This summer, a tiny bone in the foot once again became more famous than most film stars and pretty much all politicians. It was, of course, Wayne Rooney's fifth metatarsal.
England fans have been made well aware of the injury curse over the past two World Cups, and footballers know only too well that a bad injury is the one thing that can cause them to lose it all overnight.
Sports therapists help these high-earning professionals (and those of us who do sport for fun) to keep safe from injury by assessing potential risks, advising on how to avoid injury, and helping to treat and rehabilitate players when they are injured. This involves a broad knowledge base, including anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition and sports psychology.
Earnings for sports therapists range from [pound]17,000 to [pound]35,000. Many work in private clinics, treating the weekend warriors and recreational-sports fanatics who sometimes take things too far. Others work for the increasing number of professional teams that use sports therapists.
Alan Stewart, the director of the Society of Sports Therapists, says that sports therapists play a major part in most sports these days. They also work on television programmes such as Sky's The Match, in which celebrities were pitted against former football stars. "Sports therapists worked on that show," Stewart says.
Stewart was working as a PE teacher when he decided to take up sports therapy. "I've always had an interest in sport," he says.
The discipline completely changes the way you see the game, Stewart says. "When you watch sport, you don't look at goals; you look at good technique and bad technique, and the mechanisms of injury. You're more analytical and critical."
The profession is not regulated at the moment, so anyone can call themselves a sports therapist. The Society of Sports Therapists, together with the Health Professions Council, is looking into this. If you want to be legitimate, look for a Society of Sports Therapists-accredited course. There are diplomas, HNDs, foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate qualifications available in sports therapy.
Many professionals believe that a sports therapy degree is the best way in. It combines medical courses such as anatomy (what is where) and physiology (why what does what), with more sport-related courses in training and professional development, with a strong focus on assessing injuries and potential weaknesses and on various types of rehabilitation, including massage, manual therapy, …