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A look at the Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy & Performance

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An account of one of the most respected sports therapy programs in the world.

Fischer Institute
Fischer Institute
Kaelen Jones

Athletes are special human beings.

Their superior athleticism and natural, God-given talent encapsules what mankind is capable of physically.

The ability to maintain, rehabilitate and improve the body, however, is just as, if not more fundamental to sustaining one's physical supremacy.

In the modern sports world, advances in medicine and the comprehension of minute details surrounding the human body have expanded the role of sports physicians and their quest to keep athletes at their best possible shape.

Few names and organizations are trusted with the task of ensuring an athlete stays in top form physically, mentally and emotionally.

The Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy & Performance is one of those few programs deemed by a multitude of athletes as being a premier source for both physical therapy and performance development.

The institute offers rehabilitation and training services to professional baseball and football players alike, and boasts sponsorships from performance entities such as Muscle Milk and Cybex. Former Major League Baseball pitcher Randy Johnson, New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, among others, have graced the facility with appearances amidst injury rehab or offseason training.

The Fischer Institute is a state-of-the-art physical therapy and performance center located in south Phoenix. It was founded in 1997 by Brett and Stephanie Fischer.

Brett is a licensed physical therapist, and holds certifications as an athletic trainer, strength and conditioning specialist, and dry needling provider. He hails from Philadelphia, where he worked at a small muscle gym.

It was there he said he developed an interest in the human body, which helped spur him to pursue his career in sports therapy, although he wasn't always intent on running one of the most renowned sports centers in the country.

"We've been here for 19 years, and God put it on my heart to open this up," Brett said. "I didn't want to do that. I had been in professional sports and worked as a private sector within professional sports, but God put it on my heart to open it up."

Today, the Fischer Institute boasts a top-of-the-line facility that gives its guests a unique experience only available through the program.

Inside are rows of workout stations, free weights, and treadmills, with dedicated areas to physical therapy, as well as an indoor artificial turf field measuring over 40 yards used for sports training and spatial workouts.

The facility even includes a covered indoor hitting cage and pitching mound.

"It's amazing," Stephanie said of the business' growth over the years. "Our first facility was probably 2,000 square feet, so growing our business together as our family has grown and our facility has grown -- it's exciting to watch."

However, while the institute continues to grow and hosts prominent professional athletes regularly, the Fischers keep an open door to all who are interested.

"It's not just for athletes," said Brett. "It's also for grandmothers, grandfathers. We have a lot of firefighters and policemen here, too. It just expanded and went on from there."

Still, recognized athletes have propelled the Fischer Institute to national acclamation and have played a role in the business' growth since the early days of the establishment.

In 1996, then-Seattle Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson had his season cut short due to a bulging disk in his back, which required surgery. Ahead of the 1997 campaign, Johnson trained under the direction of Brett.

Johnson responded with a 20-win season, striking out 291 batters and posting a career-best 2.28 earned run average. For his role in Johnson's rehab, Brett was awarded the 1997 Training & Conditioning Magazine Professional Athlete's Comeback Player Award/Medical Team.

Over a decade later, the Fischer Institute was in the spotlight again during Revis' recovery from a torn ACL in 2012, and was featured as his training ground of choice throughout his offseasons during a 60 Minutes interview in 2015.

"For me that's the nuts and bolts of what I do," Brett said of aiding in his clients' recoveries. "I hang a Rocky sign back there for a reason: I want people to say, ‘Hey, no matter where you're at in life, you can make it.'"

Aside from aiding current professionals, the Fischer Institute offers an annual Pre-NFL Combine Camp dedicated to preparing a group of NFL prospects for workouts and the professional level of the game.

This year, former Arizona State players Mike Bercovici, Gary Chambers and D.J. Foster took part in the pre-Combine training regiment alongside players such as Myles Jack, Le'Raven Clark and Everett Golson.

The program features usually between 15-20 prospects from across the country of ranging talents. However, the environment the Fischer Institute has managed to help establish amongst them is something that transcends draft grades or ranking.

"We're like brothers," Chambers said of his relationship with players during the Pre-Combine program. "To be able to kind of be in this transition together, it's been nice to be able to come in here with those guys. It's been special."

Brett said that the impact the Institute has on developing the character of their participants is just as important as getting them selected as early as possible.

"It's funny, these guys hanging out. They're like brothers," Brett said. "They're even competing for the same position, yet they're still encouraging each other, and try to push each other.

"To me that's what makes this place special. At the end of the day, it's about relationships -- not only for me -- but for them. They come back year after year, during the offseason, or even during the year, so they've got a resource."

Fischer joked that some players are so talented they'll be selected in the first round regardless of what he does, however there's proof of the type of influence he can have for lesser-known prospects.

For example, recently, Fischer was pivotal in helping Northern Arizona University running back Zac Bauman make an NFL camp. Also, in 2014, Fischer Institute alum and Los Angeles Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines was named to the All-Rookie team after being selected in the sixth round.

"That's the part that motivates me and gets me excited," Brett said. "You'll see guys like that who don't have the first round look, but they come out here and they make it."

Stephanie echoed her husband, saying that treating members of all realms of the program the same is a focal principle.

"Our biggest thing is everyone gets treated the same," she said. "Helping someone whether you're an athlete or someone who has been in an accident and is just learning to walk again, that's the most fulfilling -- to see someone reach whatever their goals are when they come here."