After 35 years in physiotherapy, Lois Pohlod shares some tips on how to work with elite athletes
My greatest achievement is how I’ve managed to get the most out of my career as a physiotherapist by working with active Canadians. It is very rare that a physiotherapist can make a living working only with a National Sport Organization. High performance sport has been a fun addition to my life, but has not been my entire focus.
Another proud achievement has been working in private practice and helping people of all ages with a variety of sport and work backgrounds return to normal.
Rio’s 2016 Canadian Health Services Team was experienced, skilled, flexible, and a pleasure to work with. Having the opportunity to work with athletes from a range of sports and such an amazing team was a career highlight. If you’re a student or young professional looking to work with elite athletes, here is some advice for making it happen.
My first piece of advice is to have fun. Really listen to what your patients say when they describe their injury. The diagnosis will often come to you before you have finished the assessment.
If you have the chance, work in a multidisciplinary setting so that you can be part of a team working towards optimal health for your patients. Learn from all the health care professionals you work with – their experience will help you become a great therapist.
New physiotherapists should also remember to take their time with courses. There are so many post graduate courses available, including acupuncture, manual therapy, dry needling, and functional movement. It is hard to decide where to start!
I suggest spending the early part of your career developing assessment and clinical reasoning skills. Take courses in a way that you can digest and practice your new skills. It is both financially and mentally difficult to pack all the courses into the first few years of your career. I always tell people to enjoy the journey. You have 35+ years to fill your toolbox!
Physiotherapy has so many areas where you can specialize. I am now an instructor with K-Taping International Academy and I have had the privilege of working with the Women’s Health Division to develop a K-Taping for Women’s/Pelvic Health course. These physiotherapists have knowledge and skills that compliment those of the orthopedic therapist.
The discussions during the course are most interesting and provide lots of time to reflect on what approach to treatment is best. CPA’s Divisions offer a wide variety of specialties – it will take a career to gain all the knowledge that is available!
If working with elite athletes is your goal, join the SPC and take advantage of the mentorship program. The Sport Physiotherapy Certificate, Diploma and Clinical Specialty Program graduate holders are willing to help those who are working through the system.
Gain experience in many different sports. Athletes who play contact sports (unfortunately) have a great deal of injuries, but this is a good field to gain experience. Be willing to volunteer your time to gain experience as most sports do not have an adequate budget, especially at the local and provincial level. Check with the provincial sport organizations to see if they have a trainer or therapist development program in place.
About Lois Pohlod, B.Sc.P.T., McGill University 1979
Life Member, Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Diploma Sport Physiotherapy Canada
Part A Manual Therapy, Orthopedic Division CPA
Certificate Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute
Chief Therapist 1999 Pan American Games, Winnipeg
Chief Therapist 2013 World University Games, Trentino
Chief Therapist 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow
Chief Therapist 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro