Visit the new MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex at 6500 Grand Ave., West Des Moines, and prepare to be wowed: The nearly 300,000-square-foot, approximately $60 million facility covers 66 acres with something for everyone, competitors and spectators alike. And DMU’s physical therapy providers and athletic trainers are there to enhance athletic performance and provide training to avoid and recover from injuries, while offering comprehensive physical therapy services to the community and giving students unique educational experiences. 

Led by Lauren Mach, P.T., D.P.T., ATC, a physical therapist and head athletic trainer, the DMU therapists and trainers will work with athletes who want to up their game, whatever it is. 

“We’re really taking an integrated approach to training,” Mach says. “Our athletic trainers and physical therapists are in constant contact reviewing results from objective assessments of strength, power and endurance for return to sport using the Biodex dynamometer. We’re proud to provide these services to anyone in the community. Whether you are a weekend warrior or heading to a Division I college sport, you can get your wellness services, training and physical therapy here.” 

Lauren Mach, P.T., D.P.T., ATC, worked this past season with the Iowa Phoenix, the state’s only women’s tackle football team. Here, she stands center with team members Chris Garayua, Shannon Christensen, Jo Wepking, Britt Peterson and Essence Bell. “Lauren is very professional, and the players are so comfortable with her and trust her,” says Head Coach Ricky Jimenez. “During the game, it gives me peace of mind knowing somebody is there to take care of the players.”

The DMU staff at the RecPlex also have the backing and collaboration of other specialties at the DMU Clinic at 3200 Grand Ave., Des Moines, such as foot and ankle services and family medicine

DMU’s physical therapists and athletic trainers can support the wide variety of athletic events that will occur in the RecPlex, too. They’re already providing athletic training services to local sports teams. 

And this fall its staff, along with some DMU physical therapy students, offered continuing medical education sessions to more than 60 local athletic trainers and first-responders on spinal motion restriction, especially for emergency situations on the ice. 

Kari Smith, DMU Physical Therapy Clinic manager, played a major role in planning the University’s space in the RecPlex. “It makes sense for us to expand in this manner. It will create different educational opportunities, allow us to serve the greater community and drive referrals back to our clinic on campus.” 

“We thought it would be great for DMU to be part of the new RecPlex, especially since it’s so close to DMU’s new campus,” says Kari Smith, D.P.T.’04, M.S.P.T.’98, BCB-PMD, manager of the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic. “This is a great opportunity for DMU to have a presence in West Des Moines. We’re going to bring great services to the area, benefit the community and use our advanced equipment to collaborate with other central Iowa therapists to provide better-informed care.” 

In 2019, Sue Huppert, DMU’s chief external and governmental affairs officer, alerted colleagues about the City of West Des Moines’ request for proposals from organizations to occupy the sports therapy space at the RecPlex. She helped find alignment between the city’s needs and the Physical Therapy Clinic’s services. DMU was selected because of its 120-plus years of service to central Iowa and the physical therapy department’s 30-plus years of providing high-quality services to patients of all ages. 

“DMU’s proposal was comprehensive and visionary, and we’re excited to offer a full suite of physical therapy and sports performance services for RecPlex users and the general public,” says Tom Hadden, West Des Moines city manager. 

Smith and Phil Blumberg, M.H.A., executive director of the DMU Clinic, credit a diverse team of DMU employees for bringing the RecPlex clinic to fruition, from DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., who supported the vision, to accounting, information technology services and facilities. “A lot of hands have made this much lighter work,” Blumberg says. 

Much of that work took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shane McClinton, D.P.T.’07, M.S.P.T.’01, Ph.D., OCS, FAAOMPT, CSCS, says a “silver lining” of the initial pandemic shutdown was that it gave him more time to research equipment for the new physical therapy space, which includes a Dynamic Fitness and Strength rig, a Tuff Tread Elite treadmill, a SciFit Pro2 upper and lower body ergometer and a dorsaVi wearable movement analysis system. 

“Our equipment will allow us to do a lot with our clients, including video analysis, speed training and screening of athletes to see if they’re at risk for ACL injury. We can collect very precise and objective information to help them enhance their performance and allow us to perform research and involve our students,” McClinton says. “One of our new areas is assessment of injury risk and program design to reduce injury rates. It’s an area we haven’t been able to do much at the clinic on campus, but the environment will be ripe for that at the RecPlex.” 

McClinton and Mach, along with other athletic trainers located at the RecPlex, work with individual athletes as well as coaches and teams. “Physical therapists are comfortable working with athletes regardless of sport,” McClinton says. 

Regardless of age, too, adds Kari Smith. “When we say ‘athlete,’ we mean a four-year-old all the way up to Senior Olympians and people who want to remain active,” she says. “We can treat anybody to get them back in the game, whether they are the starting quarterback for a high school football team or preparing for pickleball at the Iowa Senior Games.” 

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