Society Member Rachel Lund, who graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Sports Therapy from the University of Worcestershire, was the winner of The Society of Sports Therapists Bruce Hobbs Travelling Scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, USA. Rachel, who is now Academy Sports Therapist at Hartpury University, spent ten days at the Sports Medicine Clinic at VCU, spending time with a variety of Sports Medicine specialists. She was hosted by Liz Trinchere Brown and Bob Izzo, both Physiotherapists at VCU’s Sports Medicine Clinic. Rachel was also able to spend time shadowing leading Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Thomas Loughran, Medical Director of the Clinic.
Now back in the UK, we spoke to Rachel to find out more about her trip. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you feel when you were told you had been selected?
Funnily enough I picked the email up whilst recovering from general anaesthetic after shoulder surgery this summer, so it really helped lift my spirits! I was so excited by the opportunity to immerse myself in a different sports medicine department for 10 days, and couldn’t believe I had actually been selected.
Did you have to do any preparation prior to leaving?
I spent time researching VCU and their status and sporting profile as a university. I thought it was important to understand the environment I was entering and this really helped me get up to speed when I arrived. I also spent time researching the roles of Athletic Trainers and Physical Therapists so I understood their multi-disciplinary approach.
What were your first impressions of VCU? How did it compare to Hartpury?
I was greeted at the airport by George Borden and Bob Izzo who very kindly collected me and helped me settle into Richmond; their warm welcome was much appreciated after a very long flight!
VCU has a fantastic set of facilities and a variety of equipment to complement the work of the trainers and therapists. I was most impressed that an athlete was able to walk from an X-Ray following an Orthopaedic consultation, into an Athletic Training room where they could use a Game Ready (intermittent compressions and circumferential cold therapy system), and then into the adjacent room to be clinically reviewed by their Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer together. For me, this really embodied the multi-disciplinary team approach and really reduced the athletes’ stress of having to retain medical information and co-ordinate their own medical care between the disciplines.
At Hartpury, we are very fortunate to have all of our elite sports academies supported by full-time therapists, Strength & Conditioning coaches, as well as having a Sports Club Doctor based at Hartpury two days a week. However, naturally within the UK, the challenge of having the NHS and private medical services means that the alignment and co-ordination between disciplines is perhaps less seamless.
You were based in the VCU Sports Medicine Clinic – can you set the scene for us? What was the Clinic like? Was the Clinic mainly for students or for the public too?
The whole department is based on the ground floor of a University building; the Athletic Training room, Physical Therapy room and the Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Clinic are completely interlinked. The Physical Therapy room was at the heart of the department, which was a large open space with treatment beds contained within a gym space. The Clinic had a real mix of ages and sports, but it also had a blend of athletes and the general public being treated, which made a great dynamic within the Clinic.
How did you spend your time there?
I spent time within the various departments of Sports Medicine, and with a variety of practitioners. Initially, I spent time observing Physical Therapist Bob Izzo, who primarily worked with clients who were recovering from surgery or long term injuries. Within the Athletic Training room, I predominantly spent time with Athletic Therapist Ray Kim, who looks after the Women’s Soccer team. That provided a great insight to the inner workings of a therapist’s role within a sports team.
Did you learn anything that you will take away and use at Hartpury?
Bob Izzo had a very methodical approach to assessing and treating back pain. Although I didn’t necessarily see a new form of practice, I picked up a particular skill from observing his assessment method that I can bring back to Hartpury.
A more global learning point is looking at the way we send athletes into referral pathways with the minimum possible number of stressors, which will be something I will try to take into my practice. Naturally we can’t achieve the same practice as our counterparts in America due to our National Health Service/private medical care, but I will now be more aware of taking some of the responsibility of Orthopaedic consultations away from my athletes, to help reduce their stress.
I was also lucky enough that my trip to VCU coincided with the Sports Psychology Mental Health Awareness week. I am passionate about the psychology of injury and working with student athletes. I am currently implementing a programme within the U18 Women’s Rugby Academy at Hartpury, which aims to develop coping resources and strategies to help student athletes cope better within their environment. After spending some time in Sports Psychologist Dr Dana Blackmer’s workshops, I have got some new ideas that I am hoping to share with my athletes at Hartpury College.
Did you have a chance to do any sightseeing or watch any matches?
I was lucky enough to be able watch a variety of games: men’s and women’s Soccer, high school American Football and Volleyball. Thankfully I was able to see some of the sights of Richmond with the Athletic Trainers who took me out for some food and drinks. Richmond is full of quirky restaurants and it really was a great city to visit.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during your experience?
It wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but I found the post-surgery protocol based guidelines very different to the structure we find in the UK. Rehab in the UK is often driven by meeting criteria and the athlete’s readiness to progress, rather than by protocols set by surgeons. This sparked some great discussion about the medical climate in the US and the contrast to the UK.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The highlight of my trip was spending time with the Orthopaedic Surgeons in Clinic and surgery. This is something that I have had very limited opportunity to do previously in the UK. I really enjoyed watching the consultants assess and diagnose injuries, especially with the focus of reading MRI scans and X-Rays. Although this is something I have seen a small amount of in my time at Hartpury, I really enjoyed taking the time to go through imaging and pairing this with the clinical discussion from the Consultants. The surgery itself was brilliant; I spent the day with Dr Thomas Loughran, who completed a knee arthroscopy, a Bankhart repair and a rotator cuff repair. My biggest achievement was not fainting in surgery!!
Why do you think other Members should apply for this Scholarship next year?
This was such a fantastic opportunity and something that has really refreshed my own clinical practice. As the norm, CPD opportunities usually incur a cost, but thanks to the fantastic support of The Society of Sports Therapists, the chance to be completely immersed within a Sports Medicine department at VCU is something that I will always recommend.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Professor Graham N. Smith and everyone at The Society of Sports Therapists for the fantastic opportunity. I would also like to thank George Borden, Bob Izzo, Dr Loughran and all of the VCU Sports Medicine staff for being so friendly and making my time in Richmond so enjoyable.
Professor Graham N. Smith said:
‘The Society is proud of its longstanding links with the VCU Sports Medicine Department and especially over the last two years, where a Member has had the opportunity to spend time experiencing the Department.
I was really pleased to have the opportunity of visiting VCU while Rachel was there, seeing how she fitted in with what has to be one of the most welcoming groups of therapists and practitioners you can meet.
I always know that our Member is going to experience a breadth of sport, clinical and surgical opportunities that will not only excite but live with them for many years to come.
Once again, I felt proud that we had a Member of Rachel’s calibre and experience being made welcome and able to share her knowledge and skills with such a specialised and recognised team.
Thanks to Bob, Liz, Tom and the Team for making it possible.’