Aspiring to get ahead? Sports Physio tips from the UK to Qatar

Undergraduate perspective on Sports & Exercise Medicine – a BJSM blog series

By Johnathon King (@Jonny_King_PT) & Liam West (@Liam_West)

You need mentors and role models to get ahead in your career. From this perspective, I Liam West (LW) interviewed Jonny King (JK), (a successful physiotherapist from the UK now based in Aspetar, Doha) to find out what aspiring physios can do to get ahead!

LW: Hi Jonny, great to have you on board for the blog. Can you kick us off by giving the students a quick overview as to your undergraduate career and if you were involved in any Sport & Exercise Medicine (SEM) activities at this stage.

JK: I trained in Sheffield, graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy in 2009. During my time as an undergrad, I always had a special interest in musculoskeletal (MSK) medicine, in particular, SEM.  During my time as a student, I volunteered as much as my uni workload allowed me to; providing soft tissue work at athletic events and marathons, providing assistance to local rugby and football semi-pro clubs under the supervision of a senior physiotherapist etc. I kept an eye out for open SEM lectures, as these were great for not only learning but networking also.

LW: Great tips. So after you graduated how did you get involved with SEM? Did you work within the NHS at all or did you go straight into your posts in Elite Football?

JK: My first post was a junior physio in the NHS, completing my rotations in a variety of clinical fields over nearly 2 years. Alongside this job, I continued my interest in SEM by working part-time at a professional football academy. As my experience accumulated, I stepped up to working full time with elite athletes in a football academy. However, I feel very strongly that my time in the NHS was an invaluable experience, as not every presentation you see in the sporting world musculoskeletal related.

LW: How did you build upon your enthusiasm for SEM? Is there anything you would advise aspiring sports physios to do whilst still an undergraduate?

JK: I continued to attend lectures, conferences and CPD courses in my interest areas. My career pathway to date has taken me into football, and The FA provides excellent workshops and events for CPD work, but saying this, there are also many other great courses out there. Staying on top of current research is very important for keeping up to date with the most effective practices. So I also suggest subscribing to various SEM journals/podcasts.

Before starting my degree, I asked various clinicians already working in professional sport about how to pursue a career in elite sport. They all offered the same advice – volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! So this is my best advice also, as it helped me considerably. I provided soft tissue work at various athletic competitions and marathons as well as assisted senior clinicians at local semi-professional football and rugby clubs. Most semi-pro clubs and certainly professional clubs with a lower medical budget will always welcome volunteers, so send a letter or e-mail enquiring of voluntary (or even observational) work. Don’t be afraid to ask!

LW: After your hard work in the UK, you were rewarded with a fantastic opportunity to work at Aspetar, Doha. Could you tell the readers what it is like there and what you are getting involved in? Has it influenced your interests in any particular areas of SEM?

JK: Working at Aspetar has been a great experience to date.  The quality of facilities and resources are up there with the best, but the best thing about the job is the level of expertise here. I am surrounded by Doctors, Physiotherapists, Physiologists and Sport Scientists with an unbelievable amount of experience and for someone at a relatively early stage in their career, it is a great opportunity to be ‘a sponge’ – to learn and develop my knowledge and skill base as much as possible.

There are also fantastic opportunities to get involved in research. We are looking at collaborating with some big European Football clubs to collect injury data. There are also opportunities to attend some great conferences – Aspetar recently held the 1st World Hip and Groin conference. Attending sessions led by international leaders in the field was a definite highlight since moving out here.

In terms of developing a special interest, working in football has developed my interest in the obvious – the hip, knee and ankle. But I’m also looking into researching the management of lower back injuries in young athletes. This is an area where the literature is relatively inconclusive at present, so hopefully you will see some research in this area coming out of Doha soon. We are also interested in the hip and groin, and if we can reduce the complexity of issues professional adult athletes face, by addressing certain factors during the maturation process.

LW: Finally, are there any tips from your experiences that you could give to students wanting to follow a similar path?

JK: As previously stated, I would aim to volunteer and seek observational opportunities as much as possible. Stay away from paying for expensive CPD courses – I feel as a student it is difficult to benefit from the skills you learn on a course as you do not have the client base to practice them on – they are of much greater value once qualified. I would rather spend the money on a conference, even look out for free evening lectures as they are quite frequent. This is only personally speaking, obviously, to each their own.


Jonny King BSc MCSP HCPC is a sports physiotherapist from the United Kingdom that is now working at the Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar. He has a specialist interest in injuries and rehabilitations of MSK injuries sustained around the hip, knee, ankle and lower back in junior athletes.

Dr. Liam West, BSc (Hons) MBBCh ECOSEP(ac) PG-Cert SEM, is a junior doctor in the Oxfordshire Deanery In addition to his role as a Senior Associate Editor for BJSM he coordinates the “Undergraduate Perspective on Sports & Exercise Medicine” Blog Series. He has a passion for developing the SEM movement amongst undergraduates and sits on the Council of Sports Medicine for the Royal Society of Medicine as Editorial Representative, founder, and is the founder & current President of USEMS. He has also now been elected as the President of the Junior Doctor’s Committee for the European College of Sport & Exercise Physicians (ECOSEP). His Twitter handle (as above) is @Liam_West.

If you would like to contribute to the “Undergraduate Perspective on Sports & Exercise Medicine” Blog Series please email LIAMWESTSEM@HOTMAIL.CO.UK for further information.

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