What to expect as a sports therapist working for a professional rugby team

Rugby Pitch - Getty Image.jpg

Kate Williams, Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy, talks about the role of a Sports Therapist. She shares her experience of what a typical sporting weekend looks like, working for a professional rugby union team for International Women’s Day:

A Sports Therapist career focuses on the sports injury management of athletes. There are plenty of women working in men’s professional rugby in Wales – in the medical departments like myself and in senior management too. The role focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and sports-specific rehabilitation of all musculoskeletal injuries that occur in sport. So, there’s a large focus on medical screening and injury prevention.

Here’s what you can expect from a typical weekend working as a Graduate Sports Therapist, taken from my personal experiences:

Thursday

We’re heading into our last game of a busy season, playing Edinburgh away in Murrayfield in a Pro 14 league game. Before heading to the airport, I treat and rehabilitate our injured players, not travelling, before the playing squad arrive for their Team Run. Squad players receive any treatment they need and get any taping or strapping done. The team practice any set-piece plays or moves, ensuring they are perfect, and practice strategies for the game.

During the Team Run, the medical team will be based pitch-side in case of any injuries or accidents. Following this, we eat before departing for our flight to Edinburgh. When we arrive at our hotel, we provide a short treatment session for the players.

Friday (Game Day!)

The players sign up for their treatment slots during their breakfast. Following this, they have their hydration levels measured by the strength and conditioning team before a stretching and mobility session. The Forwards will also have a ‘walk through’ of their set-piece plays in readiness for the game. A few players come in for treatment after the session.

During the afternoon, our appointments get busy. We undertake maintenance work on players carrying "niggles" or who have had a previous injury.

In the evening, we begin to tape and strap players for the game before heading to the team bus. The players and coaches have their pre-match meeting. We then travel to Murrayfield and set up our treatment area, ready to tape and strap players for the game. We deal with everything from feet and ankles to shoulders and thumbs!

During the warm-up, we check our sports trauma equipment. It includes everything from the defibrillator to the spinal injury kit and medical gases. We also have a quick meeting with the home team’s Medical Department to ensure we’re all ready for the game.

One of the team's players gets injured during the game. We suspect a fractured wrist, and he is substituted. During half time, we assess him again with our team doctor and decide to put him in a temporary plaster of Paris cast so we can fly him home the next day to be assessed locally, rather than leave a player behind in Scotland!

We lose the game, 31-24, which is sad as this is the last game for several players who are leaving the club. We arrive back at the hotel late and reassess any players who have picked up any bumps or knocks during the game.

Saturday

Following an early breakfast and our flight back, we arrive back at the club. We check any players with injuries from the game, and we arrange for scans/x-rays/orthopaedic surgeon appointments. The player, with a suspected fractured wrist, is taken for an x-ray. It confirms the fracture. So, the player will need to have an operation in a few days, to repair. I will be responsible for his treatment and rehabilitation until he’s fully fit.

If you’re interested in following Kate’s footsteps in becoming a Graduate Sports Therapist, we have a brand-new course, titled BSc (Hons) Sports and Exercise Therapy, at the University. We’re in the process of becoming accredited by the Society of Sports Therapists (SST). By studying the course, you’ll meet patients, diagnose and treat their injuries, preparing you for your future career in sport.