The nuances of current scenario of sports physiotherapy in India By Dr. Alagappan Thiyagarajan

GAPTCON Blow Writing Competition

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 Introduction:

In India, sports physiotherapy is a specialist course that mostly physiotherapists pursue as a master’s degree after completing a bachelor’s degree, in particular with higher expectations. Students choose sports physiotherapy courses for a variety of reasons, including professional recognition, a passion for work, respect, a reasonable beginning salary, and the opportunity to travel with a sports team. (Ref) After completion, the physiotherapists become a significant and valuable person in the rehabilitation of sports athletes. Among the job roles of sports physiotherapists the primary responsibilities are managing on-field sports injuries, preventing sports injuries, working on injuries in the outpatient department, working with post-operative arthroscopic surgery patients, and travelling with sports teams or individual athletes for short or rarely long contract durations.(1)

 Sports physiotherapy enables people of all ages and abilities to participate in sports and exercise activities in a safe manner. In India, there are several sports leagues, such as the Indian Premier League, the Indian Super League, the Tennis Premier League, the Tennis Premier League, the Hockey India competitions, the Pro Kabaddi events, and many more to mention. The league, in conjunction with national team activities not only exposes and uplift athletes to the next stages of their careers but also there is a strong demand for support staff as well as the number of sporting events increases.(1)

Physical screening, assessments, and largely exercise-based therapies are provided by physiotherapy as a profession to provide meaningful solutions to sports injuries. As time goes on, the demand for this expertise in India will grow, as will the expectations of physiotherapists. This article provides an overview of:

1. The benefits and drawbacks of working as a sports physiotherapist

2. The current state of sports physiotherapy practice in India
3. Approaches to enhance sports physiotherapy practice in India in terms of professional development, compensation, and self-esteem.

1. Sports physiotherapists have the advantage of using a wide range of rehabilitation protocols, exercise tools and manual therapy, which claims to be an effective alternative approach for pain management and functional regaining, and hands-on passive adjunct therapy approaches such as dry needling, cupping therapy, and other techniques. (7) Satisfaction in professional practice, on-field support for an injured athlete, primary responsible person for rehabilitating an athlete, and working with a multidisciplinary team of sports medicine physicians, sports science professionals, and allied professionals are all claimed to be significant advantages for the practicing physiotherapists.However,Short contracts, financial worries, requiring a quick turnaround in treatment with regard to athlete and team management, and a lack of teamwork are all said to be important difficulties for Indian sports physiotherapists in the current scenario (10). Indeed, the assumptions of an athlete’s past physiotherapy treatment experiences, as well as the traditional assumption that a physician should be the first point of contact, have both been identified as disadvantages for sports physiotherapy practice.(9).   

2. The issue with Indian sports physiotherapy schools is that they are not  well structured to provide an elaborate and participatory practical training in treating players both on and off the field, using best evidence-based practice therapies, and executing innovative treatments. To mention, courses available at universities provide a detailed description of subjects such as biomechanics, exercise physiology, manual therapy, sports injury assessment and management, physical and functional diagnosis, but they do not focus on providing practical training on treating athletes both on and off the field could be the acceptable limitations(3).

This inadequate curriculum, along with a lack of emphasis on critical issues to be covered during the course, leads to the production of low-quality sports physiotherapists (5). Moreover, sports physiotherapists are underutilized in sports teams due to weak evaluation skills and non-evidence-based treatment practices. Nevertheless, most sports teams in India or individual athletes utilize a physiotherapist throughout the season or during a match, but hiring a physiotherapist for a whole year is uncommon due to a lack of a long-term athlete development strategy that is not well implemented across athletic teams in India(4).

3. The issue starts with the academic curriculum, which must be developed and managed in order to fulfill sufficient requirements based on the professional demands. It is eventually recommended that these activities of curriculum enhancement be carried out by qualified, experienced and clinical physiotherapy specialists (4). Especially Postgraduate physiotherapy students and practicing sports physiotherapists should focus on proposing activities that promote a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as educating on fair play and anti-doping initiatives. (1) This allows the general public and sports professional team officials in India to recognize the need for sports physiotherapists; in particular, these activities will provide a better possibility for hiring sports physiotherapists. (10)

Improving assessment skills, implementing evidence-based high-quality treatment, promoting research activities, broadening scope of practice, commitment to lifelong learning, and being an innovator and key team member on a sports medicine and science team are just a few of the key qualities that Indian sports physiotherapists should strive for, in order to improve the practice of sports physiotherapy in India. Nonetheless, being personable and open-minded, having professional communication skills, and exhibiting enthusiasm in treating a sports injury are all positive characteristics of a sports physiotherapist. Inadequate persuading skills are exacerbated by medical insecurity, a lack of excitement for treating sports injuries, and a sense of complacency about their roles. (1)(6). It is critical for the development of Indian sports physiotherapy standards to have contract clarity and to work as a team of physiotherapists, including the next generation of sports physiotherapists. Physiotherapists must vow not to criticize, respect the profession, and maintain their dignity.

India is a fast-paced country. Physiotherapy, a profession that specializes in mobility, is no exception!

References:

1. Sports Physiotherapy In India: What It Takes To Be A Sports Physio – TAMARA ZWECK- physio times

2. Ahuja D, Sabapathy S, Kumar S. Physiotherapists’ dilemma—to Dr or not to Dr? Physiotimes. 2011;6(2):16‐19.

3. Kumar SP. Physical Therapy—a review on realization of the need v/s need for the realisation. Physiotimes. 2011;2:12‐15.

4.Ravindra S, Debur R. Physiotherapy education in India: Challenges ahead. Physiotimes. 2011;3:14‐16.

5. Swaminathan N, D’Souza VV. Entry level physiotherapy curriculum in India—an insight. Physiotimes. 2011;3:18‐21.

6. https://www.physio-pedia.com/The_Role_of_the_Sports_Physiotherapist

7. https://sportsphysiotherapy.org.nz/what-is-sports-physiotherapy/

8.Grant ME, Steffen K, Glasgow P, Phillips N, Booth L, Galligan M. The role of sports physiotherapy at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Jan;48(1):63-70.

9.Brukner P, Khan K & colleagues. Clinical Sports Medicine.3rd ed. Sydney.McGraw-Hill. 2007.

10. Woods A, Woods CB. An exploration of the perspectives of elite Irish rowers on the role of the sports physiotherapist.PhysTher Sport. 2012 Feb;13(1):16-21.

11.Bulley, C., Donaghy, M., Coppoolse, R., Bizzini, M., van Cingel, R., DeCarlo, M., Dekker, L., Grant, M., Meeusen, R., Phillips, N., &Risberg, M. (2004) Sports Physiotherapy Competencies and Standards.

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