Better outcomes, better interprofessional relationships, and better for business.
For almost three decades I have been fortunate to work in a collaborative environment. I began my career as a strength and conditioning specialist and found great joy in helping athletes; professional, amateur, and youth, achieve their dreams. All too often their pathway to ultimate success was interrupted by injury.
Injury for most serious athletes is a part of the process, not an if, but more a when and how bad. In my early days as an S&C coach I relied heavily on the expertise of the therapists working in our facility. When I had an injured athlete, I would go sit in with them during treatments with the chiropractor or physiotherapist. We would discuss the nature of the injury, the mechanism, the tissues involved, and the pathway to recovery. For me it was a fascination that led to me returning to school to become a chiropractor. But what I didn’t realize in my enthusiasm was that I was establishing the foundations of better patient care, I was connecting to the therapist, and I was generating referrals for myself as I became a trusted resource for the therapist when a patient was ready for rehabilitative exercise.
My goal in writing this is to inspire greater collaboration between our burgeoning organization of the CSCA and the health care community. Health care professionals are notoriously overburdened, with little time for exercise therapy, and yet it is the exercise that provides lasting relief and ultimately prevents recurrence. The S&C coach is a vital resource for athletes during recovery. In most cases the S&C coach knows the athlete better, as they spend the most time with them. The S&C coach has expert knowledge in the science of load management, exercise prescription, program design, and the art of controlling for fatigue, form control, and individual athlete psychology (when to push and when to back off). Health care professionals are often hesitant to refer to just any personal trainer as there is so much variety in educational background, experience, and understanding of the relevant anatomy and physiology.
A quick literature search reveals multiple articles that support the use of the S&C coach in injury recovery. Reiman and Lorenz (2011) found that using principles of strength and conditioning led to better outcomes and could be used at multiple phases throughout the rehabilitation process. Rossi (2011) similarly found better results when a strength and conditioning professional was included in the rehab after a total knee replacement. These are just two examples of many. The bottom line is that a collaborative approach to athlete recovery provides the best outcomes.
Many S&C coaches working in a university or college environment may already be used to a collaborative approach. For those operating in private setting connecting with health care professionals can be a valuable way to increase exposure in the community.
Some simple steps to help facilitate this would be to start by asking your current clients who they see for their injuries and rehabilitation. Connect with those people with an introductory letter, or have your athletes help you connect with them. Another approach is to do a Google search of health care professionals in your area, particularly the ones that deal with your desired clientele. Reach out to them with a letter or email of introduction. Finding out if any of the teams you are associated with have medical professionals associated with them is also a good strategy. After you have made the connection the final and potentially most important step is the follow up. If a medical professional refers you a client, you will build a much better rapport if you send the practitioner status updates and reports along the way. These reports should summarize your findings and the progress you made. Once a practitioner sees they have a trusted ally in patient care they will be more likely to send you future patients.
The S&C profession in Canada is growing steadily. Learning to work with our health care professionals will further cement our growing reputation as leaders in the field.
Dr. Ryan Scott is a strength and conditioing coach and chiropractor who works with weekend warriors and elite athletes. He is the co-owner and operator of Advantage 4 Atheltes, a training centre and therapy clinic in Markham Ontario. Ryan is also a member of the CSCA’s Advisory Team and Standards Committee.
Rossi, M. (2011). An overview of total knee replacement and the role of the strength and conditioning professional. Strength and Conditioning Journal 33(3). pp. 88-99.
Reiman, M.P. & Lorenz D.S. (2011). Integration of strength and conditioning principles into a rehabilitation program. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 6(3). pp. 241-253.