Interview with Rob Hill @osteopathyfirst
You’re now working at UK Athletics. Tell us about your career path, how did you come to work there?
I qualified in 2005 from the BCOM (British College of Osteopathic Medicine) and from that day, I pursued a career in sport. I wanted to be part of an elite collective goal and work with likeminded individuals to achieve this – so it seemed an obvious avenue to take. I quickly found this really difficult, not to mention frustrating. I developed myself as much as I could personally as a practitioner, working in many clinical settings with sportsmen and women as much as possible. I then enrolled in a Physiotherapy Masters degree, with the aim to become a more rounded therapist.
After completing these I was lucky to work with the Osteopathic Sports Care Association (OSCA) and become their General Secretary for two years. During my time there, Dave Inman (Development Officer for OSCA) was approached by an up-and-coming sprints coach, Ryan Freckleton about having an Osteopath on his medical team at his athletics academy in St. Albans, Hertfordshire for 16-19-year olds. I went through the interview process and was offered the position!
I was Clinical Lead Performance Therapist for Oaklands College Athletics Academy for four years and in this time, I was exposed to a multifaceted and collaborative approach to athlete development and management with technical, strength and conditioning coaches as well as the multidisciplinary medical team. This was the perfect melting pot for ideas, concepts and growth as a practitioner.
In November 2016 I saw that British Athletics were looking to recruit an Osteopath and applied for the position. After the toughest interview process I had faced in my life, I was offered the role and immediately flew to Belgrade to be part of the medical team for the European Indoor Championships in 2017! My first year has been an amazing experience especially as the Osteopath working with the men and women’s relay teams who delivered four medals at the World Championships in London last year.
How do you see the role of Osteopathy in elite sport developing in the future?
The scope for Osteopaths within the UK in elite sport is broad, and not exhaustive, with osteopathy integrating seamlessly in medical/performance multidisciplinary teams adding our skillset to a diverse range of practitioners with the sole focus of enhancing performance whilst managing risk of injury, as is my direct experience with British Athletics. Osteopaths are equally effective as sole care practitioners for smaller teams and athletes in private practice.
Within the field of athletics, osteopathic manipulative techniques allow for quick changes in improving movement competency with very little tissue work therefore maintaining connective tissue stiffness important for effective force transfer and elastic energy storage. Alongside our global approach towards understanding mechanisms for injury and limiters to performance we work well together with athlete, coach and other medical practitioners in optimising performance.
Osteopaths are very much a part of elite sport with many of us working at the highest level of football, rugby, golf and athletics to name a few. However, there is potential for growth. My wish is for us to be viewed as an essential component of all successful performance/medical teams in any sporting environment.
OSCA are committed to achieving this by creating a group of sports care driven Osteopaths from which sporting bodies/clubs/teams can contact to find the very best candidates for a position.
Who’s your role model?
I don’t have a sole role model but have been inspired by many practitioners that I’ve been lucky to work with. Osteopathically Simeon Milton, Dave Inman, Manoj Mehta, Matt Waldern, Rosy Hyman and Hannah Walder for their continued contributions to the profession, in research as well as pushing for osteopathy in elite sport. Of the physiotherapists I’ve worked with Gordon Bosworth at Oaklands College has been very influential, not to mention the fantastic medical and performance team at British Athletics.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received and would pass on to those entering the field?
I’ve been given some great advice and guidance at times, but the best advice I could pass on is to (1) thoroughly understand the functional anatomy of an area and its wider role in a movement system. Making it specific to the sport you work in will mean that you understand the mechanism behind connective tissue overload and injury. If you can grasp it then you will start to see patterns rather than findings and observations you cannot connect. Also, (2) identify gaps in your knowledge and bridge them with post graduate education (do not be afraid to learn outside of the osteopathic framework). (3) Get involved! First hand, through volunteering, internships and really immerse yourself in your chosen sport. These are all steps towards a positive development pathway for aspiring osteopaths who want to work in elite sport.
There is a great quote by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson which is my mantra – ‘knowing enough to think you are doing it right, but not enough to know you are doing it wrong’.
To really progress as a practitioner, and in life, you need to be prepared to be wrong and open to ideas that challenge your current beliefs and thinking. If you are brave enough to be open to them you will evolve much quicker.
What events are you looking forward to?
The European Championships in Berlin this summer as well as the new Athletics World Cup which will be at the London Stadium. It has such a great turn out and atmosphere for athletics that it will be great to return there after the success of the World Championships last summer. Beyond that there is obviously the Olympics in Tokyo 2020!
Tell us a bit more about the Osteopathic Sports Care Association (OSCA)
OSCA is a membership group that supports osteopaths working or building a career in sport through creating opportunities and professional development programmes. The OSCA Advanced Performance Pathway (http://www.osca.org.uk/advanced-pathway) was the first structured career pathway offered to osteopaths and was designed to highlight the skill level and expertise of individual osteopaths to prospective employers within sports teams/clubs.
They offer a mentoring programme (http://www.osca.org.uk/osca-mentorship) for graduates offering support and guidance during their first year in practice. They are proud that many of our alumni are now well established with their respective teams/clubs and are offering opportunities to current mentees. This is their ultimate goal, continual development of the next generation creating new exciting opportunities for future osteopaths in sport
They have also recently created a PGCert in Osteopathic Sports Care with BCOM (https://www.bcom.ac.uk/courses/pgcert-osteopathic-sports-care/) which is something all osteopaths aspiring to work in sport should look into.
Rob Hill (@osteopathyfirst) BSc (HONS) Ost Med, DO, ND, PgCert Sports and Exercise Rehabilitation. An Osteopath and Performance Therapist for British Athletics, Clinical Lead at Hertfordshire Sports Clinics in Hertfordshire.
Interview by Ania Tarazi, BJSM Blog Editor.