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Richard Luddington Experiences a World of Excellence at Duke University

Society Member Richard Luddington has recently returned from a whirlwind ten days spent with the Sports Medicine Team at Duke University, North Carolina, USA, after winning one of this year’s Bruce Hobbs Travelling Scholarships. This was the first time The Society of Sports Therapists has collaborated with Duke University and the trip, hosted and coordinated by Bob Bruzga and Michael Messer at the Sports Medicine Department at Duke, offered a wide variety of new and educational experiences for Richard.

Applications for the Scholarship, which involved each applicant creating a short video to explain why he or she wished to visit Duke University and why he or she would be suitable for the Scholarship, were open to all Society Members. Richard, who graduated in 2009 from London Metropolitan University with a BSc(Hons) in Sports Therapy and who is now Director & Senior Therapist at F.A.S.T Clinic in Cambridge, was awarded the Scholarship.  He flew out to North Carolina, USA, in October for what proved to be an action packed, unforgettable experience at Duke University.

We caught up with Richard to find out more about his trip. Here are some of his thoughts on the experience:

What motivated you to apply for the Travelling Scholarship?

After looking into the Scholarship at Duke University, I realised it was an opportunity that I couldn’t let pass by. I currently split my time between managing and working in a clinic setting, supporting university teams and working with professional teams/individuals. The Scholarship seemed to encompass all of these roles on a much larger scale than my current setting.

I feel I am in a fortunate position to be able to adapt and sculpt our company in whichever way we see fit and to follow a practise that is constantly developing. I have been incredibly fortunate with experiences in my career so far and thought this would top trump them all.

How did you feel when you were offered it?

It definitely wasn’t something I thought I would win and so my initial reaction was one of surprise.  Once I managed to finalise cover for commitments in the clinic for the time I would be away (a massive thank you to all the clinic staff and the teams for being so accommodating!), the excitement started to build. I firmly believe that it is always important for Sports Therapists to keep progressing and if they think they know everything, they will quickly fall behind. Therefore, since graduating 9 years ago, I have and will always look to constantly develop, both individually and as a clinic, and this was an opportunity like no other.

What was your first impression of the campus at Duke?

There is a huge Team Duke and the sports vibe around the campus was amazing! It was hard to know who was staff and who were fans as the majority of people were in Team Duke kit which was great to see. The facilities and overall support for the University teams were brilliant to see and I hope these factors gradually transfer over to the UK.

You were based at the Duke University Sports Medicine Clinic – tell us a little about it and the people you spent time with.

The Duke Sports Medicine facility is incredible. Within one facility they offer:

  • Clinical and surgical treatments
  • Injury prevention and sports performance
  • Paediatric sports medicine
  • Sports psychology
  • Sports cardiology
  • Women's sports medicine
  • The Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Laboratory (K-Lab)

It is a multidisciplinary facility with many internationally recognised practitioners. I mainly spent time with the Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers during treatments and there was a real team atmosphere. I was also fortunate enough to spend time with two amazing surgeons, Dr William Garrett and Dr Annunziato Amendola, during their consultations. This was a fascinating experience and gave me an insight into their decision-making regarding operations. To have a facility where the Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers can go and chat to the surgeons regarding the post operative plan and discuss patient progress is incredible, and helps to create the team atmosphere which makes the place so special.

I was privileged to present at an in-service meeting to the staff at Duke Health. I gave them an insight into the UK Health System and my career to date. This was a fantastic opportunity to highlight how things work in the UK and led to lots of positive questions throughout my remaining time in the Sports Medicine Clinic.

How were the 10 days planned out for you?

I am used to long working weeks (around 60+hour weeks) so when I was asked how intense I wanted the experience to be, there was no doubt that I wanted to cram in as much as I possibly could to maximise the 10 days. This meant starting most days at 7am and finishing around 9pm. I really felt I utilised the 10 days and having the opportunity to see such a variety of settings was incredible.

