patients celebrating and playing music


A Rock Concert on the Road to Recovery


One day, physical therapists in the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Brain Innovation Center spotted a trend: a disproportionate number of patients on the unit had musical propensities.

Josh was in the hospital recovering from a brain injury following a car accident. He often played a guitar in his room. Steve, who had a brain injury stemming from a fall, was a guitar player and singer/songwriter. The list of talented patients went on.

What if we put on a production that was therapeutic and meaningful to people, but also fun?

Kaitlin Reilly - Physical Therapist


“Our wheels started turning,” said Kaitlin Reilly, physical therapist. “We thought, let’s put on a patient production that is therapeutic while also being meaningful and fun.”

An interdisciplinary group of clinicians — in partnership with the hospital’s board-certified music therapist — decided to leverage patient talent and enthusiasm to give a concert. Given the focus of the Brain Innovation Center, the band was fittingly named Brains N’ Roses (an ode to the rock band Guns N’ Roses).

Tailoring therapy to individual interests is fun. That’s when you get results.

Kaitlin Reilly - Physical Therapist


The band was composed of nine members — both patients and clinicians. The Brain Innovation Center, touting three floors and more than 100 private patient rooms, offered no shortage of audience members.

The performance was a success and brought long-lasting benefits. Helmuth, the band’s bass player, continued to make great progress with his hand and leg function on the impaired side of his body and was able to walk without the assistance of a device. Participation as a dancer helped Tina stand longer and enjoy greater endurance.

“The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has the research base and the knowledge base to think outside the box and make different activities therapeutic,” said Reilly. “Tailoring therapy to individual interests is fun. That’s when you get results.”

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