Andy Barker

Job title Head physiotherapist

Employer Leeds Rhinos

Qualifications Head physiotherapist

Leeds Rhinos Head physiotherapist Andy Barker explains what it takes to work in professional sport

What does a typical day involve as a head physiotherapist?
As the lead physiotherapist I am responsible for the diagnosis, treatment and management of the Leeds Rhinos first team squad. In addition, my role involves leading the delivery of all injury prevention strategy.

A typical day will usually mean I am at the training ground between 6.30-6.45am. We usually start the day with a staff meeting (medical and strength & conditioning) to plan that training day for the squad. Following this I would review and treat the necessary players. During this time players complete medical led pre-training screening and well being monitoring. At approximately 9am the players would enter the gym. To start, the players will run through a physiotherapist led prehabilitation session lasting 15 minutes. We promote movement, mobility and stability retraining in the aim of reducing injury incidence. As part of these sessions we often focus upon individual aims i.e. ACL injury prevention. The players then move into their strength and conditioning led gym session.

Where possible we conducted our gym based rehab with injured players during this slot, to keep injured players integrated with the squad as much as possible. Following gym, there is usually a 45-60 minute slot to review and treat any further players. At approximately 10.30am the players will enter a meeting with the coaching team. This is usually either a review of the previous weeks game or a preview looking forwards to the next fixture. Lunch follows the meeting. At approximately 1pm the players will go out on to the field for team skills. This session last for approximately one hour, during which time any field based rehab with injured players will be completed. In addition, as medical staff we are required to cover all field sessions and administer relevant trauma care when appropriate. Following skills, any further treatment or specialist rehab could follow.

The day finishes at approximately 3.30pm with a medical meeting, in which we review the day and plan appointment slots, rehab programmes and plans for the next day.

“We promote movement, mobility and stability retraining in the aim of reducing injury incidence.”

What are the best and worst things about your job?
I love being involved with motivated individuals and in the build up and the big occasions i.e. cup finals. Working in an environment that is a continually evolving field and thus, the need to keep improving. That brings a pressure to deliver a 10/10 day, everyday, and every day being different and bringing about different challenges. The time demands and the pressure they bring to return players safely, ASAP without re-injury.

What qualifications do you need?
Ultimately, you need either a BSc or MSc in Physiotherapy to become qualified to work as a physiotherapist. Since the government’s decision to remove NHS funding for healthcare courses if I was looking to work specifically as a sports physio I would look at enrolling on a sports physiotherapy programme. Several of these have started or are due to start, and generally last four years in duration and give you full chartered physiotherapy status, plus sports-related content giving you the best academic preparation for a job in sport.

“Get hands on. It doesn’t matter what level of sport, but the more experience the better.”

What other experience would be useful?
Get hands on. It doesn’t matter what level of sport, but the more experience the better. Get help. Find others that have followed a similar path to the one you want to take. Find what about sport excites you i.e. treatment, rehab or a particular joint/pathology and put your time and effort here. You’re more likely to get better at what you do if you enjoy the subject more.

Where can you study?
Regarding physiotherapy study, I can only really vouch for the BSc Physiotherapy programme at my place of study, the University of Bradford. However, as physiotherapy programmes go, most are largely similar in content given the stipulations from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Having also studied at Leeds Beckett University on both the BSc Sports Performance Coaching and MSc Sport and Exercise Biomechanics programmes, I can also recommend this institution in respect of their quality of facilities and teaching. Useful Websites www.rehabroom.co.uk