Physical therapist helps keep valley’s notables strong

Mention the name Matt Smith in conjunction with physical therapy, and you’re likely to hear some positive words from prominent athletes, high-profile casino owners, top-tier entertainers and other professionals, not just in Las Vegas but throughout the country.

His clinical and research expertise as a physical therapist are recognized universally, as evidenced by his involvement over the years in three national studies involving physical therapy for knees and shoulders.

Smith is one of the founders of the American Society of Shoulder and Elbow Therapists. And he has been a recipient of one of the highest recognitions by the sports medicine section of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Smith’s name appears on the door of 12 physical therapy clinics across Southern Nevada.

“I’m the president and outright owner of each of those clinics,” he said. But he can be found at 9499 W. Charleston Blvd., one of his two clinical offices, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, or at 7301 Peak Drive Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Smith recently was referred to as “the therapist of the stars” in a Las Vegas Review-Journal column by Norm Clarke. Clarke had mentioned the assistance Smith provided for Las Vegas outfielder Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, who underwent knee surgery last year.

And yet the level of modesty inherent within Smith far exceeded his willingness to be interviewed. “Why would you want to write a column about me?” he asked when the subject was broached.

It wasn’t until we sat face-to-face that Smith ran off the names of some patients, past and present. Privacy privileges prevent us from mentioning two of the most prominent casino owners in Las Vegas, some of the most celebrated entertainers on the Strip or the well-known athletes, lawyers, political figures and other prominent individuals among his patients.

“I can tell you this,” said Smith, “I treated a member of the 2013 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens for four months after he suffered a horrible ankle injury in the championship game.”

Smith talked about his background as a wrestler before he graduated from Flagstaff High School in Arizona. He participated in bicycle racing after graduating from the University of Utah in 1984 with his degree in physical therapy. That’s when he moved to Las Vegas.

“I became heavily involved in bicycle racing,” Smith said, referring to his participation on a U.S. Masters team that won a championship. He noted that, at one point, his U.S. team competed in Russia.

As the result of his health care relationship with numerous casino moguls, including the late Bill Bennett, one-time owner of the Sahara, Smith left his physical therapy practice for two years, from 1998-2000, to become president and general manager of the Sahara. The facility closed in 2011 and is scheduled to reopen this year as the SLS Las Vegas following a total renovation.

“After two years in gaming, I got back into health care in 2000,” Smith said. “That’s where my heart was and where it is to this very day. I enjoy helping people. It was since then that I established all 12 of my clinics. They’re geographically located in convenient areas, each with excellent staffs that provide world-class care.”

He talked at length about a burgeoning sector of physical therapy needs, including people who undergo surgery for total joint replacement, such as knees and hips.

“The baby boomers have been playing a big role in the escalation of total knee replacements,” he said. “They’re into all kinds of athletics, and that has created the need for more qualified physical therapists. Baby boomers want to stay young, and who can blame them? In fact, lots of them think they’ll never grow old.

“Because of that, total joint replacements have been increasing exponentially, up by 200 percent just in the last decade. In fact, total joint replacements are expected to triple in number within the next 20 years. That’s job security for us.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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