FEATURE ARTICLE: Sports Physiotherapy In India: What It Takes To Be A Sports Physio - TAMARA ZWECK

India is a country on the move. And so is the profession that specialises in movement - Physiotherapy!

We, as physiotherapists, are engineers of the finest machine, the human body. And where better to watch the best than at the Olympic games. By the time you are reading this, London's gold would have been won, lost and found a million dreams. Not the least could be Saina, Abhinav, Mary and Vijender carrying the hopes of India along. I would like to think that the reason I know the Indian national anthem better than the Australian national anthem, is not because of previews at the movie cinema but rather hearing it from the Olympic podium.

Sport in India: There is a lot of sport being played in India. Every year the sporting calendar grows and provides the athlete with more professional platforms and higher levels of competition. The precedent being the Indian Premier League cricket, followed by the Formula One Grand Prix motor racing, Hockey India League, I-League Football, and soon a professional basketball league among others.These are competitions and leagues with more exposure, giving the athlete bigger stages on which to perform. As the exposure and level of sports competition improves, so does the level of sports support required. With many professional leagues starting across India there are increasingly more opportunities for physiotherapists to be part of the sporting environment.

Physiotherapy in sport: This increased exposure and expectation for sports performance is great for Physiotherapy in India. Physiotherapy is an accessible and meaningful profession to sport. Even if the general public is unclear about everything that we, as Physiotherapists, are capable of doing, Physiotherapy is increasingly been talked about on cricket fields, at tennis courts, across golfing ranges, along marathon courses and in boxing rings. More people are becoming aware that physiotherapy extends beyond the hospital corridors.Far from rehabilitation, we assess and treat injuries as they occur, we screen individual athletes for imbalances, limitations and weaknesses to minimize injuries, and enhance any athletes potential to perform at their best. More professional competitions, means more athletes in India with higher demands and expectations, India needs better standards of sports Physiotherapy. We have more opportunities to work in professional sporting environments, and we will be expected to specialise in sports.

Be a sportsman: To be a sports physiotherapist, you need to be interested in sports, and probably play or have a history of playing a sport yourself, at any level. You would know what it feels like to compete - to win, or lose; the commitment required for training, how you become better, faster, stronger; what it feels like to get injured, how to recover and get back into the game. Having that personal experience helps you relate to your athlete and put into perspective everything in a persons life that come to the competition.Last year, 2 weeks out from the Mumbai marathon, a client came with moderate onset of achilles tendinosis as he progressed his running speed. He had seen an orthopaedic surgeon who suggested he rest for 2 weeks. “Rest” for 2 weeks! And potentially miss the marathon that he had been training 6 months for. He was going to run regardless of the consequences for his injury, so after making some minor corrections for his biomechanics, releasing soft tissues that were starting to compensate for his pain, and taping him up, he ran. Unlike other demands of daily living, in sports, sometimes we just need to get the person through, and deal with recovery later.

Be a sports physiotherapist: Practice, practice, practice. That’s what your athletes are doing day in and day out. That’s what you need to do to be a sports physiotherapist too. The best education is experience, and the most important pre-requisite to being a sports physiotherapist is to get you hands on as many people as you can. I learn new things everyday from my work, whether it's how pain in described, actions that and other questions that are thrown my way. People and athletes are hungry for information and they want to hear it from us the professionals.I started working for an amateur league football while I was studying for my undergraduate degree. Every Thursday night I would go to football training, and every Saturday I would go to the match. I didn’t get paid, but it gave me lots of bodies to mobilise, tape, massage, assess, and other senior physiotherapists to watch and learn from.For every professional team that is present in India, there are amateur teams, and junior athletes in the wings waiting for their time and need support. There are tennis courts, cricket pitches, football fields crying out for assistance. Even if you are not solely working with a team, be associated with the team, the club - it will also enhance your practice, getting patients form the clubs, and also you may then specialize in a certain discipline.Indeed there are many post-graduate and further education courses you can do to improve your skills to specifically work in sports. Keep learning – but not too many and too quickly. It takes me at least 6 months to integrate new knowledge and skills I have learnt from a course or workshop into my practice. Getting experience gives you many more contexts in which to keep learning.

There are more international instructors coming to India to run workshop so there are more opportunities to learn at home. Unfortunately most post-graduate degree in sports are conducted abroad. If you have the opportunity to go abroad to study, go. Then most importantly for India, please come home! India needs you here.Further education. Go back to university later, it will be more meaningful and put into context. sure you come back to India, as its India that needs you now.

Be a team: Sports physiotherapists are part of an extensive team that works with an athlete. Surround yourself with sports medical professionals – coaches, doctors, trainers, nutritionists, massage therapists. Communicate with them and share ideas. Its together with this team, we can develop better facilities and expectations for sports medical professionals.Gradually, with sport becoming more professional, the support systems and facilities for athletes and sports medical professionals will too develop. So let's get out in the field and get our hands on. Let's get India running, jumping, bowling, hitting, boxing, shooting, swimming; and moving well.

 

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