Sports Physiotherapy for the Elite

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Post by Sam Donaldson, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist BAppSci (HMS), MPhtySt, MPhty (Sports).

This blog post is aimed at giving you a little insight into what physiotherapy and the greater team of support staff looks like for elite athletes. A look inside their sphere and our world, if you like.

2019 has seen Elyse travel with Swimming Australia and in support of the St Peters Western swimming club along with her role with the Young Matildas; Sam has travelled with the Pararoos and enjoyed roles with Netball Queensland and the Junior Matildas program while this month attending a training camp for the Young Socceroos; Kerry has continued his wonderful work with the QLD Firebirds and soon the Australian Diamonds netball; Will (currently completing his Masters) has enjoyed time with Volleyball; while our physio’s Mal and Danny have continued supporting teams locally with the Western Magpies and The Gap Women’s football club among other things.

Our team have enjoyed some wonderful experiences within these elite settings and the experiences have been invaluable.

What is a Sports Physio?

An APA titled Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist has completed an undergraduate Physiotherapy degree, followed by a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy. Alternatively, the physiotherapist may have gained many years of experience and completed a specialised APA course to gain the title.

What this provides is a platform for understanding and self-progression within various settings as a physiotherapist.

What is different from other Physiotherapists?

Simply put, the Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist will have a greater appreciation and ability to analyse movement. This can be specific to that physiotherapists interests, or more general and not limited to elite or aspiring athletes.

At RHP Physiotherapy, we endeavour to help active people remain active.

A thorough biomechanical analysis and appreciation for movement control and anatomy sets our clinicians apart in many ways.

What do Sports Physiotherapists get to do?

Fundamentally, a Sports Physiotherapist working within a sporting setting will endeavour to help the athlete perform. This means our goal is to enhance a team or individuals’ ability to participate and succeed, whatever the goal.

To achieve this there can be many roles. At the field of play, the primary role is in First Aid as a person with greater understanding and knowledge of the common injuries of that sport.

To remain on the court/ field, a Sports Physio may run programs for prevention of injury. These sessions will be backed by scientific research and should be innovative and creative.

Finally, a Sports Physiotherapist may get to enjoy some travel away from the clinic! This is something our Physio’s thoroughly enjoy and provides an avenue for further experience and learning, which we can bring back to you!

Sports Physiotherapy in the elite athlete setting entails a lot of time spent working outside of normal hours, often to late at night, ensuring athletes are recovering, preparing or rehabilitating optimally.

More than this, it is just one cog in the machine that is the team of professionals working for the same goal; athlete performance. Others in the team include: 

  • Head and assistant coaches
  • Strength and Conditioning coach
  • Doctor, often a Sports Physician
  • Dietitian/ Nutritionist
  • Podiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Massage therapist
  • Sports Scientist, and often more…

Communication amongst this group is paramount and with the large face to face role that Sports Physiotherapists often play with the athletes, we are often key to this team operating well.

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