14 Oct Interview with Anthony Bosson – Teaching Fellow, THEi
1. Tell us about your background and how you got involved in Sports Therapy. Can you give us a brief account of how Sports Therapy has evolved over the past two decades?
I was a swimmer and water-polo player from an early age and eventually competed at international level which is when I sustained minor injuries resulting in treatment from the team medical staff. This initially sparked my interest in sports therapy so I attained the Football Association (FA) Diploma in Treatment & Management of Injuries before achieving a first-class BSc. (Hons) degree in Sports Therapy from the University of Birmingham all of which led me to becoming involved in GB Swimming and England Athletics at training camps and major events.
Sports Therapy, as a profession, has been around for about 25 years now. It started off with a diploma course but has evolved to MSc. and BSc (Hons) programmes being delivered by over 20 higher education institutions throughout the United Kingdom. This has provided employment opportunities for sports therapists to work in a multidisciplinary team alongside physiotherapists.
2. How does a sports therapist work within the medical team? Tell us more about your experience with Aston Villa, from the English Premier League.
Sports Therapists can be quite wide ranging within a team, but usually they tend to focus on emergency pitch-side treatment, sports massage, flexibility stretching and short-term injury rehabilitation. If the issue is anything more serious, the players will get referred to the team physiotherapist where both practitioners will work closely together during the rehabilitation process.
At Aston Villa, I was head of the women’s medical team in the Super League looking after 30 players, and also worked as a sports therapist under the supervision of the Head of Sports Medicine at the AVFC Academy and Men’s teams. My role involved many duties from baseline fitness testing with the sports scientists, to musculoskeletal assessment and treatment of injuries but the most important job was the implementation of the injury prevention programmes. It was a great experience overall and has prepared me well for my current role as the Head of Medical for the first-team at Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC).
3. Tell us about your experience working at the London Olympics 2012.
This was arguably the greatest experience of my life. I worked in the state-of-the-art polyclinic situated in the Athletes Village and was exposed to both emergency and minor injuries in triage all the way through the referral process. As a sports therapist, I was the first point-of-contact for athletes without emergency injuries, focusing mainly on musculoskeletal issues for pre-event preparation and post-event recovery and regeneration. I often referred patients to specialists to obtain greater experience working with chiropractors, pathologists, radiologists, and doctors, however I would work closely with the physiotherapy team for the majority of the time. There were many highlights including jumping on the bus with Usain Bolt on the way to his 100m final and holding the gold medals of many athletes. Yes, this experience definitely reflects the pinnacle of my career!
4. What is your favourite sport to work with?
That is a very hard question to answer as there are many benefits from working with both individual sports and team sports. Individual sports provide higher expectations and stress levels as you’re just working one-on-one with the athlete. Whereas, in a team sport, such as football, it is a bit more relaxed and fun working with several players at the same time. Whether it’s individuals or in teams, it is a results based industry and you still have to deliver high quality performance as a sports therapist. I honestly enjoyed every opportunity I have taken but I have to say that working in first-team football provided the passion and adrenalin that I thrive on.
5. When and why did you decide to work in sports education?
While I was a student I attained the Certificate in Education allowing me to teach sports massage therapy at diploma level. When I graduated from the University of Birmingham I immediately had the passion to teach in higher education so I completed my Post-graduate Certificate in Higher and Professional Education at Staffordshire University. Within one year I returned to Birmingham to teach on the same course where I was once a student. Passing on my real-life experience to students provided great motivation and career development. I decided to teach part-time whilst still working in the clinical setting with Aston Villa FC to promote my personal development by combining academia and clinical research.
6. Why Hong Kong? What’s your vision for sports therapy in Hong Kong?
It is very evident that Hong Kong has an active sports and exercise culture with people exercising everywhere you look. I chose Hong Kong because I saw a huge growth opportunity in the industry and wanted to transfer my skills and experience to my students at The Technological and Higher Education of Hong Kong (THEi). A large number of our first cohort of graduates have already commenced full-time employment with some very reputable companies and organisations in Hong Kong. Eventually, I believe sports therapy will work closely with both the educational and healthcare industries in addition to sports teams and physiotherapy clinics.
7. Is there a difference in sports therapy in Hong Kong compared to the United Kingdom?
Operationally, it’s pretty much the same. Physiotherapy students do not have very much exposure to sports injury related issues, whereas sports therapists receive a high volume of sports injuries from day one of their study. Sports therapy is predominantly focused around musculoskeletal conditions, functional anatomy and sports injury related treatment.
Culturally, sports therapy is relatively new in Hong Kong, so it is important to recognise and appreciate that the physiotherapy industry has been here for a very long time therefore our students at THEi are nurtured to demonstrate high level professionalism and respect towards the physiotherapy industry and other healthcare providers. THEi consult regularly with senior physiotherapy professors to ensure that sports therapy services complement the services of other healthcare providers.
8. What is your vision for Sports Therapy employment in Hong Kong?
It would be great to see more physiotherapy clinics hiring sports therapists to work alongside them to create greater cohesion in the rehabilitation process. I also hope more leisure organisations and sports clubs realise the importance of sports therapists, so that we can create a multi-disciplinary medical team approach. The reputation and demand for sports therapists is expanding well so I expect our future graduates will benefit from a wide range of employment opportunities in the future.
9. What is your short term and long term goals for the Sports Therapy programme at THEi?
In the short term, I’d love to see the establishment of an alumni and them being placed within different roles in the industry. It would be great to see the establishment of a Hong Kong Institute of Sports Therapy, which is accredited and provides standards of competencies, indemnity insurance, and continuing professional development opportunities.
In the long term, it is expected that THEi will provide MSc degree programmes to supplement the development of sports therapy. It is also anticipated that the title of ‘sports therapist’ may become a protected title in Hong Kong, similar to that of a ‘physiotherapist’.
10. How has your relationship with SPI evolve and how do you work together for the benefit of Sports Therapy students?
THEi became affiliated with Hong Kong Rugby Union shortly after my arrival in Hong Kong and this led me to Philippa Stewart (Director of SPI). She became very interested in the role of a sports therapist and our course curriculum at THEi and soon began to provide students with work-integrated learning opportunities at several elite sporting events including the ITF Tennis, European Tour Golf, and ICC Cricket. Our relationship with SPI has evolved to higher levels following the employment of some of THEi graduates. It is evident that Philippa and her team are strongly committed to nurturing the next generation of Sports Therapists.