Tuesday 18 October 2016

From Turf to Table

Well, I'm working my own practice now.

After four years of school, a national exam, and a hell of a lot of prep work, I finally opened my new clinic. As business grows, it's coming with its rewards..and lessons.

During the majority of my time in school and the couple years that followed, most of my work experience was on the sports field. In essence, my scope of practice between the field and clinic are the same. Respond to the injuries, treat the pain, rehab the injuries, and progress my clients to their return to activity.

The work life on the field is high-paced and demanding. You would think that moving to the clinic would be a refreshing change and much easier job. Yeah, no. The clinical life comes with many of its own challenges. I wouldn't call either job necessarily harder than the other, but that's just it; "easier" really doesn't exist.

Time Constraints

Firstly, yes, the fast-pace lifestyle of the field can be stressful. When you have a 10-minute intermission and seven players in line to see you, you need to be on your toes to give them what they need in a restricted amount of time. Often, you have to make some tough calls and prioritize the injury needs of some players over others in order to get your team back on the floor in as optimal order as possible. Bad bruise on your arm? Sorry, I have a thrown-out back and two fresh ankle sprains to manage. Come back to me after the game.

Pictured: The third blown-out knee in the game, probably.

On the flip side, now that I'm in the clinic, I have nothing but time to spare with my clients. However, this puts a different kind of pressure on. Athletes on a team are so eager to get back on the floor - adrenaline rushing in their veins in higher volume than blood - and half the time they'll feel better the moment you put your hands on them, even if you haven't done anything yet. (A lot of them don't seem to feel pain.) Clients in the clinic, on the other hand, have just as much time to think as you do, and so all their own focus is on their pain and sensations. With that being said, there's the extra stress of missing something or not being maximally effective with a treatment technique; stresses that you realize weren't there before when none of your athletes ever had the time to think about it.

Motor Patterns and Compensations

Yup, so athletes get injured. A lot. Every game, there's going to be something new happen, and it often feels like you're in a hopeless loop of never-ending accidents and players in pain. Arrggh, why doesn't it stop!

That's the nature of sport. Crap happens. However, the good thing about all of these constant injuries happening in your presence is that you can do something about them immediately! I'm talking within five minutes of them occurring. Do I get that convenience in the clinic? Not at all.

When an acute injury occurs, there is the traditional, tried-and-true protocol of RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can minimize the secondary tissue damage by minimizing excessive swelling, ensure that a player isn't going to hurt themselves more by discontinuing activity, and get them on early rehab exercises as early as the next day. Range of motion, proprioceptive training, and strengthening in those first few days does amazing things for recovery by making sure that damaged tissue heals and reorganizes itself in the proper patterns and line of pull immediately.

When it comes to clients who book in at the clinic, it's once in a blue moon that someone books in for an injury that was sustained just the day before. More often than not, these people have been in pain for months - if not years or decades. Their injured tissue has healed in haphazard directions, they've developed poor motor habits around their conditions, and muscles have become strong, weak, tight, and loose in compensation. It's not longer a matter of simply getting the injured joint moving; now we have to pick apart months and years of improper motor training. A sprained ankle four years ago can cause a limp, resulting in a hip weakness on the opposite side, compounding into knee and back pain and so on.

That toe sprain has completely mangled your neck.

Never Easy, But Always Fun

As you can see, both the field and clinic worlds have their challenges that contrast but don't trump one another. You can't call either job easier. However, I love both sides of my professional life. The slow, controlled pace of the clinic as well as the exciting, non-stop action of being on the field. A healthy balance keeps things interesting, and my job is definitely a lot of that!

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