Employment: EVERY WAKING MOMENT - Growing Interest in the Field of Sports Medicine

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), August 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Employment: EVERY WAKING MOMENT - Growing Interest in the Field of Sports Medicine


OVER in Canada this week, many of the world's top athletes are competing in the World Championships. Following years of training they have qualified to compete in one of the most prestigious athletics meetings in the world.

Of course they haven't done it alone. With them they have an army of fitness trainers, nutritionists and physiotherapists, all on hand to make sure they are in perfect condition.

And if any problems or accidents happen, there are qualified sports medicine professionals ready to work their magic to get the athletes back to fitness as quickly as possible.

The vast majority of recreational sports men and women can only dream of such support. They go down to their local sports centres, hockey, rugby or football pitches and take part purely for the fun of it.

But as we in Britain begin to take sport more seriously, encouraged by government advertisements extolling the virtues of healthy living, there is also a growing interest in and demand for the services of properly equipped sports injuries facilities.

The Sports Medicine Department at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast is the first of its kind in Ireland and the man in charge of the unit, Professor Michael Cullen believes its opening was well overdue.

"The Unit was set up in 1996 in response to a demand not only from hospital consultants who found they were dealing with an increasing number of injuries related to sports, but also by the Sports Council itself. There have been a number of very high profile campaigns over the past few years trying to get people more fit and active, yet there was little money being put into the system to provide the necessary medical backup." he said.

The department was officially opened by former Northern Ireland manager, Bryan Hamilton, and Professor Cullen is himself the team doctor for the country's international football squad, but he is keen to point out that the vast majority of the cases he and his team treat are ordinary sports people in the Province.

"Of course there are some high profile professional sportsmen and women who come to see us but the unit is not just for elite athletes. Here in the department nearly 60 per cent of our patients are referred by their GPs, and many others are sent here by their local sports clubs. We treat all sorts of people, with many different types of injury." he said.

Some of the cases are serious though many can be easily managed with the right equipment and treatment.

"About 15% of the people I see require surgery, but most of them simply require a series of injections, rehabilitation or physiotherapy."

Each week, the doctors see an average of 60 people through outpatients and the physiotherapists treat over a hundred cases. And the department is well equipped to deal with this increasing number of patients coming through the door, with a staff of four physiotherapists and a podiatrist assisting the work of the medical team.

Given the large numbers of people attending the sports medicine department in the hospital, there is obviously a demand in the country for such a facility, yet Professor Cullen and his team face a constant battle for funding.

"The problem is, of course, that funds in the NHS are limited and there are many people who don't recognise sports medicine as a speciality. …

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