The growing number of Baby Boomers staying active later in life has prompted new activity in the physical therapy category.  

Providers ranging from independent clinics to regional chains and specialty hospitals are increasingly aligning with sports teams, performing arts organizations and other types of properties to showcase their healthcare expertise.

One of the category’s most active players: Select Medical Holdings Corp., owner of NovaCare Rehabilitation, Select Physical Therapy and other physical therapy and occupational therapy clinics. NovaCare and Select Physical sponsor more than 35 properties across the sports spectrum ranging from Minor League Baseball’s Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos to the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, the latter of which affords naming rights to the NovaCare Complex practice facility.

Each tie affords status as the preferred or official sports rehabilitation and/or athletic training provider.

And other providers have joined the sponsorship fray. Those include Athletico, Ltd., which sponsors the MLS Chicago Fire, NBA Chicago Bulls and every other major sports team in the Windy City, and ATI Physical Therapy, whose portfolio includes the MLB Milwaukee Brewers, NBA Milwaukee Bucks and naming rights to Joliet Junior College’s ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium.

Sponsorship activity is expected to pick up even more steam as more Baby Boomers enter their golden years. In one measure of the industry’s growth, the U.S. Dept. of Labor expects employment among physical therapists to grow 39 percent from 2010 to 2020, outpacing the 14 percent average increase for all occupations.

Athletico Expands Sponsorship Portfolio
The 21-year-old privately-held company kicked off its sponsorship push in 1997 with a founding partner tie to the MLS Chicago Fire. The company now sponsors more than 200 properties ranging from pro and amateur sports teams to performing arts organizations.  Those range from the Illinois Junior Golf Assn. to Broadway in Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

And the company continues to expand its portfolio. Athletico over the past year has bolstered its presence in the endurance sports world and is now placing more focus on college athletics.

“There’s more to come,” said Carol Czaplicki, Athletico’s director of marketing.

Ties in the endurance sports space include the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and the XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon.

Athletico—which operates 66 clinics in the greater Chicago area—uses the ties to showcase its expertise by providing certified athletic trainers, massage therapists and other services to sponsored teams and organizations.

The company typically looks for designation as official physical therapy and occupational therapy provider.  

Athletico promotes the affiliations and official designation on its Web site, through in-stadium signage and in its clinics. “If we can work with a pro sports team, we can work with you,” said Czaplicki.

Athletico frequently treats athletes from sponsored teams at local clinics, she said.

“Someone sitting next to you may be getting treated for the same injury. That’s a unique and priceless experience.”

Another major hot button: injury prevention. Athletico frequently leverages pro sports teams by sponsoring injury reports and seventh inning stretches. It also promotes injury prevention through speaking opportunities at team outreach programs.

“That ties into who we are and what we do,” said Czaplicki. “We’re an injury prevention company as well as a physical therapy company.”