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Dr. Shireen Mansoori is spending her first season as the new director of rehabilitation for the Philadelphia Eagles. We talked with her about breaking barriers and the meaning of teamwork.
What brought you to the Philadelphia Eagles?
During my undergrad years at the University of Washington, I was a walk-on athlete for the women’s basketball team. The experience helped build my work ethic and taught me skills in teamwork and organization. Although my level of athleticism was not strong enough to play professionally, I knew I wanted to find a way to continue to work with high-performance athletes, and I found a way through physical therapy [PT].
Prior to the Eagles, I founded the Seattle Sports Institute, where I consulted for collegiate and professional athletes. But I missed the team setting. The Eagles created a unique position where I could be a part of a team again while working with our sports medicine staff.
Tell me about being a female PT in professional sports.
I kept facing the same question at the University of Southern California, at Duke University, and at UW Medicine — female PTs would ask me how they could work in a male-dominated setting such as the NBA, NFL and MLB. I never knew the correct answer. When the position with the Eagles presented itself, I felt that it was my responsibility to take it.
To my knowledge, I am the first female director of rehabilitation in the NFL, and I want to break that glass barrier for other women. There are a few other women on the sidelines — athletic trainers, referees, commentators — and we all encourage and support each other. Ultimately, my goal is for women to get to a place in professional sports where we no longer call ourselves the “firsts.”
What’s it like to be on the ground floor of an NFL game?
First, it’s an incredibly fast-paced environment. Our staff work together to help manage acute injuries that could occur during the game. Second, our fans are loyal, supportive and loud, so it always makes for a fun environment! Finally, I’m a first-generation Iranian-American woman, and every time I hear our national anthem, I have a moment of nostalgia where I feel incredibly proud and honored to be part of such a wonderful organization.
And the best part of your job?
Regardless of my duration with the Philadelphia Eagles, the professional relationships I have built with the athletes will last a lifetime. They depend on us during medical adversity — I enjoy the accountability and thrive in that high-pressure environment. With the Eagles, we do whatever it takes to provide optimal rehabilitation. When an athlete is back on the field doing what he loves the most, pain-free, that’s the ultimate reward for me.