Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Tuesday 21st January 2014

There is light at the end of the tunnel!  This Friday, I will sit both my NSCA CSCS exams & I feel as though I have prepared as well as I could have done.  Once I have the results, I intend to write a brief review of which strategies worked for me & also pass on the advice others were kind enough to share with me to point me in the right direction.

In the meantime, I am catching up on writing my blog because I realise the importance of keeping myself connected with my colleagues in all the related professions around the World.

I often receive emails from people that have read one or more of the posts & I am interested to see which topics seem to trigger the best response.  Whilst I reply to every email, I really enjoy finding out more about the work that others are involved in, related to the topics I have posted.

To that end, I have shared a few emails with a fellow sports physiotherapist, Helen Millson, since the article I wrote in relation to the Hip & Groin Consensus paper back in December.  Helen had some really interesting views in relation to the paper & the area has become somewhat of a passion for her. 

For those of you that didn’t get chance to read it, click on the link below

Sheen, A.J. et al (2013). "Treatment of Sportsmans' groin": British Hernia Society's 2014 position statement based on the Manchester Consensus Conference. Br J Sports Med, published online doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092872

It became apparent that Helen’s career in sports physiotherapy has been a great adventure & she kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the blog.


OF:  Helen, please introduce yourself in 10 words or less 

HM:  I am a sports physiotherapist who has had an amazing journey in my career.


OF:  What is your current role?

HM:  I am currently a medical advisor for insurance companies who cover Premier League football clubs & other elite sports people.  I also treat sports patients & give many presentations /workshops nationally & internationally.


OF:  You have worked with several South African sports teams at an elite level over the years.  Which organisation permitted you to be the most innovative & what strategies were you subsequently able to introduce that you were particularly proud of?

HM:  Starting travelling internationally with teams after Mandela was released & we became acceptable as a nation, I had to learn & innovate very quickly.

I was very lucky to be trusted & could thus implement new strategies with all the teams. However, I had to win this trust & respect.  This was done by demonstrating my knowledge (I never ever stopped learning!) & honesty at all times, i.e. not pleasing the management, but focusing always on the sports person being treated.

To this day there is a post graduate student at Kent University who is doing her Doctorate, attempting to verify the 7 graded hamstring tests that I devised for RTP criteria.  I was desperate for a solution to the hamstring dilemma & thus devised a strategy which worked.

I have shared my approach with many people; however I would love some scientific backing & thus making it more acceptable internationally.

I have other strategies as well.  One MUST be innovative at all times when in our line of work & constantly look for solutions.


OF:  Which organisation challenged you the most?  Why?  How did you overcome those challenges?

HM:  I think I was constantly challenged….mostly by myself but also by the players & management.

I guess the time I was “kicked out” of South African rugby for being a female was the most challenging.  However, this just became a political issue so the best thing I did was to maintain silence & just get on with my work.  

It caused huge furore both around SA & internationally.  South Africa had just released Mandela & we were supposed to be a new & “revised” country where there was meant to be no more discrimination.


OF:  The political landscape of South Africa was historically intertwined with the sporting landscape of the country.  How has this situation changed since you first started working in sport & what issues remain?

HM:  I think it has changed a lot since the early 1990s.  In those early days the rugby world in particular was a microcosm of the political world of South Africa.  This has slowly evolved.

The issue of political correctness, with specific numbers of all races taking part in all sports has not gone.  However, it is not nearly as forceful.  Fortunately, there are now more opportunities for all people in South Africa, regardless of colour or creed, to take part in all sports.

Thus the forced integration is no longer the case (it was really hard for those who were chosen on merit & were seen to be “token”).  I had the privilege of walking the walk with them.


OF:  Who has been your biggest inspiration to pursue the career path you have?  Who are your current mentors & how do they support you best?

HM:  I guess the person who mostly walked the walk with me, was my mother….she was an amazing & very wise woman.  It was my privilege to be her daughter.

Right now, I have many incredible mentors. I could name quite a number. Interestingly enough, the better the professional is, the more he/she is willing to embrace, teach & mentor a person.


OF:  If you were able to meet your 18 year old self & share one piece of advice, what would it be?

HM:  Never stop querying everything, growing, learning & breaking boundaries where possible.


OF:  What advice would you offer to young physiotherapists out there looking to get started on a career in sports physiotherapy?

HM:  Don’t aim to do the “top” sports teams.

My journey, where I did years of unpaid but awesome learning by being at the field side of school, universities, clubs & individual sportspeople, stood me in such good stead.

I never applied for a single job ….they came to me & it was an ongoing path to eventually dealing with top elite sports people. Thus, although, I never felt that I knew everything (& still don’t), I never felt threatened or the need to have to prove myself…I just followed the path of MORE knowledge.


OF:  You are currently embarking upon your PhD.  What area have you decided to research & where did your interest in this area stem from?

HM:  I am fortunate to be doing a Professional Doctorate through Kent University.

It is on groin & hip quandaries.  Because I go to all the Premier League Football Clubs, I have an amazing overview of what pathologies are most prominent.

Some medical personnel working in Premier League football asked me to do a groin/hip handbook on the latest international evidence (2012).  I had previously written two handbooks on aspects of knees.

It didn’t mean I was smart…it was just an amazing amount of hard work collating all the evidence – 240 studies!!  Twelve of the top specialists in this field gave me their bullet points as well.

I then was asked to give groin & hip related presentations all over & thus had many more updated references.

I go to all the hip & groin conferences & it is fascinating to see that there is NO consensus.

Thus I made the decision to do the PHD, as I believe there IS a solution.


OF:  What are your top three tips for clinicians when assessing, treating, rehabilitating or preventing injury in the hip & groin area?

HM:  In no particular order:             

·         In depth anatomical knowledge

·         Take cognisance of the entire kinetic chain

·         Where possible baseline testing & subsequent pre-habilitation for prevention

It is also important to collaborate where necessary with colleagues & specialists.


OF:  In your opinion, which are the seminal research papers that have been published in this area so far & who's work do you always look out for in relation to the hip & groin?

HM:  Whew…I have so many but there are definitely the very learned & highly respected in this field.

One must bear in mind that whilst there are many studies related to groin & hips, hip studies are proliferating & a topic to be explored both together & separately.

I have a list of really good authors & experts in this field but Per Holmich is my guru.


OF:  What do you do to unwind away from your clinical & academic work?

HM:  I have an amazing life & I LOVE being outdoors.   

I enjoy cycling wherever I can & recently cycled to Denmark from London.  I kayak & hike a lot in the UK but also have been up the Pyrenees & in Peru.

However, my 3 children are my greatest joy & best friends. They never stop challenging me!!


Helen, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts & I wish you the best of luck in your PhD. 

I hope to be writing more about your studies & sharing the references on the site in the future.

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