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Injury inspires person-centred physiotherapy career

Injury inspires physiotherapy career
Photo: Injury inspires person-centred physiotherapy career
Recovery from an athletic injury is often a lengthy and challenging process. As well as the physical aspects of recovery, there's also the mental scars and dealing with the future if a return-to-sport isn't possible. This type of setback isn't just for the Olympic level athlete either. It can also have a significant impact on competitive sportspeople and those who value social sport.

It's an experience that hits home for Peter Flynn who credits a shocking indoor soccer injury to his rewarding career in physiotherapy. But while every cloud may have a silver lining, this injury did take its toll both physically and mentally.

"During a social indoor soccer match, I broke my right leg in half and was forced into a full leg cast for three months!"
At the time, high-level sport consumed Mr Flynn's life, so naturally, he assumed he could return to normal life after the leg cast came off. The reality was sobering, and he was hit with the proverbial curveball he didn't see coming.

"I soon found out that it didn't quite work that way!

"I was in a full leg cast for six weeks and then a half leg cast for another eight weeks, which at the time was the biggest inconvenience in my entire life.

"I remember getting the cast off and seeing my right leg having wasted to absolutely nothing.

"Then trying to take a few steps but almost collapsing to the floor. I couldn't believe it - I didn't know what was happening.

"The doctor assured me that it would just get better by itself, to give it some time.

"I had to learn to walk again in a rehab pool one step at a time, which I found to be incredibly hard mentally as an athlete.

"I was in that rehab pool with people over 70 who had recently had joint replacements, and it truly was one of my biggest mental battles.

"Initially, I didn't cope very well at all, partly due to the poor care I received in the initial stages and a lack of communication from healthcare practitioners.

"This lack of information, and seemingly lack of care, had me feeling quite fearful about what the future held for my leg and my sporting career.

"It felt as though they would come in to see me at the hospital and talk about my leg to other specialists, almost forgetting that there was a person attached to the injured leg - me!

"I was incredibly fortunate to find an amazing physiotherapist who took me through my rehab journey. He was the first healthcare practitioner to sit down and listen to me, to care about how this injury affected my life.

"This simple act of listening changed my entire world, and I suddenly felt cared for, that we were in this together and that I could achieve my goals.

"It led me to bring into my healthcare practices the saying, People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

"The feeling of hope and optimism he gave me that day is what cemented my goal of becoming a physiotherapist, to help more people in the same way that he helped me. It was life-changing."

This positive experience sparked a renewed enthusiasm for his academic studies, a rewarding career in physiotherapy and a business that, above all, revolves around empathy and understanding.

"My experience through this injury has given me great insight into not only the physical pain of an injury but also the mental anguish that can be associated with it.

"To truly understand the feeling of being treated as an injury, not as a person and just how horrible that can feel.

"Not only does it feel terrible as a patient, but we also have an incredible body of research now supporting that we need to treat patients from a person-centred biopsychosocial view, not just as an injury to be fixed, to get the best results.”

As a result of his experience, Mr Flynn created a program for healthcare professionals that provides training on how to provide positive person-centred care.

“It trains them in the soft skills and communication that makes up such an integral part of what we do, especially considering there was almost no focus on it throughout my university studies.”

In a stroke of luck, Mr Flynn was able to recover from his injury to partake in professional tennis.

"For me, returning to sport was possible. I was still able to return to play tennis at a high level, travelling to Germany and France to play club."

To anyone who feels that one door has shut in their life due to unfortunate circumstances, Mr Flynn says to trust the process.

"It will be incredibly hard to see at the time - it will absolutely suck! But when you look back, I guarantee you will look at that injury as a defining moment in your life.

"If I hadn't broken my leg that night playing indoor soccer, I never would have become a physiotherapist. 

"I wouldn't have started my healthcare businesses that helps hundreds of people every single week to live their best, pain-free lives.

"My passion and mission in life have become to give that same hope and optimism to people who are fighting their own battle against pain and injury - both physically and mentally."

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.