Amy worked as a teacher and soccer coach at The Chigwell School outside of London before attaining her Physical Therapy Doctorate from Duke University. Amy has competed in soccer at the collegiate level and in the Scottish Women’s Premiere League.
I have always wanted to work in the soccer. But not just any soccer, I want to be an academy physio in the English Premier League.
I grew up playing soccer, watching soccer, living and breathing soccer. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in college as well as in the Scottish Women’s Premiere League. From a young age I wanted to play on the US Women’s National team; but upon realizing I wasn’t quite that good, I decided I would take a different approach. I would live soccer from a different aspect of the game. Today, I spend my mornings in a sports clinic working with a general orthopedic population but a large number of endurance athletes. However, it’s my afternoons that I live for. I spend my afternoons at the Capital Area Soccer League, one of the largest youth soccer clubs in the US. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job job. I’ve learned so much clinically being in both settings. I needed to know how to break down and teach running for my recreational runner before I could build neuromuscular re-education for my 14 year old soccer player. I needed to see how my 17 year old soccer player planted their foot before a shot before I could help train my competitive track athlete to take curves better. So for me; living and working already involves soccer. But I still want more! And while you might think this is crazy, since I already play, work, follow, talk, and am constantly thinking about soccer. There is something else I crave. To live in a soccer culture!
My goal of spending a week in England in April was two-fold. First, attend the Isokinetic Football Medicine Strategies on Knee Injuries Conference held at Stamford Bridge (home of Chelsea F.C.) See:http://www.isokinetic.com/index.cfm?page=centro_studi/prossimo_congresso/streaming. Second, to begin to establish some contacts whom I might be able to share ideas with on how we treat soccer players in this country vs. how they are treated in the UK.
I started my trip at Watford F.C. where I got a chance to see their facilities as well as speak with their Head Physio. Watford is in the Championship (the level below the Premiere League) and is based in Northwest London. Next stop, Arsenal F.C.. A large contrast to Watford in facilities and size, here I spoke with their Head Academy Physio. These were fantastic conversations! As these clubs have smaller numbers of players but more resources available to them they are able to use more preseason screening tools and adjust strength and conditioning to each players deficits and injury history. Watford especially had a very comprehensive program tailored to the needs of each player. Both physios were very interested in what that we do also. At CASL we use the PEAKc program (http://www.unc.edu/depts/exercise/peak/peak/Home.html) for prevention. But they were also interested in our return to sport guidelines, as well as objective tests such as LESS and the Vail Sport Test.
The next two days of my trip was dedicated to the conference. I have attended many professional conferences in the US for both the National Soccer Coaches Association of the Americans as well as the American Physical Therapy Association; however, this was my first international conference. They managed to cram a lot in to a very short period of time (two days of programming with no presentation or poster longer than 10 minutes). However, I was disappointed by the level of research. There were some very high level presentations with a huge amount of information. Presentations given by Americans such as Darin Padua or Lyn Snyder-Mackler were very well attended and evidence based. Other presentations were not as evidence based, particularly those coming from Spain, Greece, and Italy. However, this was a very important realization for me. Part of this is due to the advanced quality of research coming out of certain countries as compared to others. But sometimes we get so caught up in objective measures and the science of the profession; we leave the art of the profession behind. The game of soccer is all about its art. It’s a dance, its dynamic, its fluid; and so too is our profession. We change, adapt, learn, and adjust to the needs of our patients not to what an algorithm tells us, and we need to bear that in the forefront of our minds!
I met many people on this trip from surgeons, to physios, to acupuncturists, to researchers. The conference itself while somewhat disappointing in its research was not a failure in its networking. I hope that some the connections I have made will be beneficial in the future towards exchanging further ideas and learning the best treatments for soccer players (and maybe even a future job). There are similarities and differences regardless of where you are. The PT for the Israeli National Team and I spent a long time discussing how we find some doctors ignorant of biomechanics and contributions to injuries outside the site of pain. But we share a love for the challenge of finding research, the excitement of seeing a player return to the field, and the joy of watching and playing soccer.