Marketplace: Physical therapist helps athletes heal, recover after injury
Tracy Fober always knew that she loved both science and athletics. What she did not know was how to blend her two passions into a career.
She toyed with the idea of going to medical school but ended up being trained as a physical therapist. Soon after graduation, she found a job that changed everything. Now, the Park City resident owns and operates Iron Maven Performance Health, a facility that focuses on sport-related physical therapy and athletic development.
Fober chose to pursue physical therapy after her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and she saw how important movement was to keeping his body healthy.
“The idea of applying exercise to help people get better, that appealed to me,” she said.
She returned to college to get her masters degree in exercise science and complete a license to be a physical therapist. She worked with different patients as she hopped between clinical rotations, from people recovering from spinal cord injuries to those who had just undergone heart and lung transplants.
The occupation was fulfilling, but Fober found it difficult to work with people who typically dreaded their time with her. Plus, the patients rotated so frequently that it was hard to track their progress.
So when she graduated and three months later was offered a position to work at a facility that focused on outpatient orthopedic patients, physical therapy and athletic development, she immediately accepted it. The facility was owned by physical therapist and former Olympian in weight training Derrick Crass.
She enjoyed working with high school, local and professional athletes.
“I got to see what is possible in an elite strength and power athlete,” she said. “Right away out of PT school, I learned about performance, training, recovery and physical therapy.”
She spent several years there before ultimately deciding that she wanted a job that was closer to home. She tried a “traditional” physical therapist job but missed working with athletes who were invested in the process.
She left to become a weightlifting teacher and eventually a personal trainer, where she helped people with previous injuries get back into shape. One of her favorite patients was someone who had undergone back and neck surgery. After two years, he was able to play golf and be active again.
Those stories always motivated Fober and reminded her that her work was making a difference in people’s lives.
“That is the whole goal, to help them regain function around activities that they love,” she said. “I am here to help (people) be confident and to learn how to negotiate the world with (themselves).”
She started training in her basement, then sublet a space and finally opened her own facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2010.
Four years later, she was offered a job that she could not pass up — a strength coach for U.S. Ski and Snowboard. The job brought her and her husband to Park City.
She helped injured athletes get back in shape to prepare for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. She enjoyed the work, but wanted the flexibility again of owning her own facility and working for herself.
In April, she opened Iron Maven Performance Health.
Like her business in Missouri, she works with injured athletes, but also trains athletes who are on the path to becoming elite.
She loves helping people overcome their low confidence, something she has repeatedly seen in injured athletes. As much as she can, she uses the same equipment and processes to train both healthy elite athletes and injured ones, just with different intensity. It takes a lot of problem-solving and trial-and-error, but Fober never gets tired of the work or the positive results.
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.