Irish students who wish to pursue a career in a sports-related field, but do not have an inclination towards a participatory sporting role, have numerous interesting postgraduate options available to them. There is now a wide range of courses in sports medicine operating throughout the country, and it is an area in which the standard of instruction and education has been steadily improving.
The discipline that immediately springs to mind, when sports medicine is mentioned, is physiotherapy. Peter Hopkins is a chartered physiotherapist, who completed a Masters in Physiotherapy in UCD, specialising in Golf Mechanics. He also completed a Certificate in Manual Therapy, in Perth, Australia – the country widely regarded as possessing the finest physiotherapy postgraduate options – but feels that Ireland’s programmes within this field are steadily narrowing the perceived quality gap.
‘I believe that Irish postgraduate education, in relation to physiotherapy, has come on in leaps and bounds in the recent past,’ Hopkins states. ‘People once preferred to travel to Australia to do post grads. But, with the arrival of a lot of new post grad courses in Irish universities – especially in manual therapy – more people choose to continue to study at home.’
Dr. Aideen Henry, Coordinator of the Masters in Sports and Exercise Medicine, and the Masters in Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy at NUI Galway, echoes this assessment.
‘I believe the standard (of Irish postgraduate education in sports medicine) is high,’ she states. ‘It is equivalent to the UK, but behind New Zealand and Australia, where the programmes are longer established.’
One of the real positives, when assessing the standard of Ireland’s postgraduate courses in sports medicine, is that the skills gleaned by postgraduates in this area can be applied very directly to their subsequent work. Peter Hopkins, for instance, has pursued a very successful career, which has incorporated his area of postgraduate specialisation.
‘I based my research on golf biomechanics, and now a lot of my work is with golfers of all abilities,’ he explains. ‘I work closely with the teaching pro, putting together rehabilitation programmes to help golfers build a more efficient golf swing, which aids performance and helps avoid injury.’
But what programmes are available to those who wish to pursue a career in sports medicine? As was previously touched upon, NUI Galway offers MSc courses in both Sports and Exercise Medicine, and Sports Physiotherapy. These courses are not just concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of sports injuries; they also provide students with the necessary skills to give advice on the prevention of injury. In addition, the programme provides instruction in the theory and application of Sports Psychology, Sports Nutrition, and ethical issues within
sport (among numerous other modules).
There is a range of good career opportunities deriving from a course such as this. To become a team doctor with the FAI, IRFU or GAA, one must have a masters qualification in sports and exercise medicine. Indeed, Dr. Aideen Henry believes that there are a number of specific areas in which graduates can hone and pursue their skills, following completion of their qualification.
‘Doctors incorporate sports and exercise medicine into their general practice, accident & emergency, and orthopaedic practices,’ she explains. ‘Also, physios incorporate sports and exercise physiotherapy into their hospital, private practice and team physio work.’
Of course, there are a number of other possibilities available to prospective postgraduate students within this area. University College Cork offers an MMedSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine, which is taken as a part-time option over the course of two years. It provides an interesting mixture of lectures, seminars, clinics and practical sessions, taking in a wide range of subjects along the way. Some modules are concerned with the treatment of sports injuries (Immunology, Cardiology and Rehabilitation for instance), while some focus on the relation between general health and sports medicine (Exercise and Weight Reduction, and Prescribing Exercise to the Un-Athletic, for example).
Trinity College Dublin offers an MSc in Sports Medicine, which is completed over the course of one year as a full-time option. In a similar fashion to the aforementioned courses, it includes top-quality training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sporting injuries, while also providing guidelines for the monitoring and training of athletes.
UCD’s School Of Physiotherapy and Performance Science offers a MCsPGDip in Sports Physiotherapy, which is pursued over the course of two years, in a part-time capacity. The programme promises a mixture of all aspects of sports physiotherapy, while also including elements of Sports Psychology and Clinical Examination (among several other broadly sports-related modules).
A burning question for many people interested in beginning a postgraduate option in this area may be: is sporting ability, or even just an interest in sport, required to successfully pursue a subsequent career? Encouragingly, Peter Hopkins believes that it is possible to use the qualification to find work in non-sporting areas, if one so wishes.
‘Although a lot of my classmates in college were interested in sport, many people found during their training that particular areas of physiotherapy interested them more than others,’ he explains. ‘Naturally enough, their interests led them into other areas of physiotherapy
such as neurology, respiratory and care of the elderly.’
So, a postgraduate qualification in sports medicine opens up a wider range of career possibilities than some may think. In addition, if one wishes to become involved in the treatment and assistance of professional athletes, a course in this area provides the best possible preparation.