Meghan Schnur, MSPT
U.S. defender Meghan Schnur is the only U.S. Women’s National Team player ever to receive a Master’s degree while still an active player. In fact, she earned it even before she earned her first cap. Her Master’s in physical therapy from the University of Connecticut has allowed her to get a head start on a career after soccer.
Sep. 23, 2010
During one of Meghan Schnur’s first training camps with the U.S. Women’s National Team, she walked into the training room to see athletic trainer Greg Banks about some ankle pain.
© Leslie Benedict/isiphotos.com
When most players experience some pain or discomfort, their diagnosis to the team’s medical staff is usually akin to “my calf hurts” or “my hamstring is tight.”
U.S. defender Meghan Schnur can take it a bit further.
As Banks was looking her over, she casually shared her thoughts on the situation. It sounded something like this:
“I feel as though my pain is arising from my posterior tib beginning to overcompensate for my lack of arch stability, extenuated by my propensity to over-pronate during mid-stance.”
Right away Banks figured this was not your normal WNT patient and he was correct. Schnur earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees at UConn in an integrated bachelor’s/master’s program for physical therapy that takes five years to complete, including a few summer sessions.
She is already working in the field as a practicing physical therapist, doing four-to-five hours at least two or three times at week at JAG, a physical therapy clinic in Warren, N.J., all wrapped around her training schedule for Sky Blue FC in Women’s Professional Soccer and for the national team.
“It’s very impressive that she can be both a professional athlete and a professional in the medical health field,” said Banks. “It’s a testament to her dedication and discipline. She has a strong foundation and her background in athletics will be great for her future.”
Like many athletes, Schnur got interested in physical therapy after an injury. She was doing rehabilitation after meniscus surgery during her junior year in high school and built a good rapport with her therapist, Ron Klingensmith, in her hometown of Butler, Pa. He turned into a mentor of sorts as she pursued the field in college.
“I saw firsthand the benefits a good therapist can have in social interactions with patients,” said Schnur. “Just developing those type of relationships, seeing someone struggling and being able to help, was something that was very appealing to me as a profession. It’s just extremely interesting to learn about how injuries can be caused by multiple factors and how the body can work and compensate. It’s all interconnected.”
Schnur has worked with all sorts of patients and injuries, from standard orthopedic issues suffered by most athletes to a range of post-surgical ankles, knees and shoulders to people with Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis and those who have suffered strokes or neurologic disorders. She knows she is working with some conditions that can’t be completely healed but is fascinated by trying to help people slow down the process or give them the best possible means to utilize what motor skills they do have.
“At this moment, I can see myself working more with the orthopedic population,” said Schnur. “I’m more familiar with it and it’s almost second nature because of dealing with our own issues as athletes. But it’s also been cool to get into the neuro-rehab part of it. It’s completely intriguing. There are new therapies all the time, new pharmacology, new treatments. It’s just an ever-changing field.”
When asked if she’s ever tempted to diagnose and treat teammates during the WPS season, Schnur says she knows how to separate the two, sort of.
“I talked to Christie (Rampone) a couple times about her back after she gave birth to her second child, but generally I try to avoid teammates,” said Schnur. “Every once in a while if someone has an issue, I’ll look at it, more as a second opinion, but in the team environment I’m a player.”
One would think that the knowledge and experience she has gained in physical therapy would be nothing but a boon to her own playing career, but in fact Schnur has found it to be a bit of a double-edged sword. She’s discovered that while she’s a good therapist, she’s not such a good patient.
“For sure, certain aspects are good because I’m more aware of asymmetries, muscle imbalances and that sort of thing so it gives me a better understanding and knowledge to maintain my body and devote more time to preserving different structures,” said Schnur, who had back pain in college but has been able to all but eliminate them due to her education on the issues. “But I’m also a terrible patient. I can tell people what they need to do, but I’m sort of stubborn and I have to be reminded at times to do the best things for myself. But a positive is that it’s helped me understand a patient’s mindset better.”
Schnur says her hectic schedule during the WPS season not only keeps her busy (pro athletes do have a lot of down time) and earns her some extra income, but it’s also vital in keeping up with an ever-changing profession.
“I feel like in the medical field it’s just a necessity to be connected in some way because it changes so much,” said Schnur. “If you are out of the loop for more than six months you are behind the times. It keeps me immersed in the culture and allows me to keep learning.”
The vast majority of patients treated by Schnur don’t know she’s a professional soccer player and a member of the U.S. National Team. Sometimes it leaks out when a co-worker tries to embarrass her, but that often works to her advantage.
“If I am working with some younger athletes who are sometimes not as invested in their own rehab, it can help to share my own experiences and they perk up a little bit,” said Schnur.
So if you happen to be getting some physical therapy at JAG in Warren, N.J., and are working with a young, athletic-looking woman in a polo shirt, khakis, sneakers and a name tag that says “Meghan” (yes, that’s her work outfit), ask her what it’s like play against Germany, challenge Abby Wambach for a header and stare down Marta on a dribble.
Schnur will tell you. After you finish that next set of straight leg raises, of course.