Sports Medical Therapy Team

“OK, raise your arms and lower them … slowly … stop. Rate the pain out of 10?”


“OK, lower, lower… straight out in front … stop. Rate the pain?”

“Six or seven.”

Osteopathy intern Amity Stafford is assessing Redback ruck Sara Riseley’s shoulders in the change rooms of Bundoora Oval during Tuesday night’s training session. Around the room, chiropractic and massage interns are consulting and treating

The sports therapy team is busy making good on Sally Tanner’s two-year-old proposal to the RMIT Heads of School that the Academy would provide opportunity for students across a wide range of faculties to have real-life experience in their fields. The call went out to students from osteopathic, chiropractic and masseuse courses and the applications peaked at six during pre-season. Now, there are two osteopathy interns, two chiropractic interns and two massage interns at training as well as two dedicated sports trainers who will travel with the team on match day.

RMIT Osteopathy Industry Fellow Lee Muddle assembled the teams before handing the reins to Dr Emilio Kardaris and Dr Ben Van Der Westhuizen in May, with the pair dividing themselves between Tuesday and Thursday supervision.

Dr Kardaris is overseeing his sports therapy interns in the change rooms of the Bundoora Oval.

“When people come to see you, they’re going to tell you everything hurts,” he tells his team.

“What you have to quickly discern is what’s important and what’s not.”

With so many Redbacks new to footy, the sports therapy room is a hub come training nights. Soft tissue twinges, collision bruises and the wear and tear from bouncing footy, work and study bring a steady stream of patients to the tables.

If an athlete comes in to see us, we need to figure out first and foremost what’s going on and then we can figure out who’s the best person to see,” Dr Kardaris says of the team’s treatment process.

“If they had, for example, just a very simple muscular tightness – where they didn’t feel like they were injured, but felt tight because they ran particularly hard on the weekend – we would ask them a couple of very simple history questions just to classify who they need to see and if it’s something pretty straightforward, like they’re just needing a rub-down, we say, ‘Perfect, off to the massage interns.’ If they were complaining of something a little more specific and a little bit more particular, meaning that they might be injured, we gather around as a group and assess them.”

The practical experience the sports medical therapy team will glean from the Academy cannot be underestimated. Whether their career dream is to progress from their work with the Redbacks to enter the athletic field or establish their own centre and treat patients, they will find a valuable foundation from their time at Bundoora Oval.

“The Academy, as far as I’m aware, is the first of its kind. It is unique in the sense that it allows students to work together across disciplines – that doesn’t happen in a student clinic. Apart from this program, this isn’t offered at any other university level prior to graduation.”

In a near corner of the change room, Academy Sports Trainer and fourth-year osteopathy student Harry Stemp sits at his laptop, cross-referencing the incoming patients with his Google Doc spreadsheet schedule. Midweek, the Redbacks book appointments and Harry’s spreadsheet will coordinate the whole shooting match.

“It’s a recording of where the players are at with their injuries and what rehab needs to be done,” says Harry, who also works at the Bundoora campus’ sports centre.

“There was a couple of mentions about the need for it, so I designed the original one and it’s taken off from there.”

Also implemented in the first year of the Academy is a detailed record of every player’s medical profile. Conditions, pre-existing injuries and any treatment over the player’s time at the Academy will be documented and presented to High Performance Manager Vince Atkinson, Mitch Lower, Gezim Zeneli and their assistants for review that will help dictate players’ loads on training and match day.

“It’s essentially our database of treatment, so that takes the pace of all the clinical notes we would write up into someone’s file and place into the digital platform,” says Dr Kardaris.

“What it gives the students – which is different to what they would get in a clinical setting – is allowing them to see each other’s notes and to see how a chiropractic student would write something as opposed to how an osteopathy student would write something down. From a professional practice point of view, the only time notes really become an issue is in the medical lingo sense and you need to be able to write them for all to read, not just for people of your profession.”

The sports therapy team will also do its part to assist in the executive committee’s long-term strategy to make the knowledge and resources of the Academy readily accessible for the wider local community.

Every intern is required to coordinate a major presentation on an injury preventative, match-day recovery or rehabilitation process. Tonight, Amne Mhamad is discussing the proper use of a trigger-point massage ball for relieving muscle aches. In previous weeks, showcases have included rumble rollers, industry advice on self-massage, taping, injury management, pre-game dynamic stretching, and wellness monitoring.

“It allowed me to put complex clinical situations in more every-day language,” says Amne, a Level One accredited sports trainer. “It also allowed me to think about communication skills and demonstrate self-massage techniques, which is a skill I’ll need in everyday life when I become an osteopathic practitioner and when I’m rehabilitating my patients at the end of each consult.”

For the Academy’s executive committee, the addition of sports medical consultation demonstrations is a crucial extra branch to the community partnership program development.

“The plan will be that as we develop a library of how-to videos that we will start releasing selected content to the public as we build up community networks,” says Chris O’Connor.

Dr Kardaris says there is “no doubt” that the sports medical interns have developed in their craft and their confidence as a result of their work at the Academy. As he gazes around the change rooms, it’s clear that any rewards reaped by the interns are matched by the experience of their supervisor.

“For a very long time I have felt that teaching and the passing on of knowledge is something I’ve always been very passionate about. So, for me this is exercising a very strong passion I have for education.

“Personally,” he smiles beautifully, “it fills my joy cup. I know I’m having an impact on the future of the entire profession as opposed to having my own impact on the patients I see.”

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