What is Sports Physiotherapy with Wil Seto

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from TLR. I'm here with Wil Seto of Insync Sports Physiotherapy in Vancouver. And we're going to talk about what is the difference between a sports physiotherapist and a regular physiotherapist? How are you doing Wil? 

Wil: I'm doing great Mark, thanks. Yeah so a sport physiotherapist is essentially someone who's completed what's called their diploma in sport physiotherapy through the division of Sport Physiotherapy Canada, which is part of our Canadian Physiotherapy Association. And so someone that has completed this extensive training they have the experience and the skillset to take care of athletes at all levels. So whether it's like high performance sports, like when you're working at a national or international level to national level provincial level or everyday activities. 

Mark: So, you know, just to maybe flesh that out a little bit, like you've worked at the Olympics, you've worked with specific national teams, whether they were in Canada or other countries in a range of different sports. So maybe just outline that quickly for us. 

Wil: Yeah. So as a sport physiotherapist we're qualified to work with Canada's high performance athletes in all settings, like I was saying. And so we have that skill set and training to be able to work with athletes and teams in daily training competitions, like you mentioned in world competitions and Olympic games. And part of what's helped give us that ability to do that is that there's this very stringent, I guess we call it an examination process where you know, you have to pass in order to actually achieve the credentials and the designation as a sports physiotherapist.

And essentially the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, they oversee this program, which is called the Clinical Specialist in Sports. And this program essentially allows the diploma in sport physiotherapy to be the designation of advanced clinical reasoning through sort of what's called like a peer review or competency-based program. And this is a national recognition program. And in fact, these are international standards as well. 

Mark: So if we could boil it down, like a physiotherapist goes through a tremendous amount of training to know the physiology, anatomy, all the rest of it, how everything interplays, how does that transfer then into being a sports physiotherapist? Like what's the difference? 

Wil: Yeah, that's a great question. So essentially the sport physiotherapist, has that experience, like I was saying, that skill set to work with people to return to sport or work or even things like life-related things and those aspects of a treatment plan.

So we can come up with a carefully planned progressive exercise program that will basically allow you to do those things and get you back to doing activities in a safe manner and reducing the risk of reinjury. And so there is definitely obviously like with that credential program where you have to have a thorough understanding of also a lot of other areas. So just with sports, there's other things to consider like concussion and treatment protocols for that too. And so with our background, we also have an extensive background in orthopedic knowledge and then the added skills that we've obtained and learning how to work with people on a clinical setting as well. That's very helpful. 

And the skill set of athletic taping. So then we are actually become very advanced in learning how to do those things to help athletes or even  non athletes, you know, like you sprained your ankle, but you're really active and you want to get back to just walking around, hiking, short little hikes or something like that to get you back moving again quicker, more safely and have a more comfortable experience doing that as well.

Mark: So at your clinic, you're sort of the leader of a fairly small Canada wide cohort of people who have the Sports Physiotherapy Diploma. What was the numbers again? There's what, 10,000 physiotherapists in 250, am I right somewhere in there, are sports physios? 

Wil: Yeah. So there's just over I think like 250, or I guess more recently, maybe 300 physiotherapists who are now sports physiotherapists in Canada. So there's a two-step process. There's sort of like your certificate level and then your diploma level, which is then you can say you're a sport physiotherapist. And then at the certificate level, there's something like, I think maybe just over 350 or 400 all across Canada.

Mark: So tremendous amount of training to get there, but then to simplify it, and no disrespect to regular physiotherapists in any way shape or form, but you guys become sort of the super physiotherapists. Can I make that distinction? You've gone to a whole other level of training that's specific to sports injury and sports rehab that a normal physiotherapist does not have.

Wil: Yeah, there's definitely some physios out there that you know, they may not have gone through the system that are excellent physios. And fortunately in our group, we have physios that are also going through that process, that our certificate holders and that are about to complete the diploma to become sport physios.

And I think the biggest  thing is that because this is not only a nationally recognized program, there's also international recognition. So when you become a sport visit therapist, you know, there's this international recognition of the credentialing of this program that is applicable across a lot of standardized countries where you can say that as a sport physiotherapist in Canada, you know, these are the standards that we hold. 

 I think a large part of this is that there's a huge skill set in what we do working with this clientele. You know, and obviously there's other skillsets that other physios that don't do this, like for example, I talked about concussion management and emergency protocols. And essentially what we are, as sports physiotherapists, is that our skill sets also include like I was saying, stuff like athletic taping, more specific stuff of functional return to sport training and functional activities. We're experts in the areas of getting athletes back to these areas because of also our exercise physiology training and stuff like sports massage and  concussion evaluation and management.

So, you know, really as a sport physiotherapist we have the skills and ability to work with larger organizations and to help with teams and athletes establish these comprehensive medical support systems for them whether or not it's like grass roots or high-level performance. And so as a sport physiotherapist with a diploma, you work with Canada's top athletes at all levels of sport. 

And what we do essentially, we've worked at all these different games and get all these experiences and now we bring it into the clinic and we can develop a treatment plan and help work with you. And also develop the clinical skills that we've received and gained from on the field, like at the moment of injury and all those things and take that and help our clients when they actually walk into the clinic on a clinical setting. So to me, something that's been very invaluable and that's really benefited a lot of my clients and a lot of the clients that I've seen that other sports physiotherapists I've worked with in the past.

Mark: So one of the things you are actually and not irregularly, somewhat regularly, you're right there at the field. Say it's soccer, you're there at the soccer field and they're training. And perhaps there's something that you're noticing that you might say, you know, what, if you added this component into the training system, you're going to have less knee injuries, for instance, because a lot of cutting. Say basketball. Could be hockey. Could be you name the sport. You're going to have that knowledge to say here's how to develop that whole tendon muscle strength system so that joint is protected and you're going to have less injuries. That's kind of the level of detail that you guys are trained to. Is that a fair assessment? 

Wil: Yeah. That's a really good question and some points that you bring up and I think as a physiotherapist, the best way to describe what we do to someone that's never really had physio is that we're movement specialists. So we help people move again. And as a sport physiotherapist, you take that to a whole new level.

And so now with the sports that I've worked with, you know as a sport physiotherapist, you're also required to, it's a requirement actually that you have a few sports that you work with specifically, so that way you can work with a team and manage the team. So, you know, that kind of complexity of that team management and you work with individuals sort of on a longitudinal scale. So you work with them throughout seasons. And then you also work with a breadth of different sports and different movements and activities that way you kind of have a broader scope of movement and stuff like that. 

So and that's really important because then as you start to look at how different sports can crossover, you'd be like, oh yeah, you know, I've worked with rugby, hockey, soccer, field hockey and all those fields sports, and they are really relatable in a lot of ways. But then there's also very, very small individual specific things to those sports and positions for players in each area. So someone who plays rugby that plays maybe in a scrum, you know, a lot of different rehab components to consider and movement dysfunctions to help them rehab through versus someone who plays ice hockey as a centre or even a goalie. 

So there's all these things you've got to consider. So I think that's huge. And so to answer your question, yeah, definitely, it gets into a little bit more specific in terms of us being movement specialists and having that bio-mechanical knowledge and applying that and being able to now use specific evidence-based practice exercises and things that we can do to help you get back in the game faster, more safe, and have a more enjoyable experience. 

Mark: So if you need some help with your sports injuries or non sports injuries, you can book an appointment at Insync Physio. They have two offices in Vancouver and in North Burnaby. Go to the website insyncphysio.com. You can book for either location or you can give them a call in Vancouver 604-566-9716. In North Burnaby 604-298-4878. Thanks Wil. 

Wil: Thank you Mark.