Olympic Silver Medalist Sets Goals in Physical Therapy Research Through Foundation Funding

Karen Thatcher made a name for herself in the world of ice hockey. Now she’s turning her attention to research to help kids recovering from Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction.

Karen E. Thatcher, PT, DPT, knew from an early age that she wanted to play hockey. Her dedication led her to play competitively through college. After completing her undergraduate degree in biology, Thatcher took time off from her studies to focus on her athletic dreams. Within eight years, she became a two-time gold medalist in the Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and a silver medalist in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“Representing my country in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was an incredible honor and an unbelievable experience,” said Thatcher. “Competing in the Olympics solidified my passion to return to physical therapy, as I saw first-hand the incredible power of human movement and physical activity on a global scale.”

Thatcher has since returned to academics. She completed her doctorate at The Ohio State University. Most recently, she was awarded another distinction outside of the rink – the Foundation for Physical Therapy’s prestigious Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) I Scholarship. Thatcher was among 24 promising physical therapist researchers awarded PODS I & II Scholarships in the 2018 funding cycle. The PODS scholarship will support Thatcher’s dissertation titled “Functional and Biomechanical Outcomes after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACLR) in Pediatric Patients.”

“This award will allow me to attend conferences to expand my research education, share findings from my work, and create invaluable relationships and collaborations with colleagues from across the nation. Furthermore, the financial support will allow me to focus more of my time on my coursework and research agenda. I am incredibly grateful to the Foundation for this opportunity.”

“The goal of my research work is to look at post-operative strength and movement patterns in the pediatric population after ACLR,” says Thatcher. “The long-term goal is to improve outcomes and contribute to evidence-based return-to-sport guidelines for pediatric patients after ACLR.”

Like many athletes, Thatcher’s career was not without injury and setbacks. She carries this first-hand experience with her as she treats adolescents and adults in her clinical work and research. She has also found lessons in her career in hockey. “Taking time away from academic studies gave me valuable perspective in my return to academia,” says Thatcher. “My experience in high-level athletics strengthened my interest in sports physical therapy. My past experiences guide my career goals as an academic researcher and clinician who can add to our understanding of physical therapy practices.”

Thatcher is looking to join a new team as she continues her research. She hopes to secure a faculty position at an institution within a large medical center so that she can continue to build the evidence-base for physical therapy practices while teaching and working directly with patients.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded

“Functional and Biomechanical Outcomes after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACLR) in Pediatric Patients.”



  • Hrometz SL, Thatcher KE, Ebert JA, Mills EM, Sprague JE. “Identification of a Possible Role for Atrial Natiuretic Peptide in MDMA-induced hyperthermia”. Toxicology Letters. (2011).