Ahwatukee natives and residents Dr. Matthew Fletcher and his wife Amy opened their first practice, Fletch Physical Therapy, in Gilbert last spring, and since then the youthful pair has been helping area athletes – and even local seniors – step up their game.
“We’ve got your back,” is a tongue-in-cheek phrase Fletcher has used in communicating on Facebook and Instagram.
Yet, it holds true as he works in his modern clinic at Suite M, 1400 N. Gilbert Road, and when he literally hits the road with his fold-and-go physical therapy treatment table.
With area schools either already open or opening soon, Fletcher is geared to helping youthful athletes learn effective ways to minimize risk of injury in their chosen sport, improve their game by targeting specific muscle groups, and if and when needed, provide exercises to safely hasten recovery from injuries.
He is scheduled to visit high schools throughout the East Valley this month with his preventive physical therapy approach to aid athletes perform at their optimum.
As a former Desert Vista High School and college athlete, Fletcher said he learned the hard way the value of a physical therapist’s knowledge and advice when going gung-ho at sports, even at a seemingly-invincible age.
“I tore my ACL three times in my early twenties while playing basketball in college! And that was when I was in my prime,” he said. “It’s scary to think that even though I was at my strongest, I was still so weak and susceptible!”
Those experiences, from ages 21 to 25, moved Fletcher toward his career in physical therapy.
“Yes, that’s why I became a physical therapist so that I could help other young athletes not have to experience what I did. The injury I had was easily preventable. That’s why I’m all about providing free screenings and watching people’s form while they run to make sure they are doing it safely.”
Fletcher graduated from Brigham Young University Idaho with a BA in exercise physiology with an emphasis on personal exercise prescription and nutrition.
He then earned a doctorate degree from Loma Linda University, one of the top 10 physical therapy schools in the nation. After receiving his doctorate, he completed 70 hours of a manual orthopedic residency from Ola Grimsby Institute.
He and his wife Amy and their then-4-month-old daughter Evelyn - opened their clinic in Gilbert, augmenting their business with what is proving to be a popular mobile therapy program that travels throughout the East Valley.
Amy Fletcher, who serves as president of Fletch Physical Therapy, is a part-time dental hygiene instructor at Carrington College in Mesa. She also teaches weight-lifting classes twice weekly at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.
“And while the baby naps, Amy’s answering emails, making phone calls and scheduling patients,” Fletcher said of his 30-year-old wife. “Slow-cooked meals are a big deal in our house.”
The pair, Ahwatukee residents, are avid runners having competed twice in the Phoenix Half Marathon and other area running competitions.
“My wife is the one who got me into running. She started having knee problems from all the running since she wasn’t doing any strength training, so I put her on an exercise routine and now she’s pain free and teaches the weightlifting classes and often subs yoga classes,” said Fletcher.
As a physical therapist, he’s also treating other area runners before injuries hobble them.
A major goal this fall for the 34-year-old Fletcher is helping athletes in high schools throughout the Valley of the Sun, but especially those throughout the East Valley.
“My plan is to travel to high schools to give free screenings for their athletes. These screenings show if the kids’ muscles are strong enough to prevent injury, and you’d be surprised at the results I have found with some of my screenings with young athletes,” he said.
“They might look strong, but quite often some muscle groups are weak, making other muscles overcompensate. And, do you know what happens when some muscles overcompensate? You guessed it. Injury. If we know that the kids are prone to injury, we can discuss what exercises they can do to strengthen the weak muscles.”
Fletcher said he has found that adults of all ages appreciate the convenience of his mobile physical therapy, as well as the one-on-one private therapy hour.
“We actually prefer treatment in the home because that’s where clients are comfortable, and it really helps us help them when going through their daily activities,” he said. “For instance, if someone has trouble going up and down stairs, we can see what stairs are causing the problem and how we can make adjustments or prescribe exercises.
“We can show them how to use their therabands a certain way on the door or we can see what equipment they have at home and help them how and where they need it. Mobile physical therapy is safe, convenient and a great fit for patients who don’t want the hassle of going to a traditional clinic. We really want our patients to feel understood and comfortable.”
At the Gilbert clinic or by mobile, each client receives a free evaluation.
“At this appointment we discuss what the client is experiencing and what their long-term goals are. We spend an entire hour with our clients. There are no technicians or assistants,” Fletcher said.
“It’s one hour with a board-certified physical therapist. We pride ourselves on providing the best treatment and that’s why we give the free evaluation, so that they have time to tell us everything they need,” he said.
“If I’d gotten an hour appointment with my physical therapist after my first ACL surgery rather than being run through a ‘patient mill’ maybe I wouldn’t have needed surgery the second or third time.”
Fletcher admits starting his own practice with he and his wife in their early 30s is both exciting and daunting, yet they are fully optimistic that they can be successful and give back to their community.
“Our goals are to be a contributing member of the community, and I’d love to earn enough money to provide jobs to others in the community who have helped us,” he said.
“My long-term goal would be to see patients one time a week while teaching aspiring physical therapists at a local college. I want to have my business so organized that we can hire anyone on and give them a comfortable and warm environment so they can take care of their family.”
Family life is very important to the couple, Fletcher said as he looked at a recent family snapshot of he, his wife and Evelyn, now 8 months.
“We want the same for our patients. We want them to be part of the family and we want them to get to their goals and aspirations,” he said emphatically. “That young baseball player wants to throw the fastest pitch in their school’s history? We can help them get there safely.
“What about the grandpa that wants to pick up his grandbaby without feeling back pain? We know we can help him and we want to hear about her favorite foods and first words at the appointment. What about the young mom who wants to run her first marathon?
“We have already helped one client qualify for the Boston Marathon. We want to help our patients succeed, whatever their goals may be.”
His needs, he said, are simple.
“I want to provide for my family, give back to the community and prepare the next generation for success,” he said.
Information: fletchPhysicalTherapy.com or 602-492-3019.