BREAKING BARRIERS

SPORTS PHYSIOTHERAPIST: A PHYSIOTHERAPIST LIKE NO OTHER 

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Thabo Swate from Marapyane is a passionate sport physiotherapist and lover of everything sports.                          Image: Supplied

Sports related injuries occur when an athlete engages in physical activities or exercises. When they occur and failure to properly treat them have the potential to cause damages that have long lasting consequences. This is why a sports physiotherapist is needed for the assessment and treatment of those injuries. These professionals specialise in orthopaedic conditions meaning they can work even in hospitals to help patients with other injuries e.g. ligament, knee, shoulder injuries but the sports fraternity as a whole needs these professionals to function.

Born and bred in the dusty roads of Marapyane, Thabo Swate grew up like any other kid in the villages. He played soccer but as he grew older he played softball. While in high school he attended a university open day and that is when he first heard of the profession, when asked why he chose to venture into this field he jokes by saying “I was fascinated by the name, some lady introduced herself by saying she was a physiotherapist and I liked the name” that was the first time he heard of it.

Post matric he enrolled at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University formerly called MEDUNSA to study medicine, a year into the academic program he deregistered and enrolled with University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) to study Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy. One of the main reason he joined physiotherapist was that when he was still in middle school he was injured on his ankle, being from a rural place the local clinic did not have a dedicated physiotherapist as such his injury could not be properly treated. There was a need for that and that is why he pursued it. When he completed his studies, he came back and formed a team called The Bees Football Club with one of the most energetic soccer lover Bra Peter Maja, his main role was to focus on conditioning and treating soccer related injuries for players locally.

Professionally Mr. Swate has been around for quite a while, he has worked for development teams of big name soccer teams such Kaizer Chiefs, Platinum Stars, Bidvest Wits etc. moreover, he has worked in the national team set-up with the Springboks as well as the Bafana Bafana and the Under 23/20 teams. He has also worked to rehabilitate injured athletes like the SA sprint record holder Simon Magakwe and David Gatebe the 2016 Comrades Marathon winner in a course record.

Currently he is pursuing his PhD with main focus on juvenile sports injuries after realizing that many children get injured from an early age – with injuries potentially causing long lasting damages – which may take away their opportunity to become professionals in their fields.

The biggest challenge to date as a Sports Physiotherapist is that the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) which is a statutory body regulating healthcare professionals in South Africa does not recognize the speciality called Sports Physiotherapist. He says “you can say you are a Sports Physiotherapist but currently the HPCSA does not recognize it as a specialty, you will always be registered as a Physiotherapist even if you have your Masters or PhD in Physiotherapy unlike the Medicine profession whereby a doctor can specialise and say they are a Gynaecologist he/she will be registered as such at the HPCSA” something he hopes will change soon.

Apparently there are very few Sports Physiotherapists in South Africa, their massages are like no other as they work mostly with soft tissue manipulation. As such there is a great demand for the field. Many physios are opening their practices, the money is there especially in country like ours with multi-dimensional sporting codes like we have. We hope to see more investment made in this field of Sports Physiotherapist in terms of infrastructure, training and the likes.

Click here to listen to this interview and to learn more about this field of Sports Physiotherapy.

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When your country needs you, you respond. Thabo Swate with the then head coach of Bafana Bafana and the other members of the technical team.                                                                                         Image Supplied

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Hard at work, Thabo is seen here aiding an injured athlete while playing sports.                                                                                  Image: Supplied    

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