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Kieran learns from the Sydney Swans

As part of GCP’s ongoing professional development programme, all physiotherapists are encouraged to take study leave to spend time shadowing other clinicians in a field of their choice. We believe that spending time in many varied environments and experiencing how different teams function helps develop us as physiotherapists and enriches our physiotherapy practice.

This year I was fortunate to travel to the Sydney Swans AFL Club for two days after their nail biting win over Melbourne in round 21 to catch up and talk with their strength and conditioning and medical teams.

Here is a synopsis of what I took away.

1. Elite sport promotes an environment where the process of mechanotherapy in a player’s recovery is paramount.

The strength and conditioning teams work in tandem with the physiotherapists to encourage early and progressive loading of injured tissues. This helps ensure early recovery and return to sport. Graduated strengthening and loading programs of the lower and upper limbs are the primary and sometimes the sole intervention.

2. All players responses to loading are monitored closely by a variety of means.

After games, a multitude of measurements are taken including player’s soreness levels, quality of sleep, and fatigue levels to name but a few. These subjective measures are correlated to objectives measures using GPS readings, (distance run, sprints and accelerations etc.) to determine whether players require a change to their recovery plan or ongoing loading.

Outside of elite sport physiotherapists regularly question sleep quality and use questionnaires to rate patients symptoms and general well being. It was nice to see the benefits of these practices reinforced in elite sport. By using a variety of methods to monitor the effects of loading we are more likely to choose the right progressions in exercise and achieve our goals quicker.

One of the obvious differences between rehabbing the player in clinic and in elite sport is the feed in from so many other members of the sports medicine team in elite sport. Injured players are discussed at team meetings with all the medical and fitness team contributing to how the player is responding to their loading programme This ensures that the players are loading correctly and promotes early return to sport. Outside of elite sport it is not uncommon to review a player after 2 weeks who has stopped doing their exercises after their last appointment because they were sore or not working with the appropriate load.

At GCP we promote regular communication with all involved in the health of the patient, doctors, surgeons and coaches to ensure the patient is responding and progressing as planned.

3. Strength and conditioning work/rehabilitation doesn’t need big gyms with fancy equipment.

Sydney Swans don’t have a warehouse size complex with a custom made gym but rather a well thought out gym in a converted office space.

The swans are lucky to have a great S&C coach in Mark Kilgallon who understands that players can be loaded and challenged in hundreds of different ways with a small amount of equipment. Learning note: The number and type of exercises is only limited by the imagination of the coach/ trainer/ physiotherapist. Evidence of this was in the variety of ways Mark had his players perform hamstring strengthening drills using a combination of isometric holds and concentric loading.

I’d like to personally thank the staff at the Swans for making me feel welcome and sharing their great experience with me.

We look forward to offering Mark or any of his team the same hospitality that was shown to me in Sydney down here in South East sometime in the future.

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