James Nicholls – a physical therapist of many years with Abilene Bone & Joint – never imagined the profound impact a back injury he sustained in high school would have on him…long after he recovered.
A native of McAllen, Texas, James suffered a back injury while running. His recovery protocol included physical therapy, and James’ therapist – Tom Sprague – was instrumental in planting the seed of a possible career in physical therapy.
James worked with disabled youth via a local Easter Seal Society while attending the University of Texas Pan American. His strong interest in science and physiology, coupled with how much he enjoyed working with wheel-chaired-bound children, became the catalyst for his future physical therapy career.
“I loved seeing the kids’ faces light up when they accomplished tasks. It was so empowering for me – I can only imagine what it must have felt like for those kids,” James explains with a continued hint of pride and excitement in his voice.
As he worked with Easter Seals, James began to research and explore physical therapy programs. After applying to several schools, his final selection was the physical therapy program at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock, Texas, a school James had admired and enjoyed visiting.
“Tech was incredibly fortuitous as it led to my knowledge of Abilene and subsequent employment there,” said James.
After graduating with his Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy, James began his physical therapy career in the Rio Grande Valley. The area provided limited career growth, so James was all ears when a phone call from a recruiter came about a position at Abilene’s then Big Country Sports. He had the opportunity to work with early mentors while there – both Scooter Phillips and Martin Caddell. After running the clinic for two years, James briefly returned to the Harlingen area before landing back in the Big Country.
Abilene Bone & Joint opened ‘Action Sports Medicine’ in 2004, and James was one of several who worked and treated patients. Now, as the last of original Action physical therapists, James still embraces the opportunity to work with schools and families in developing that side of the Abilene Bone & Joint business.
“Being involved with the sports programs of the Big Country and the respective families is a privilege I’m honored to participate in. The far reach of Abilene Bone & Joint has enabled me to make some lifelong friends – both personal and professional,” states James.
Each day is a different experience, coupled with his work’s autonomy, which is the best part of being a member of the Abilene Bone & Joint team. Even more than 17 years later, James finds his fellow ABJ colleagues more like family members.
James and his wife, Sandra, have two very active teenagers. Between the sports for Ava (age 13) and Alex (age 15), their school and family travels, the Nicholls stay busy. His involvement as a Big Country Soccer Association coach adds to James’s busyness with his family activities.
When asked about what someone would be surprised to learn about James, his answer was quick. In his early 20s, James and his best friend, Glynn Morgan, hosted a 24-hour tennis marathon to raise funds for Easter Seal Society. Having raised several thousands of dollars, James’ description of the event still has a great deal of pride in his voice when he explains the event.
We suspect that pride will be there for many years still to come.