On December 4th, the Philadelphia 76ers issued a press release stating that Markelle Fultz was identified as having Thoracic outlet syndrome, and that he would begin physical therapy immediately and is out indefinitely. Following that announcement, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweeted out that Fultz would be working through his physical therapy with Dr. Judy Seto, who is most famous in NBA circles for being Kobe Bryant’s “secret weapon”.
Describing anyone using the terms “Kobe Bryant” and “secret weapon” sounds dirty, I know. But Dr. Seto can wear the descriptor as a badge of honor: she earned the reputation thanks to her expertise in physical therapy. Seto is so damn good at what she does, in fact, that for five years she held the position of Head Physical Therapist with the Los Angeles Lakers, while Kobe relied exclusively on her for physical therapy. Seto was responsible for ensuring the day-to-day health and recovery of the roster of one of the world’s most valuable sports franchises and one of the world’s most famous athletes. And now, she goes to work on Markelle Fultz.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Dr. Judy Seto has been working in physical therapy since 1985 — 33 years (unless we’re counting her education, in which case she’s probably got upwards of 40 years under her belt). She first latched on with the Lakers in 1990 as a physical therapy consultant, a role she served until becoming the Lakers Head Physical Therapist in 2011, where she stayed until parting with the franchise in 2016 (Kobe’s final season). Dr. Seto is board certified in orthopedics and sport physical therapy, and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Her education is nothing short of impressive:
- Kinesiology (BS), Psychology (BA), UCLA
- Master of Physical Therapy, Stanford University
- Doctor of Physical Therapy, Temple University
- Master of Business Administration, Troy State University
- Master’s Degree, High Performance Sport, Australian Catholic University
Seto is somewhat of a pioneer in physical therapy, specifically in the realm sports. Her thesis while at Stanford “examined the return of individuals to their preinjury activity level following ACL reconstruction surgery” — which ultimately led to a publication in The American Journal of Sports Medicine titled Assessment of quadriceps/hamstring strength, knee ligament stability, functional and sports activity levels five years after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. In essence, Seto’s studies were concerned with returning athletes to their pre-injury level of competition.
If everything above hasn’t convinced you that Markelle Fultz is in good hands, maybe this next snippet from the website of the California Physical Therapy Association will help:
Her research, publications and presentations have focused on sports medicine related injuries including upper extremity injuries in the overhead athlete, ACL and patellofemoral injuries, and core stability and performance.
Now, Markelle doesn’t necessarily have an injury to any of his extremities (although there have been reports about a nagging wrist if you want to count that). Thoracic outlet syndrome’s effects are concentrated in the chest, shoulder and neck area. And Seto’s work regarding injuries in the overhead athlete seems to be primarily focused on pitchers in baseball. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be well-versed in the struggles plaguing the “overhead athlete” returning from injury, considering the major concern surrounding Fultz’ actual on-court game has to do with an overhead action.
Judy Seto is not a miracle worker. But she’s exhaustively experienced and educated, and has a proven track record of success. Markelle Fultz is employing one of the greatest minds of sport physical therapy that the world has to offer. If there’s anyone who can help Fultz to rehab back from Thoracic outlet syndrome, it seems that Dr. Seto would be that person.