Three Level 4 Sports Therapy students from the University of Gloucestershire recently volunteered their time at a charity rugby match between Nationwide RFC and the South Wales Wildcats, held at Cardiff Arms Park. Students Monique Ben-Carew, Ella Ross and Ben Trebble were supervised by Society Member and University of Gloucestershire graduate, Wendy Learmonth, who organised both the pitch side and pre-match care for the event.
We spoke to Wendy in 2016 when she had just returned from a trip to Uganda, where she had been working with the Tag Rugby Trust, an organisation which aims to build people’s futures through the sport. Since then, Wendy has been working to develop her clinical skills and knowledge, while sponsoring a special needs Judo athlete by providing free treatment. She also mentors a recent Graduate Sports Therapist, Lucy Evans, providing her with practical and theoretical support.
Wendy managed to find time in her busy schedule to volunteer her skills and knowledge for the match, as well as provide Monique, Ella and Ben with some invaluable practical experience to complement their studies.
The match was held in aid of two charities, Marrow for Marley and School of Hard Knocks. Wendy explains:
‘Marley is a 6 year old boy who has been diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia, a blood condition that causes a deficiency in all three types of blood cells. He needs a blood stem cell transplant but a search of the global register has returned no matches for Marley. His family is campaigning to find #MarrowforMarley.
‘The second charity, School of Hard Knocks, delivers programmes across the UK aiming to tackle unemployment, crime and poor health. The programme is changing lives of adults and children using rugby, boxing and strong man courses.’
To take part, students were asked to apply by writing a 200 word statement. The statements were read by their peers and the successful students were chosen on merit. On the day, Monique, Ella and Ben were supervised by Wendy as they provided pre-match massage to the players and were able to observe Wendy strapping and taping players before the game. During the match, the students were able to run onto the pitch with Wendy and observe injury assessments. Off field, they provided first aid to the players, such as ice and elevation of limbs and cleaning small wounds and grazes.
‘Communication as well as practical advice for the students was very important on the day. As well as being a learning experience for the students, the players needed to have confidence that they were receiving good quality care.
‘The students improved both their communication and practical skills learned in the classroom. None of the students had any experience in pitch side first aid outside of the classroom environment and they were able to put all their theoretical knowledge into practice. They learned that not everything can go to plan and, as a Sports Therapist, you need to be ready to adapt to any situation produced by the particular demands of different sports.’
Wendy hopes her love of rugby and her enthusiasm for the sport means that Monique, Ella and Ben will want to gain more experience in the field in the future. The benefits of Sports Therapy go beyond the rugby pitch though, as Wendy explains:
‘I think a Sports Therapy degree offers such depth of knowledge over a wide variety of sports. Together with a high level knowledge of injuries and rehabilitation strategies, it enables us to assess and treat the athlete in any sport from initial injury to full recovery.’
And to students and newly graduated Sports Therapists considering applying for voluntary roles or placements to gain practical experience, Wendy has some advice:
‘Try to experience as much as you can in as many sports as you can. Grasp as many opportunities as you can. All experience is invaluable. This job has no set hours so be prepared to work hard for long hours. But it’s an amazing job that can take you to amazing places.’