Frazier Rehab Sports Medicine Athlete of the Month: Kristin Little

To recognize the outstanding athletic achievements and healthy lifestyles of our employees, Frazier Rehab Sports Medicine has created an Athlete of the Month spotlight. Through this new spotlight, employees can share about their athletic passions and competitive successes – hopefully inspiring others to get active!

Congratulations to Kristin Little, PT, CCCE, who was recently certified as an A Level official for the US Quad Rugby Association at their 2019 National Championships. Kristin shares about her pathway to success and the awesome moment where she encountered a former patient she had inspired to compete! 

How long have you been participating in this sport? I have been a referee for wheelchair rugby since February, 2010.

Why did you select this sport/activity and how did you get your start? I started by volunteering at the wheelchair rugby nationals hosted by Frazier in 2006. During a tournament in 2010, I was able to be present for the whole weekend and Jill Farmer handed me the referee hand book. I was scared at first, but have fallen in love with the sport – and now my daughter is also involved as a referee.

What is your skill level? I was certified as an A level official at the 2019 USQRA Nationals hosted by Oscar Mike Militia in Rockford, IL.

What kind of training is required to be successful? To pass the A level certification, you have to pass the "Beep" test – running 100 meters for 50 laps at increasing speeds. Thankfully I trained with my daughter, who also passed the A certification, by running three to four miles, four times a week, incorporating interval training to increase my speed.

What do you like best about this sport? This sport is only for men/women who have a spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy or amputations affecting all four limbs. These athletes amaze me. Working with spinal cord individuals as a Physical Therapist, it allows me to show my patients what is possible. I competed in sports all my life and know how sports can push you to be a better you. Also, when you are around other people with similar injuries, you learn so much more not only about your injury level, but also what is possible in your everyday life.

How much time do you commit to the sport? During the season I run with my dog, and off season I walk my dog more. I officiate two to three tournaments a month. The closest tournament is in Fort Wayne, Indiana so I traveling quite a bit for the sport. There are tournaments all across the country on any given weekend between September and March/April, which is the length of the season. I also am in charge of ensuring that all of the tournaments in the Heartland have enough officials. Once a month I have a board meeting call, during and off season. Tournaments are either two or three days long, plus travel. My husband says I'm gone all the time!

What is the most physically challenging aspect of the sport?  I can handle the running, but sometimes in the heat of the game, the players are not always too friendly. It’s challenging when athletes yell at the ref about a call or missed call not to take it personally.

Have you experienced/overcome related injuries? You learn very quickly to get out of the way of the wheelchairs! I've been hit three times by a chair in all different situations, but have never been hurt. I've torn my ACL three times playing soccer and maintain my fitness level to decrease my pain in my knee.

Was there a person who encouraged or influence you to begin, continue or take the sport to a higher level? Jill Farmer was the first person to encourage me in the sport. Since then every referee has been a part of my growth. We have several referees who are internationally certified and have been at the Paralympics to referee our sport. They challenge me to be better every weekend, as well as the athletes. 

Has your sport impacted the way you work with, or given you tactics to motivate your patients?  In inpatient rehab patients are depressed due to their lack of mobility. Showing them videos of what they can do, what is possible, helps to bring improvement. I was lucky enough to encourage a patient so much that I ran into him at a tournament playing for a team in NY! What a great moment for both of us.

Any sport-related personal goals? I plan to maintain my A level certification, which requires recertification every two years, and support my daughter as she works to become internationally certified. I also want to continue encouraging people that they can still be competitive.

Anything else you’d like to share? Where there is a will there is a way. Don't let a wheelchair limit your ability to compete!