My background in competing in sport had a great influence on my decision to be a physiotherapist. I started Taekwondo as a child and started competing competitively as a teenager. Taekwondo is a martial art which involves kicking a punching. In competition, you compete continuously for 1-3 rounds of 2-3 minutes. Like amateur boxing, you can win by scoring the most points for successful punches/kicks landed or you can win by knock out. I became a junior British champion at 15 and was fortunately enough to be given an elite sport scholarship to study a Sports degree at Bournemouth University at 18 years old. This enabled me to study while also gave me the opportunity and facilities to continue playing Taekwondo. This gave me a great insight into the roles in professional sport as I was provided with an MDT (Multi Disciplinary Team) to assist my training. I worked a nutritionist, sports psychologist, strength & conditioning coaches and a physiotherapist.
While studying at Bournemouth University, I became a national adult champion and came second place in a European Championship in 2004. There are 2 different styles of Taekwondo with slight different rules in the format and scoring in competition. The other style to the one I had trained in, is the style used in the Olympics. Unfortunately, changing styles in easier said than done. I had to retrain and be reassessed in order to gain my blackbelt in the Olympic style, to allow me to compete at the highest level.
In the Olympic style, there is minimal punching, fortunately for me, I was a lot better at kicking than punching so I adapted quite quickly. Within a couple of years, I won a National title in this style and was very proud to be picked to represent the Irish National Olympic Taekwondo team. Agonisingly, it took a year from being picked to actually representing Ireland due to injury. One month before the world championships, I damage knee ligaments, resulting in me being unable to compete in that competition or the World University games a few months after. I then had a series of relatively minor injuries which kept delaying my return to sport. After a year out of sport with injury, I was picked to compete in the European championships. I had only competed competitively in 2 competitions that year, therefore on reflection (as a physiotherapist), I wasn’t truly fit enough to return to the international stage. It was during this difficult period that I choose to become a physiotherapist, rather than continue with competitive sport.
I feel my first hand experience of high level sport as an athlete and as a sport physiotherapist gives me a great understanding of the demands placed on people who play sport. I have experience of the psychological impact an injury has and hope this allows me to empathies with people who wish to get back to playing. So whether you are an elite level athlete or a weekend warrior, I understand that you will want to get back playing as soon as safely possible.
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