My time was mainly split between the Duke Sports Medicine clinic, the American Football Team and the Olympic Sports. I was pitch-side at a Duke Soccer match, High School American Football game and managed to watch a Duke Basketball match. I also had time with Mike Messer at Triangle United, a local academy Soccer side. I managed to observe seven surgeries with Dr Jonathan Riboh and Dr Garrett. It really was a packed 10 days and I am so grateful they were able to organise so much in such a short period of time.

As an experienced Sports Therapist, what parts of the trip had the most impact on you?

I was amazed how open and receptive everyone was to share ideas and knowledge. I believe it is important to create a network of staff that you can trust and surround yourself with, so that you can share ideas and continually progress. It was brilliant to meet so many like-minded people who were keen to discuss different approaches and I am hopeful of staying in touch with as many people as I can. It was pleasing that the treatment and rehabilitation given was similar to that of a Graduate Sports Therapist in the UK and this is credit to our profession.

The medical provisions and facilities for the Duke teams were unbelievable and certainly rivalled, if not bettered, top professional club set ups within the UK. For example, the football team alone had an incredible gym with 18 squat racks. The treatment room for the football team had around 15 treatment beds, three different hydro pools and its own area for imagery. The day after a match, all players came in to be assessed and the medical staff present included athletic trainers, physical therapists, consultants and surgeons (just for assessments in case a player needed them). They had both indoor and outdoor training pitches and everything you could imagine to help the team be successful.

Observing surgery was something I have not experienced before and I am incredibly grateful to Dr Garrett and Dr Riboh. To be able to observe the surgery and then see the patient the next day post-op in the Duke Sports Medicine clinic is something that was particularly enjoyable.

Basketball at Duke is one of the USA’s most successful Basketball Programmes, did you see any games or spend any time with the players in the clinic?

It was incredible to watch a Duke Basketball match next to the team's Sports Medicine Staff and it is an experience I will not forget. They have some amazing athletes (possibly the top 3 picks for the NBA draft next year!). It was the best sporting atmosphere I have experienced and I have definitely become part of the Blue Devils and will be following their progress in future.

How was the social scene? Did you get to sample much of it?

I was fortunate to be offered accommodation with Chris and John, two of the medical team. Spending time with them outside of the work environment was a great way to discuss more and gain an understanding for their working schedule. The Duke Health team atmosphere continued outside of the clinic with a trivia night and trip to the Ciderworks with the Duke Health staff. I really cannot express enough how grateful I am for the welcome I received and how they made me feel part of the team.

Thinking back to your application and the outstanding video you created, do you have any advice for perspective candidates when putting a video application together?

The experience far exceeded my expectations, which were already high. I would genuinely recommend everyone to apply next year. As daunting as creating a video may appear, it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase yourself in a way that is sometimes hard to get across in writing. It is also an opportunity for the staff at Duke to learn more about you before you arrive and enables people to recognise you before you formally meet them.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank The Society of Sports Therapists for making this experience possible and to everyone at Duke Sports Medicine for going over and above in making me feel welcome. A special thanks to Chris and John for letting me stay with them and being so accommodating; to Juanita for helping to make it possible for me to visit Duke University; to Bob Bruzga and Mike Messer for organising everything to fill my time there and enable me to experience such a huge variety during my stay. A special thanks to Mike for being a star when I was there and giving up so much of his time; it was incredible spending so much time with not only an exceptional therapist but really nice guy.

Having had the opportunity in 2018 to work in Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and now visit the USA, I think this year will take some beating! Bring on 2019!

Professor Graham N. Smith said:

‘I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend time with Richard while he was at Duke University and saw first-hand how he had been welcomed and integrated into the Sports Medicine Team.

I felt immensely proud of what I saw and that The Society of Sports Therapist was able to give him this opportunity. For me, Richard epitomised the values that the Society strives to encourage and he was a great ambassador for his professional body.

I’d also specifically like to thank Bob Bruzga and Michael Messer for everything they did to make it happen and to all of the staff, especially Juanita, for making Richard so welcome. It is certainly a place that makes you feel empowered.’

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