Pro Soccer Player Stays In The Game Making A Difference As A Top Physical Therapist
Many youth soccer players grow up dreaming of going pro and being in the MLS Draft but what happens when your dreams come true and your life changes because of injuries? Top ranked youth soccer player, Bryan Hill, was the #1 MLS Draft pick in 1998. How did this rising soccer star kick off Rehab United years later? A deep passion for healing was awakened in 1991 when Hill was badly hurt in an indoor soccer game and broke his femur. Although his nerves and a major artery were barely missed, Hill required extensive surgery and physical therapy. Hill’s brother Sean came to help him rehabilitate and this experience sparked a life-long passion for helping athletes heal. Hill turned his understanding of the athletes body into a career and became a top physical therapist, launching Rehab United with Sean twelve years ago. Hill has a vast knowledge of biomechanics and trains a wide variety of athletes from many different sports including Olympic Gold Medalists, Paralympic athletes, and of course, youth soccer players with big dreams.
SoccerToday had a chance to interview Hill and get his thoughts on soccer injuries, his personal soccer experience and his work at Rehab United.
Bryan Hill: I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old. My mom put me in AYSO to burn some of my energy off, I am not sure it worked. I practiced club soccer with my older brothers team and without really knowing it, was developing a solid foundation of soccer skills as a young player with kids twice my age. I began my club soccer career playing with Greg Vanney (Current Vancouver MLS Coach) and my older brother. I then moved on to play in my own age group, but by that time soccer was a part of me and would be my passion.
Diane Scavuzzo: What were your favorite teams growing up and which teams do you enjoy watching most now?
Bryan Hill: Growing up I didn’t watch soccer on TV. I lived in Arizona and there was an indoor team called the Phoenix Inferno. That was a blast and I loved going to those games.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was it like being the #1 MLS Draft pick?
Bryan Hill: Very exciting and strange. This was in 1998 and the MLS draft was smaller, the supplemental draft even smaller. I was called into the office by my coach, Doug Biggs at University of New England and he gave me the news. My school made a big deal out of it. It was one of the highlights of my career.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where did you play soccer as a youth player?
Bryan Hill: I played youth soccer in Arizona at the Tempe Soccer Club and the Cisco Excel. I was picked up by the Colorado Foxes in the draft and then as I could not leave school early in March –I needed to finish my PT degree — I was traded to the San Diego Flash A- League. I also played for the Riverside Elite, and this was one of the best times of my life. We had a great team and amazing group of guys.
I unfortunately never made it to the level in soccer I wanted and thought I was capable of, but the experience brought me much education on perseverance and persistence.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your most memorable moment as a soccer player?
Bryan Hill: I was a 4 time NSCAA – All American, Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in College. In my 4th year the presenter at the NSCAA All American Convention was Pele’. It was truly amazing to meet Pele and to have a moment with him; and of course being one of the rare four-time All American athletes is an honor. I also was able to play in the MLS college game, in which I scored and I believe that helped my draft status.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your goal now? Do you still play soccer?
Bryan Hill: Unfortunately, I don’t play soccer due to injuries sustained in my career, although I still love the game. My goal is to provide the San Diego community with the best physical therapy and injury prevention centers. It is so important for soccer players of all ages to understand how they can prevent many injuries. My hope is to be the name that is recognized and referred to immediately when an adult or youth athlete is injured in this area. I also want Rehab United to be the place athletes go to maximize injury prevention.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is unique about Rehab United?
Bryan Hill: There are two key parts that separate RU and make RU unique. The first is we have developed and created a unique philosophy. We have based this off the Gray Institute principals and then have developed our own methodology of functional biomechanical evaluation and treatment. This is the future of physical therapy and performance.
The second item is we are an all-inclusive, comprehensive facility, actually now we have 4 facilities. We have PT, massage, sports performance, personal training, injury prevention, acupuncture, custom orthotics, women’s health treatment including pre and post natal, balance and vestibular programs, nutrition, endurance coaching, triathlon teams/programs and manual therapy specialty — all under one roof. We have a big range of clients and work with a lot of top athletes. We also offer Pediatric Physical Therapy Services. The one thing all our clients share is a real desire to improve, feel better and have a knowledgeable professional to guide them on the road to recovery.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are some of the most common mistakes with soccer injuries?
Bryan Hill: This is a good question. There are several categories in which I could see improvements with young athletes:
1. Many players and parents wait to long to have a professional physical therapist look at their child for an injury. There are often underlying issues that can be detected early and prevent further progression of symptoms. I would even recommend not waiting until your child is injured, but rather have an annual PT check in/up by someone you trust that understands the sport, its demands, and knows the human body better than the rest.
2. Quite often players return too quickly and have not addressed the root causes for the injury. This unfortunately leads to reoccurence of injury. Our society and medical system often treats symptoms rather than causes. For example, when a child rolls an ankle, it is ideal to determine whether this was an accident or is there something underlying and predisposing my child to this type of injury.
An ACL prevention assessment should also be done at the age of 12 with a profession program such as Rehab United’s. This allows for early detection of potential biomechanic limitations that increase risk for injury.
Bryan Hill: As a player, my biggest challenge was staying positive while being turned down by teams despite feeling inside you could play at the next level. I know many of our young athletes that don’t get the playing time or make the team they want can get discouraged, but I had to believe in myself and trust that I was capable and ready for that challenge.
The biggest life challenge has been with RU, taking on something from scratch without help and growing it to a sustainable thriving business. There have been many obstacles, which have made for life long learning opportunities, but it has made me a better person and business owner.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you could change one thing in soccer in America, what would it be?
Bryan Hill: I would like to see youth programs have an actual off-season. We see youth soccer tournaments weekend after next and this is when we see the most injuries. It appears we have a chronic overtraining issue in our country. In Europe there is more recovery time and periods at certain ages to allow for normal human development.
Diane Scavuzzo: What super power would you like to have and why?
Bryan Hill: Teleportation would be a great super power, although I haven’t picked a super hero name yet. I am a person that has his plate full and crams a lot into one moment and if I could maximize time getting from place to place that would be worth the tight outfit and cape.
FACT FILE: Bryan Hill and his brother Sean have been a physical therapist in the San Diego community for many years. As President/CEO of Rehab United, Bryan helped to create Sports Performance Center (SPC) in 2003 with his brother Sean. Because of his vast knowledge of biomechanics, Bryan currently trains a wide variety of athletes from many different sports.
Rehab United provides services for San Diego Surf Cup.
Hill was the head strength and conditioning coach for the San Diego Arsenal FC from 1999 – 2004 and serves as a rehabilitation and performance consultant for Point Loma Nazarene University. His services have been called upon by many of San Diego’s most talented Olympic and Paralympic athletes including hammer thrower Leslie Coons, and gold medalist, Marlin Shirley.
Hill is active in the San Diego athletic community as a member of the San Diego Triathlon Club. He has competed in sprint and middle distance triathlons for the past two years and was an integral part in the design of the SPC Triathlon Training Program.
He played soccer professionally for the San Diego Flash from 1998 – 2001 after completing four years as an All-American at the University of New England where he earned his BS in Physical Therapy and Health Sciences.