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A Blind Man’s Journey to Being a Sports Therapist

From time to time you have the chance to meet extraordinary people and Society Member Nick Mulryan is one such person.

Nick is the Founder and Lead Therapist at No.1 Pain Relief Clinic in Buxton, Derbyshire and is a Graduate in Applied Sports Therapy from Teesside University. He is also visually impaired and hard of hearing but this has never deterred him from managing life’s challenges as a Sports Therapist.                     

Nick is Vice Chair of the Society’s Communications Group and during a recent discussion Nick was asked if he would write a blog about his journey so far. He did just that.

Nick writes:

‘For anyone born with multiple sensory impairments (for me, I am visually impaired and hard of hearing), it’s important to find a career that you enjoy, to keep yourself motivated and perform as well as abled peers. I started my career as a professional cocktail pianist as music came naturally – I am able to play by ear. My piano and harmony techniques were later developed further by a professional blind concert pianist and tutor, who not only mentored me, but taught me Braille music. To learn Braille and play the Braille music, I had to develop a good memory and tactile touch; this later served me well throughout my education in becoming a Sports Therapist.

As my sight later deteriorated, I required a guide dog to assist with my mobility, getting me to places without always relying on others. It was at this point in my life I met a voluntary guide dog fundraiser who was in remission from cancer, and raising money and awareness for guide dogs and cancer research charities, through the help of therapists, including a Graduate Sports Therapist.

Hearing her remarkable story and recovery and as well as wanting to help others, I decided to initially learn complimentary therapies and remedial massage for self-interest, helping other disadvantaged and palliative members of the public, including their carers, through voluntary work. This led me to return back to higher education to learn these therapies. As my career went from strength to strength as a Complementary/Massage Therapist, I realised very quickly that I lacked the knowledge to rehabilitate. I then decided to learn Sports Therapy through The Society of Sports Therapists’ Diploma in Sports Therapy course, and gained further experience working in a sport setting with other established and senior members. I soon realised that I also needed to further develop the academic side of Sports Therapy and rehabilitation intervention, so I used my previous hands-on skills and Sports Therapy training experience to eventually graduate with a 2.1 degree in Sports Therapy.

Being a visually impaired and hard of hearing student, there were many challenges ahead to meet university competencies. I had certain software and resources set in place, such as speech and magnification software to help read medical journals and write assignments etc. Training materials such as rehab equipment were always laid out appropriately so that I could orientate myself around the environment independently. I always felt that I was treated like any other student throughout my training to become a Sports Therapist, which further gave me the self-confidence to achieve my dreams.

Since graduating with a degree in Sports Therapy, I have furthered my knowledge in orthopaedics and gained a postgraduate diploma in teaching. This journey took 10 years of dedicated learning and the help of many senior colleagues who mentored me over the years.

Today, I am running my own private health practice, where I get to work with some of Britain’s well known elite athletes, semi-professionals, recreational athletes and sedentary members of the public from all walks of life. I’ve also been on national radio as a health advisor.

It has truly been an emotional and inspiring journey, which has involved plenty of motivation and hard work to get to this point in my career.

If I had to name one pinnacle moment in my career, the most memorable moment I recall is when I was working in visually impaired football. Clubs such as these are set up to give visually impaired children and adults the confidence to go out into their community and socialise with others through sport. Whilst arriving one day at the football training ground, I heard a voice say ‘Is that you Nick?’ I replied positively and the player (who had no sight) proclaimed ‘I’ve done it.’ He told me that had managed to cross the city centre on his own, using a white symbol cane. As he said this, another voice behind us said: ‘Well done.’ It was the player’s sighted mother who had followed him from home to the training ground. For many sighted people this would be nothing extraordinary, but to do this for the very first time, with no sight, must have taken courage, determination and self-confidence. Being a Graduate Sports Therapist has given me this through my own personal career.

For those of you who are wondering if I still play the piano, the answer is yes, but not professionally as my career as a Sports Therapist and running a busy clinic keeps me occupied. However, at this moment in time, I am writing a light crescendo composition for a professional pianist who is recovering well from a fractured wrist.

One of the most satisfying rewards I have in my work is helping people help themselves – aiding their recovery and witnessing someone feel healthier and happier.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have writing it.’

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