SportsInjuryFix.comDirector Mike James has spent over 20 years working as a Physio, Sports Rehabilitator and Physical Training Instructor. He has been employed within the military, NHS, private and elite sport sectors. Here he gives his thoughts on seeking injury advice online.
These days advice on sports injury prevention and treatment appears everywhere. Social Media platforms and open or closed group forums are a plenty, some hosted by healthcare professionals, others by patients or people participating in sport. Coupled with this, mainstream media continues in the form of magazines and websites to offer a constant stream of articles, videos, blogs and thoughts on sports injury, training and rehabilitation.
People are now seeking quick, easily accessible advice to help them get back to, or to keep participating in their sport. The difficulty is finding a trusted source of valuable, and more importantly, accurate information that provides effective advice and often this can prove to be a minefield. I have personally followed threads where genuine people hoping to help others, provide advice based on hearsay and personal anecdotal experience, that is so far from the current best practise evidence base, that it could potentially lead to more harm than help. At best, it can confuse a sports person, prolong symptoms and delay recovery and a return to full training and competition.
Getting online advice is not necessarily always bad though, it can offer a quick and easy snapshot of possible injury diagnosis and treatment advice, and most online advice is generally caveated with “if in doubt, seek the advice of a healthcare professional”. Make sure to check the website and/or person for the appropriate qualifications and industry association accreditation though, if all is in place then these are safe, quick and sometimes effective ways of getting the help you need.
So, is, the gold standard advice to still see a professional in person? I would say yes. I know that may seem like a biased therapist looking through rose-tinted glasses, but as an experienced sports person, who also understands how simple aches and pains can affect you, I have and still do seek regular advice and assessment from my colleagues to keep me on track.
The human body is complex, but more importantly, it is extremely individual. Although “pattern recognition” (seeing trends and commonalities in patients) is a well-established diagnostic tool in therapy, physical and subjective assessment of the individual cannot be replaced if we are aiming to identify the root cause of any issues and return the person to their sport in an improved condition. Spending time talking to an individual about their training history, conditioning status, work, life and family situations, as well as their thoughts, beliefs, fears and values via a thorough clinical and functional assessment in order to address these findings remains the optimal method of helping someone.
Seeing someone “in person” also helps to develop the “therapeutic alliance”, a well-established factor in assisting the success of any treatment episode. The relationship between therapist and sports person / patient that promotes trust, honesty, confidence and collaborative goal setting and adherence, with the ultimate aim of promoting self-management through education.
However, life often gets in the way, and attending an “in person” session can be difficult. Recent times have seen an increase in online assessments via platforms such as FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype where a 20-30-minute face to face assessment is performed where you may even be asked to do some movements or physical tests after a short conversation. These allow the therapist to create a working diagnosis of what your problems may be and to provide the most accurate and effective advice and treatment. I have trialled these myself, I am yet to make a judgement on whether they are something I will continue to use in the long term, they will never replace or improve on an in-person assessment, but they can offer an effective halfway house option that bridges the gap between online advice and a full appointment. It can often provide a platform to “catch things early” and reduce the risk of things worsening and becoming a bigger issue, or indeed, they can be used to confirm the need for a full in person assessment.
If in doubt, my advice would always be to seek the advice and assessment in person of a healthcare profession, sports people want to play sport, and an in-person assessment is the most appropriate and effective way of facilitating an appropriate return to play, or to manage you through a period of training and to get to the start line on race day.
Aim to find a therapist by the type of person they are and their experience of your injury and sport, rather than by their profession, good therapists tend to practice in a very similar way despite variations in training background or title. If you feel that you need to find a therapist who can help you play or train to your maximum and keep those niggles and injuries at bay then visit SportsInjuryFix.com, the only place that you can search for a therapist by sport and /or injury.