Sports Rehabilitators’ role in advocating for patients highlighted at national MSK conference

Date: Thursday, December 14, 2023

The vital part Sports Injury and Rehabilitation practitioners have to play in potential diagnoses in the sporting professionals they are working with was highlighted by a Wrexham University lecturer at a national conference.

Kristian Weaver, Senior Lecturer in Sports Injury Rehabilitation, gave a talk at TherapyExpo entitled ‘Therapy and Cancer – a patient and therapist perspective’.

The expo is the largest educational event in the UK for musculoskeletal (MSK) healthcare professionals including Sports Rehabilitators, Physiotherapists, Sports Therapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, and Soft Tissue Therapists.

He presented alongside Kirsty Hopgood, Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy at Edge Hill University, discussing the initial assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, outcomes, and reflections following Kirsty’s own personal injury journey leading to her being diagnosed with an osteosarcoma.

Kirsty’s diagnosis came about after she injured her ankle playing netball back in May 2016. However, the symptoms did not match the mechanism of the injury. She rehabilitated her ankle so that she could return to enjoying sporting activity but after the injury recovered, more worrying symptoms began to manifest.

Kirsty later underwent further investigations which led to a diagnosis of osteosarcoma in her fibula.

As a graduate Sports Therapist, Kirsty knew the signs and was aware that the symptoms were not in-keeping with a typical injury, resulting in her pursuing further assessment and imaging.

Speaking following the expo, Kristian said: “Our aim was to reinforce practitioners’ knowledge of recognising the signs and symptoms of cancer in clinical practice, as well as advocating for patients through the referral pathway.

“Sometimes a sports injury isn’t what it seems – there can be more to it than meets the eye, that’s why it’s important that Sports Injury and Rehabilitation practitioners have the knowledge to understand the red flags and provide a thorough assessment. They have a crucial part to play in spotting potential abnormal presentations – Kirsty’s story demonstrates that.

“It was Kirsty’s own knowledge, which prompted her to push for further investigations following on from her injury. Subsequent MRI scans indicated that it may be something more sinister leading to a biopsy, after which she received her cancer diagnosis.”

Thankfully, Kirsty has since had the all-clear and is regularly monitored to ensure she remains cancer-free.

Away from the presentation, Kristian also emphasised the importance of making time to network with colleagues from different professions and backgrounds.

He added: “It was a great experience to speak at TherapyExpo, alongside Kirsty. It’s important to network with practitioners from different professions and backgrounds – and reinforce the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork

“I would strongly encourage fellow practitioners and students to grab opportunities to network with different professions with both hands, it’s a really good way to build up your contacts but also understand how all the professions work together in the patient management pathway.”