What can you do with a Career in Sports Rehabilitation?
What does a sports rehabilitator do? What jobs can you do with a sports rehabilitation degree?
We spoke to Tom Bennett, course lead for the Sports Rehabilitation degrees at AECC University College, about his career in Sports Rehabilitation and how he got some of his big breaks.
“Even if your ambition is to work in elite sport, it’s very likely that your first job is going to be in amateur or semi-professional sport. It’s these roles that open doors for you and help your career progress.”
So Tom, can you tell us a bit about your career?
“I’ve worked exclusively within sport throughout my career, treating musculoskeletal injuries. I’ve predominantly worked in the elite sport pathway. I’ve also worked both as a practitioner and as an academic.
What was your first job after graduating?
“After graduating, I worked in semi-professional hockey and this really opened up career opportunities for me.
“We signed four international players from different countries and I then went on to work with four international teams, including the New Zealand Black Sticks. We signed a player from New Zealand who felt comfortable working with me and recommended me. Building rapport with the players and individuals that you’re working with is so important.
What kinds of things where you working on at this time?
“In these early roles, I was responsible for everything from pitch-side therapy and trauma, all the way through to player recovery. I also helped to design some of the team’s fitness training content.
How important where these roles in networking and making relationships for you?
“Yeah enormously so. Through working with Ealing Trailfinders, and being based in Twickenham, I got to know the medical team really well. Whenever a team came over to play the England Rugby team, I would be part of a team of support staff that supported them while they were in the UK. I got to work with the All Blacks, the Springboks and the Wallabies pretty much every time that they were here. I never thought I would get to work with these teams, but I did because of the relationships I had made.
“Opportunities lead to other opportunities: you have to start small for the big things to happen. The connections you make are so important; the networks of support staff are actually so small and interconnected that it doesn’t take long for someone to recommend you for another opportunity or another job that’s a lot bigger.
You also volunteered at the 2004 Olympics, what was that like?
“Yes, in 2004 I went to my first Paralympic Games in Athens, volunteering as a Therapist in the polyclinic. The polyclinic provides support services for countries that don’t have the funding for big teams of support staff. I paid my own way to do that and it gave me the chance to be part of Paralympic sport for the first time. It was a fantastic learning opportunity.
How do you think you’ve developed throughout your career?
“You’re always changing as you go through your career and as you work for elite teams, who have bigger support teams, naturally you have to adapt. For example, in the Premier League there could be upwards of 30 members of support staff and everyone has very clear roles and a clear remit. You become more specialist as a result.”
You’ve managed to stay in academia throughout your career, how important do think this is to the profession?
“I believe it’s really important for academics to be clinically active, especially in healthcare. That way, our teaching is enriched by our own practice and our clinical experiences. I think it’s fantastic that all of the teaching staff in the School of Rehabilitation, Sport and Psychology have clinical histories and are all still clinically active.
What opportunities are out there for sports rehabilitation students today?
“Graduates of Sport Rehabilitation degrees have so many opportunities available to them. For every Premier League football team, there’s at least one (typically two) full-time rehabilitation graduates working within that set-up. Professional teams see the value in Rehabilitation professionals, which is brilliant.
What advice would you give to budding sports rehabilitators?
“It’s about doing a good job at the level that you’re working in at that time – even if it’s not where you ultimately want to work. You’ll find your career starts to grow organically.
“You just don’t know where your career is going to go from being in the right place at the right time. These opportunities are rarely advertised: people want to work with support staff that they know and trust. That’s how the sports medicine world works.”
Tom is the course lead for:
Find out more about studying Rehabilitation at AECC