The future of physio at JRFC

28/01/2014

A proactive movement towards the future of physiotherapy at JRFC

Mention the word 'physio' to the majority of people in a sporting arena and it will conjure up visions of someone sat on a table having muscles rubbed or limbs stretched, all in the attempts to make good an injury. That too was pretty much what I thought too until sitting down with JRFC Head Physio, Julie Snow last weekend when we were up in Scotland.

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Before the discussion I had not spent much time talking to Julie, and to be honest didn't appreciate all that her job entails. I knew that she had joined us from Doncaster Knights having previously worked as part of a larger team at London Wasps, and that in heading up the Physio department at the rugby club is looking to recruit more willing helpers to bolster the team.

In a nutshell, Julie describes her role as looking after the full-time squad of 33 players, and as the sole full-time therapist has to cover all training sessions for reasons of emergency care, first aid and injury prevention. On top of this there is a requirement to prepare players for training, be it assessments and screening for potential injury risks in certain sessions, treatments or strapping to assist the training process (all proactive). Following the session there is normally a quick form of triage clinic to pick up on any issues from the players and to advise on management ready for the next day (reactive).

As a consequence, the majority of time is occupied working with the fit players and training squad and the build up preparation for games, and it is only on the 'days off' that she has time to dedicate to the injured players who are working on rehabilitation programmes. Rehab is often a painful and arduous process for those involved, and the players need support to make sure that they are keeping to the programmes set, and progress needs to be carefully monitored at each step along the way as this can go on for weeks and months in more serious cases. In an ideal world, the injured players would receive 1:1 assessments and treatment on a daily basis, including gym sessions to ensure that strengthening exercises are being carried out correctly and that progress is not only maintained, but that there is also no risk of further damage.

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So that all explains a very much here and now situation for the professional players, but it doesn't take into account the rest of the club, and this is equally important, and an area that Julie is keen to develop. Leaving aside for the moment other senior players from the amateur side of the club, there is the Academy to consider.

Currently there are over 600 children who attend session on a Sunday morning, and a number of those may have visions to be the next Dave Felton, Ed Dawson or Jack Burroughs, and they need guidance to train their developing bodies. Currently there are a team of other local physiotherapists and first aiders who offer their time to support this side of the club, but due to time constraints the approach is reactive to situations when something has gone wrong.

So what is the future, and what could a team of physiotherapists mean for JRFC? - What is the ultimate vision for the department and the provisions it could offer?

A proactive approach would see therapists working with the Academy on a full time basis to not only provide consistent care and cover for games and training, but more importantly they would be able to feed a curriculum into the developing athletes from U15 age groups upwards, to introduce the concepts of movement and body awareness, injury prevention and management and the 'professional' attitude required to become an athlete at the top level. The support and input would be monitored and provided throughout their developing years into more elite environments, with access to personalised strength and conditioning programmes geared specifically for rugby. - And the pay back for the club? - Simple, that would come with more home-grown talent coming up through the colts and Athletic side and pushing for senior contracts, that already has an understanding of the environment and expectation of a professional athlete.

A team of multiple therapists will result in more opportunity for 1:1 sessions at all levels of development, day-to-day management and rehabilitation care and guidance that will ultimately mean a happier, healthier squad. Furthermore, from the therapist point of view, working as part of a team provides support and opportunities to collectively develop skills. JRFC could become a work placement opportunity for home-grown physiotherapists or sports exercise therapists to gain experience and valuable insight into the working of a professional squad environment that could in turn feed into, and benefit other sports on the Island.

Looking even further ahead, the medical department at JRFC could become a centre for research and data collection, feeding forward rehabilitation protocols and guidelines to other therapists in an innovative medical environment looking out for the best interest of all athletes.

So whilst the immediate focus may be to prepare 22 players so that they are ready to perform at the weekend, the bigger picture is a challenge and opportunity waiting to be realised.

If you would like to, or know other students or therapists that may buy into this vision, then please contact Julie Snow on j.snow84@gmail.com

William Church

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