​Bringing The Individual Back in to Healthcare

PUMA is an acronym for "Personal, Unique, Multifaceted Approach" and PUMA Physical Therapy has been designed with each individual client in mind. In today's healthcare system, it often feels like you are just a number, one of 10-15 people in a waiting room, sometimes waiting over an hour to be seen for less than five minutes. In many therapy settings, you are one of two to four patients being seen at a time, sometimes doing group exercises and sometimes doing the same exercises you do at home. 

At PUMA Physical Therapy, my goal is to make the client feel like an individual again. As a Physical Therapist for over 18 years, I have gotten frustrated with the drive to see more patients at a time because insurance reimbursement rates are so poor. I have often felt like I haven't been able to give each of my clients the individual attention they deserve which will help them to progress the most. All clients at PUMA will be seen on a one-on-one basis to ensure we are actually addressing the cause of your symptoms, not just your symptoms. It is often that the location of your pain, isn't the actual cause of your pain. For example, shoulder pain can be brought on by a lack of spinal or ankle range of motion and we will look at the whole body to decrease the risk of your symptoms returning by finding the actual cause. 

My dreams of becoming a math teacher switched when I was a Junior in High School, after I suffered a significant ankle sprain while playing basketball. The physical therapy I went through at the time opened my eyes to a whole other field of which I have become very passionate about since I graduated with my Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Ithaca College in 2001. 

I was a two sport athlete in college playing basketball and throwing discus and javelin in track and field. This too contributed to my passion for Physical Therapy as I watched teammates and friends suffer injuries that kept them from participating in the sport they loved and wanted to do whatever I could to help them recover. For more information on my athletic background, click here.

From there, I decided to be a traveling physical therapist, taking 3-6 month long assignments in various settings throughout 8 states for 8 years. This included returning home at times to work per diem at different outpatient and hospital settings as well. I have worked with a wide variety of people whom have suffered orthopedic injuries, strokes, heart attacks, wounds, undergone surgeries, or have experienced a decrease in their balance, along with several other diagnoses. I have treated people in the hospital, nursing home, and outpatient orthopedic setting, and also in their own homes. My experiences from traveling allowed me to learn from a variety of people, from several background types and that has helped make me a better therapist. 

My passion to help people feel and do the best they can has continued to grow as I continue to learn more and further my knowledge and skills. Before opening my own practice in 2016, I worked for 6.5 years at an outpatient clinic in Syracuse, again working with a variety of people from young athletes to people who have fallen at home to people who suffered a debilitating injury at work. I have also continued my passion for sports playing basketball regularly, water-skiing, and playing golf and tennis. My love for sports and the recent influx of youth injuries has significantly increased my desire to work with athletes and promote their health throughout their athletic careers. I have continued to learn more about injury prevention and safe return to sport, along with biomechanics of injuries and have become involved with CNY Baseball Warehouse performing screens on their travel athletes to help curtail injuries. 

I am very happy as a physical therapist and proud to have the opportunity to help people both physically and emotionally throughout their rehab or injury prevention training. After now going through 5 surgeries of my own, I am thankful to have the knowledge of anatomy and healing, not to mention how healthcare works as a whole because it can be so confusing. Being a patient/client has also helped me see things from the other side, which I believe has only made me a better therapist. 

Whatever your pain or limitation may be, I look forward to making it mine too and working together with you to help you get back to your full potential in normal daily life and activities.

Away from work, I love spending time with my husband and our children AJ and Addison, my family, friends, and my boxer! Thank you for taking the time to read about me and how I got here.


About Shari Gaal:

2016-Current   Owner PUMA Outpatient Physical Therapy
   Certifications in:
  • Y-Balance Testing
  • Selective Functional Movement Assessment
  • Functional Movement Screen
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist 
2009-2016  Physical Therapist and Center Coordinator of Clinical Education @ Achieve PT and Aquatics, Syracuse, NY
2001-2009 Traveling PT for several different companies in a variety of settings throughout 8 states 
2003 Inducted into Central Square High School Hall of Fame
2001 Graduated from Ithaca College with a Master of Science Degree in Physical Therapy
1996-2001 Ithaca College Athletics:
  • 4 yr. Starter in Basketball and Threw Discus and Javelin in Track & Field
  • Female Athlete of the Year ('00) with records in both sports at graduation (Top Ten in 5 categories for basketball)
  • 21st Female in Div III Women's Basketball to record over 200 career blocks
  • ECAC Champions in Basketball ('98, '00)
  • NYSWCAA Discus Champion ('97, '98, '99)
  • ECAC Discus Champion & All East Track & Field Team('97)
  • 1st Ithaca College Women's Basketball NCAA Tournament Win ('97)
1991-1996 Central Square High School:
  • HealthSouth Female Scholar Athlete of the Year ('96)
  • Highest Point Total in School History on Honor Roll of Athletes at graduation
  • Outstanding C.S. Athlete ('96)
  • National Honor Society Inductee ('95)
  • Basketball: 5 yr. varsity player ('91-'96) and 4 yr starter
  • 3 yr captain; 1st Team All-League ('96)
  • Exceptional Senior Game Captain ('96)
  • 1st Triple Double in school history ('96)
  • Record number of 3-pointers and rebounds ('96)
  • 2nd team All-League ('93-'95)
  • Empire State Games Bronze Medal ('95)
  • AAU travel ball 2 yrs
  • Track & Field: 3 yr discus, shot put, high jumper ('94-'96) 1 yr. Captain
  • League/Sectional Discus Champion 2 yrs
  • Set school discus record ('96)
  • Oswego Co./Queensbury Invitational Outstanding Female Performer ('96)
  • Most Valuable Field Performer ('96)
  • 5th at States in discus ('95)
  • Tennis: 5 yr. varsity player ('91-'95) 3 yr Captain MVP ('95)
  • Sectional Qualifier 1st Doubles ('95)
  • 2nd Team All-League doubles ('92)
  • Golf: 3 yr. varsity player ('91-'93)2 yr. Captain
  • 1st Team All-League ('93)