Physical Therapy at the Highest Level
Touro Doctor of Physical Therapy Alumnus Brandon Whitworth Travels with Cirque De Soleil
My job here at Cirque is very unique because we have so many different circus disciplines. There's so many different risk factors and performance demands for the artist that it's challenging. I'm constantly having to think outside the box to implement different strategies to optimize performance, to reduce injuries, and help them perform at their best.
I see myself as an educator, but also, as a coach. My job is to build their confidence, making sure that the artists feel safer performing on stage. Some strategies that I use are corrective exercises to address any dysfunctions or limitations in their range of motion or strength. I also implement hands-on manual therapy techniques to improve range of motion, strength for activation of muscles.
There is an art behind physical therapy, and it's important to take a holistic approach by really just looking at the whole body. When I'm treating a knee injury, I'm not just looking at the knee. I'm looking at the joints above and below, but I'm also looking at the whole person. If we could increase durability, then we could prevent injuries.
Touro has helped to build my career as a physical therapist by providing a strong foundation. The Touro orthopedic residency program gave me the confidence and skills to work at a high level, like Cirque Du Soleil. It's absolutely a dream job. The artists just love to perform, and me being able to help them achieve that, that's really rewarding. So I'm proud of the service that I do as a PT on this job.
As the acrobats and high-wire artists swung and glided through the air during Cirque de Soleil shows, a Touro College School of Health Sciences-trained physical therapist waited for them in the wings.
Brandon Whitworth, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, an alumnus of the School of Health Sciences (SHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency programs, served as the head therapist for the Cirque De Soleil at Sea and Cirque De Soleil’s Amaluna show.
“I love working with artists that have physical capabilities at an elite level,” stated Whitworth, a Long Island native. “They’re so motivated and love to perform at the highest level.”
Whitworth found himself drawn early towards helping others. His bachelor’s degree in health sciences included a concentration in emergency care, and he worked as an EMT while in college and as a student in the SHS DPT program. After graduating from the SHS DPT program in 2011, Whitworth pursued the school’s certification in advanced orthopedic physical therapy.
“I always enjoyed helping people,” explained Whitworth. “PT gave me the opportunity to help people in a way that I found both challenging and rewarding. As a physical therapist, I know I’m making a difference.”
After managing his own practice for endurance athletes in Tennessee, Whitworth saw an advertisement for a position with the famed troupe and quickly applied. His qualifications, confidence, and education quickly made him a strong contender and he was hired in January 2019. Whitworth flew to France and spent two months working with the Cirque de Soleil at Sea team to ensure the safety of the performance before the ship and the troupe were ready to disembark.
The cruise traveled to ports across Europe with a team of 1600 performers for six months. As head therapist, Whitworth worked individually with each performer to help prevent injuries and helped injured performers regain mobility. The troupe held two forty-five-minute performances daily and Whitworth served as a first responder in case of injuries or accidents.
“We have so many circus disciplines there are so many different risk factors and demands for the artists that I’m constantly thinking outside the box,” said Whitworth. “We need to think of new ways to implement strategies to optimize performance and reduce injuries to allow our performers to do their best. I’m an educator and a coach; my job is to build their confidence and make them feel safe performing.”
Whitworth relied extensively on the training he received at SHS that taught him to focus holistically on the patient.
“There is an art behind physical therapy,” he explained. “It’s important to take a holistic approach to look at the whole body. When I treat a knee injury, I’m not just looking at the knee; I’m looking at the joints above and below, and I’m also looking at the whole person. If we can increase durability, we can then prevent injuries. We look at the whole picture.”
“Touro has helped to build my career as a physical therapist by providing a strong foundation,” continued Whitworth. “The Touro orthopedic residency program gave me the confidence and skills to work in a place like Cirque De Soleil. It’s absolutely a dream job.”
In the summer of 2019, Whitworth transferred to another Cirque De Soleil production, Amaluna, based in California, where he stayed until March 2020 when the show closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s currently back on the East Coast, working at Orlin & Cohen Orthopedics, and hopes to rejoin Cirque De Soleil post-pandemic.