University of Gloucestershire Graduate Katy Stephens is in the final stages of completing her Master in Sports Therapy. In talking to Katy it is clear she has a passion for learning and a burning desire to continually push herself to develop her knowledge and skills. Her work experience opportunities in her undergraduate degree programme have provided a strong foundation for her and she is now pushing the boundaries in a totally different area; that of concussion in equestrian sport.
Katy, you had some great work experience opportunities while undertaking your Sports Therapy degree. Two in particular stand out: the first was at Gloucester Rugby Club where you were an intern – how was that?
During the summer of my first year an email was sent out to students about helping Gloucester Rugby with soft tissue management during their preseason and I thought it would be a great opportunity. I spent one day a week at Gloucester Rugby through my second year and asked if I would be able to apply for the internship for my third year. I was lucky enough to be accepted for the entirety of my third year, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so grateful to the Medical Team for being so supportive and patient with me. I still cover charity games at Kingsholm (Gloucester’s Ground) and I remain in contact with the Gloucester Medical Team. When I graduated, I moved across to semi-professional rugby league.
The second opportunity was with GB and England Ice Hockey.
GB and England ice hockey held off-ice camps at the University through the summer. We were involved in pre-season screening, fitness testing, concussion baseline testing and education. We worked with different age groups, from 14 to 16 year olds. It was really enjoyable and great for me to learn about another sport I had not been involved with before.
You decided to continue with your studies undertaking an MSc Professional Practice in Sports Therapy?
I wasn’t ready to stop learning, I had six months away from university and wanted to keep improving the way I handled more complex cases. I was also keen to do a longer research project, I like a challenge!
Your Masters research topic is 'Pony Club concussion.' Why this topic and where did the interest in Equestrian Sport come from?
Having worked in Rugby since I first started at university, I have an acute awareness of concussion and how protocols are constantly evolving. As someone who has grown up competing in equestrian disciplines it dawned on me how often I had been concussed in the past without anyone checking on me. I started to look into youth equestrian sport and what is currently in place to protect young horse riders and I was disappointed by the lack of information that was readily available.
What research have you conducted to date and what it has involved?
I am just in the final stages of writing the research up. The first step of research was to find out what Pony Club parents knew about concussion; an overriding theme was that they didn’t understand how severe concussion could be if dealt with poorly and that they relied on Pony Club coaches to give them advice when it was necessary. My research currently is based around what coaches know about concussion and once given information, from a presentation that I delivered myself, how long are they able to retain that information.
You shadowed a doctor who is involved with horse racing at Worcester racecourse. How did this opportunity come about? Tell us about your time there.
I would like to work in jockey rehabilitation in the future, so reached out to a well-known jockey doctor in the area and he was more than happy to take me to Worcester Racecourse for the day. I was lucky enough to meet multiple members of the medical team on a race day, learnt about their emergency action plan and zoomed around in the Doctors four wheeled drive vehicles following the race (great fun!). I felt fortunate to be able to discuss concussion with one of the Physiotherapists who is specialising in jockey rehabilitation, particularly concussion in race jockeys.
You have your own clinic – are there plans to expand and specialise with equestrian athletes?
I have been running my own clinic in Gloucester for 18 months now and I love it. My plan is most certainly to expand over time, but I am in no rush to do that, there are still so many areas of therapy I am really excited to explore. I would like to work with more equestrian athletes as it is my area of expertise and different to so many sports, due to the involvement of an animal.
What does Sport Therapy mean to you and what is the one thing you would like everyone to know about Graduate Sports Therapists who are Members of the Society of Sports Therapists?
We really enjoy our job; we enjoy the cold rainy days at the side of the pitch and the muddy wounds to clean. I love that I learn new things everyday and that I am lucky enough to meet new people all the time. One thing… we’re incredibly professional and really good at what we do!