PHATS Member Spotlight – TD Forss

By T.D. Forss
Head Athletic Therapist, Edmonton Oilers

PHATS: What got you started in the Athletic Therapy profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?

TF: I always thought that I did not want a desk job that required me to wear a suit and tie all day, so after high school I went into Physical Education at the University of Alberta. During my first year, I had to do a number of required courses and two were Anatomy and Introduction to Athletic Therapy. I loved both classes and decided that

Athletic Therapy was what I wanted to focus on. I completed my Bachelor of Physical Education and my Master of Arts degrees then wrote the Canadian Athletic Therapist Association (CATA) exam.

As for professional hockey, while I was working in the Western Hockey League for the Spokane Chiefs, Morris Boyer who was the Head Athletic Therapist for the Calgary Flames called and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for their Assistant Athletic Therapist position. I went to Calgary for the interview and was offered the job. I worked 2 seasons in Calgary and then was hired as the Head Athletic Therapist for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. I worked 7 seasons for the Eskimos and then was offered the Head Athletic Therapist position for the Edmonton Oilers where I have worked for the past 9 years.

PHATS: You worked for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. How has your work in football helped you with the Oilers?

TF: Football was a great learning experience. If there is an injury that can happen in sports it happens in football. You have athletes of many different heights, weights and athletic ability. It has athletes that are throwers, athletes that kick and athletes that run and jump. You get to see both traumatic injuries and overuse injuries. On top of that, you have over 60 professional athletes that you need to take care of.


PHATS: What skills, that you learned in football, do you use with the Oilers?

TF: For me the biggest skills I learned was organization and communication. With the large number of athletes and the different parts of the team (offense, defense and special teams) it was important to make sure, you knew who was going to be available to practice and play each week. With the large number of coaches that are part of a football team it was important to be able to let each coach know who would be healthy enough to play and practice. I also had a group of 5 physicians and 2 assistant therapists that I needed to make sure were updated on player injuries and I also had to coordinate who would have which roles during practices and games.

PHATS: What would you say has changed the most about being an AT since you started in 1994 with the Spokane Chiefs?

TF: I feel there a number of things that have changed. For example, the athletes, the expectations, the education and experience required and the technology involved. Early in my career athletes would just do whatever you ask when you are were treating their injuries. Today?s athletes like to know why they are doing what you are asking them to do and how it makes them get better.

The expectations from players, coaches and management has increased over the years. Players expect our teams to have all the rehab and medical tools readily available to prevent injuries and to rehab them when they are injured. Coaches and managers expect a very small window of error when we are making medical decisions. Whether that be, can a player play with an injury or when is their return to play date?

When I began this profession, most of the athletic therapists/ athletic trainers had their bachelor degree and many were 20 certified. Now, all of the athletic therapists / athletic trainers in the NHL have their Bachelor degrees, are certified and each year more and more have their Masters? degree.

The technology that is available currently is endless. Items that have been implemented include electronic medical record keeping (AHMS), concussion assessment on iPads and collection of player data (functional movement screen, force plates, heart rate variability, wearable technology, video analysis? ).

PHATS: You are on the PHATS Executive Committee. What made you want to join the committee?

TF: I would say that I have always liked helping others throughout my career. Prior to coming to the NHL, I was fortunate to work with executives and colleagues on league initiatives. I like to be involved with and try to foster the development and improvement of each league and its members.

PHATS: What do you feel is the biggest benefit to attending the PHATS/ SPHEM Conference each year?

TF: There is a variety of benefits for attending the PHATS/SPHEM conference.

Some of the main ones would be education and reviewing what the current research is on various topics, collaboration with peers on challenges, talking and exchanging ideas in a social setting to get to know the other members, strength coaches, suppliers and their families.

PHATS: Who have been your mentors over the years and how have they inspired you?

TF: My parents Bernice and Hal Forss for showing me what it means to be a good person. Coach Bill Moores for introducing me to the University of Alberta Golden Bears and what is required for success in any aspect of your life. Pete Friesen for his passion for people and teaching others. Mike Babcock for his support and life lessons. My children Katelin and Liana for keeping me grounded. Most importantly, my wife Monica for her unconditional love for me and our children all through this crazy life we have built.

PHATS: What is the best advice you?ve received on being an Athletic Therapist?

TF: To do the right thing. By following this you are able to keep your integrity and maintain the respect of others. Your players and colleagues will always know what they will get when dealing with you and that you have their best interest as a focus. This in turn shows them you care and are there to help them.

PHATS: What is something you enjoy when not at the rink?

TF: I love spending time with my wife and children sharing a great meal at home, talking and listening about what is important to them and what is happening in their lives.

TD and his wife Monica live year round in Edmonton, Alberta. Their 21-year-old daughter Katelin is a senior at the University of Arizona and is currently a second year dancer with the Radio City Rockettes. Their 18-year-old daughter Liana is a freshman at Oklahoma City University, perusing a Bachelor of Music, majoring in musical theater. TD enjoys spending time with Monica watching their daughters perform, paring wine with food and travelling in the off- season.

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