Learning Opportunities: Upper Extremity and Shoulder Rehab


Our course instructor discusses his experiences and ideas for the future

Bob McCabe, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, CSCS, FDN, has over a quarter-century of experience in orthopedic physical therapy. An NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach, Bob has worked at the Andrews Institute and trained with famed sports physician Dr. James Andrews. He is also an APTA Board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and currently serves as the Director of Injury Prevention, Physical Therapy, and Human Performance for the Air National Guard Special Operations Command Unit in Westhampton, NY.

It’s hard to imagine anyone more qualified to train young PTs or other rehabilitation professionals on the treatment of shoulder injuries. Yet none of those accolades shielded Bob from criticism when he first started teaching a two-day, comprehensive shoulder rehabilitation clinic back in 2008.

“I wasn’t very polished at all (as an instructor),” he admits. “Generally speaking, these days I get much better ratings than I did 10 years ago. That’s to be expected, but it led me to revise the course quite a bit. It was a lot more lecture in those days, and the comments I got were very straight and to the point. They weren’t always easy to read.”

But rather than give up, McCabe was able to tailor the course more toward his strengths, emphasizing rehabilitation while mixing in some elements of assessment. He covered surgical and non-surgical orthopedic injuries, such as rotator cuff disorders. “It’s fairly lab-intensive now,” he added. “There are about ten labs over the two-day course—it’s a mixture of a lab and a lecture format.”

For McCabe, that hands-on element put him into more of a comfort zone and allowed him to find his niche in teaching the course. 

“Getting people to learn new techniques, discussing complex cases—it’s interesting to hear the experiences of other professionals, how they were able to reach patients who’ve had major surgeries and the resulting setbacks,” said McCabe. “I’ve talked to people who’ve seen far more traumatic injuries than I have.”

On the other side are the class attendees who are simply in search of new assessment techniques for patients they see either in the clinic or out in the field. “What I enjoy most is teaching material that people can use the next day,” added McCabe. “It’s more than citing research studies. There’s a lot of clinical, practical information.”

From his early learning experiences, McCabe picked up on the importance of getting attendees involved, particularly during the lecture portion of the course. Introducing lab elements helped him play to his strengths, but he says he became a stronger lecturer by using slides on the presentation to introduce a point, rather than reading the slides directly. “I want to cite examples when I can, to make it a more natural talk rather than rehearsed,” he summarized.

Despite the popularity of online learning and its growth over McCabe’s tenure as an instructor, he says he still believes attendees benefit from the live learning experience. Name recognition, branding, and other elements of ‘marketing himself’ so to speak are other aspects McCabe has learned over the years. 

“When I was at the Andrews Institute, people would come out just because of that name,” he recalled. “Right now, I’m at the Air National Guard—I don’t know what people think when they read that. I’m not sure whether that military background plays a role in the decision to take a course.”

After almost a dozen years teaching the material on the shoulder, McCabe talks about an interest in perhaps teaching joint mobilization or instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). “Maybe there’s a way to combine the two (IASTM and shoulder rehab),” he said. “Those and joint mobilization to the extremities, those are the ideas I have right now.”

McCabe has also considered the idea of a two-day course where one day is spent online—8-9 hours of material followed by a lab-intensive day. “Maybe the occasional 10-minute block of intro, but almost entirely lab,” he explained the second day. I probably need another hour or so of content before that would be ready.”

Sign up today for one of Bob’s Two-Day Clinical Courses for Orthopedic Professionals Complete Shoulder Rehabilitation

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What course would rehab professionals like to see offered? What are your preferred formats for continuing education (online, classroom, a combination)? Send your suggestions to chari.spear@colibrigroup.com

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