Making Physical Therapy Fun For “The Machine”

Kempsville Pediatric Physical Therapy PatientBy Kim O’Brien Root, Freelance Writer

Ten-year-old Bohden Tubbs was having trouble in school.

Not with his studies, and his behavior was just fine. But every time he raised his hand, his shoulder dislocated.

“My shoulder hurt because it kept on popping out,” Bohden says. “ It just happened over and over again. It started getting frustrating.”

After dealing with the problem for a while, Bohden told his parents, who took him to an orthopedist. The diagnosis was hyper mobility – being extremely flexible. The solution, the doctor said, was physical therapy.

If Bohden didn’t get treatment and the shoulder kept dislocating and putting stress on the socket, the doctor explained, it would eventually cause more problems. And it was also something that could adversely affect the rest of his joints – including the knees and ankles that the young soccer player depended on for scoring goals on the field.

“I was scared for my son,” says Gary Tubbs. “He doesn’t just sit around and play video games. He’d rather be outside, getting dirty. I didn’t want him not to be able to do that.”

So Tubbs took his son to physical therapist Pete Elser, Clinical Director at Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Kempsville clinic in Norfolk. Bohden started going for sessions three times a week, then two times, and then started doing his own therapy at home with his father.

It’s been about a year since Bohden first began to work on strengthening his body. His shoulder hasn’t popped out once. On the soccer field, he’s faster and stronger than ever.

“His whole body has changed,” Tubbs says. “And I owe it all to Pete. He changed my life and my son’s life forever.”

Bohden’s body had always been kind of “sloppy,” his dad says. Extremely limber, he would often sit on his feet.

Tubbs, a Navy diver who had once been to physical therapy himself after a motorcycle accident, knew that for therapy to work, Bohden would have to incorporate his exercises into daily living. It would be something he’d have to do his whole life.

So Tubbs went to his son’s sessions with a notebook, keeping careful track of all the exercises that Elser suggested. The book holds some 300 exercises, from balancing on a ball to band exercises, all with the idea of taking care of Bohden’s whole body and keeping the tendons strong.

Elser nicknamed Bohden “the machine.”

Bohden, a fifth-grade student at Bayview Elementary School in Norfolk, said Elser made physical therapy fun. A session never went by without including laughter, his dad said.

“Pete treated my son like a superstar,” Tubbs says.

Bohden says his favorite exercises are planks – a core stretch exercise that involves holding a position for a period of time. The exercises also help him in his other sport, Brazilian jiu-jitsu – a type of martial arts that relies on leverage and strength when sparring against an opponent

Physical therapy “helped my shoulder and all other parts of my body,” Bohden says. “It made me a lot stronger.”