articles on injury prevention and delivers lectures and seminars internationally on the topic of the movement system. He is a mentor in the USC Orthopedic Residency and the USC DPT program. He is on Academy Faculty for the TheraBand Academy and is on the Editorial Board for ADVANCE Physical Therapy magazine. He is considered an international authority on preventing rock climbing injuries and is the author of the best-selling book, Climb Injury-Free. Dr. Vagy has completed a rotation at the US Olympic Training Center, served as a physical therapist in China for the Chinese National Track and Field Team, has worked with USA Track and Field at the Olympic Team Trials and has covered international events such as the International Weight Lifting World Championships. He has rehabilitated several world champions, gold medalists and Olympic athletes. His assessments and treatments are rooted deeply in an understanding of the movement system. He is a firm believer in an active approach to rehabilitation and works with clients of all ability levels to achieve their maximal function. Bio taken from:


Zack DiCristino, PT, MSPT, OCS, SCS

Salt Lake City, Utah

Zack has been practicing sports physical therapy since 2003 and climbing since 1998. Zack started his career in Vail, CO working with professional and Olympic athletes. He later worked at Stanford University Athletics with Division-I athletes from 36 different teams. He served as the lead therapist for the Stanford Football and Cross Country/Track and Field Teams from 2010-2014. He has been working with professional and recreational climbers since 2008 and with the USA Climbing national teams since 2016. He currently serves as the USA Climbing Team Lead Physical Therapist working with the team at international competitions and the USAC Training Center in Salt Lake City, UT. He will accompany Team USA to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Zack has participated in a number of sports including martial arts, mountain biking, snowboarding, trail running and 20+ years of climbing. Whether it is the Olympics, local competition or a hobby, Zack is equally excited to help you get there! Bio taken from:


Dr. Carrie Cooper PT, DPT Salt Lake City, Utah

Carrie Cooper is a movement specialist and Doctor of Physical Therapy dedicated to moving others through injury and into performance while educating them to stay injury free. Carrie received her Doctorate from the University of Utah School of Physical Therapy in 2014. As a life long athlete, Carrie understands that injuries happen. She professionally rock climbed for 14 years, owing much of her physical ability to her years spent as professional modern dancer and elite level gymnast. She has two children and lives in Salt Lake City, UT and continues to climb, teach, and play with her family in the outdoors.


Dr. Mike Gable PT, DPT

Bishop, California

Mike is the owner of Eastern Sierra Physical Therapy and Wellness. He received his Masters and Doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Pacific University in Oregon and combines his traditional physical therapy background with advanced manual and exercise techniques according to the latest research.

Mike believes that bridging the gap between Western and Complimentary medicine is the key to creating the optimal environment for the body to heal itself.  Specializing in myofascial release as developed by pioneering physical therapist John F Barnes,   Mike addresses each person’s individual needs by combining these techniques with specialized education, self treatment, and home exercise programs during one-on-one treatment sessions.  He enjoys applying these principles while working with people of all ages and activity levels to assist them with returning or progressing to the life that they desire whether that be competing as an elite athlete or independently getting out of bed in the morning.  He founded Eastern Sierra Physical Therapy and Wellness in 2010 in an effort to provide people of the Eastern Sierra and beyond with individualized quality one-on-one  care for helping them to achieve the life they want to lead.


Dr. O’Krent (she/her) is located inside of Crux Climbing Center in Austin, Texas. She specializes in treating rock climbers and loves teaching the intricacies of the sport from a rehabilitation perspective.

After a 9 year career in corporate orthopedic physical therapy, caring for 2-3 patients at a time, Dr. O’Krent saw an opportunity to transform the patient experience by providing 1:1, specialized care. She started AOK Physical Therapy to create a more enjoyable and effective way to return her patients to their sport.

Alyssa offers both virtual and in person sessions for people who want to spend less time in pain and more time doing what they love.


Well there you have it folks. If you know of anyone else out there that specializes in PT for climbers, please let me know and I will add them to this growing list!


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