Dr. Karina Zapata earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at University of Southern California in 2007. She completed her Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University in 2013. She has been employed by Scottish Rite for Children since 2007, where she is currently a Senior Clinical Scientist. She is certified in physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific exercise methods and the French functional physical therapy method for clubfoot. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, Scoliosis Research Society, and Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America. Her research is focused on pediatric orthopedics, primarily the spine.


Graduate School
Uni of Southern California (2011)
Graduate School
Texas Woman's University (2013)

Research Interest

  • Clubfoot
  • Conservative treatment for structural spine changes (e.g. PSSE & bracing)
  • Pediatric back pain
  • Pediatric functional outcomes (e.g. patient-reported outcomes & pulmonary function)
  • Scoliosis and kyphosis
  • Social determinants of health


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

The Oswestry Disability Index is reflective of pain interference and mobility in children.
Zapata KA, Carreon LY, Jo CH, Ramo BA, Spine Deform 2024 Jan
Outcomes in Nighttime Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis using Temperature Sensors
Zapata K, Johnson M, Datcu A, Virostek D, Gunselman M, Ma, Y, Herring J Spine Deformity 2024 12 3 643-650
Back pain and disability according to early onset scoliosis etiology in children younger than 10 years.
Zapata KA, Devkumar D, Ma Y, Jo CH, Ramo BA, Spine Deform 2023 Nov
Early brace treatment for idiopathic scoliosis may change the paradigm to improve curves.
Zapata KA, Virostek D, Davis K, Johnson ME, Jo CH, Owen M, Sucato DJ, Spine Deform 2023 Nov 11 6 1381-1388
The Addition of Daytime Physiotherapeutic Scoliosis-specific Exercises to Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Nighttime Bracing Reduces Curve Progression.
Zapata KA, McIntosh AL, Jo CH, Virostek D, J Pediatr Orthop 2023 Jul 43 6 368-372
A United States multi-site randomized control trial of Schroth-based therapy in adolescents with mild idiopathic scoliosis.
Zapata KA, Dieckmann RJ, Hresko MT, Sponseller PD, Vitale MG, Glassman SD, Smith BG, Jo CH, Sucato DJ, Spine Deform 2023 Jul 11 4 861-869
The Observational Gait Scale Can Help Determine the GMFCS Level in Children With Cerebral Palsy.
Zapata KA, Rushing CL, Delgado MR, Jo C, Pediatr Phys Ther 2022 Jan 34 1 23-26
Adherence to serial casting protocols for idiopathic toe walking: A quality improvement initiative.
Zapata KA, Trevino ME, Reyes FI, Jo CH, Sharma C, J Pediatr Rehabil Med 2022 15 3 469-476
Supervised Deep Breathing Exercises Improve Functional Aerobic Capacity in Patients with Severe Spinal Deformity
Zapata K, Clem K, Stevens R, Sharma C, Jo C, McIntosh A. Journal of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America 2022 4 2
Reliability and validity of a kyphosis-specific spinal appearance questionnaire.
Zapata KA, Jo C, Carreon LY, Johnston CE, Spine Deform 2021 Jul 9 4 933-939

Honors & Awards

  • TPTA Tom Waugh Leadership Award
  • International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics Scholarship
  • University of Southern California Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy Order of the Golden Cane Award

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Physical Therapy Association; Pediatrics section member (2004)
  • Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America (2022)
  • Scoliosis Research Society (2022)