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John Reilly

Sports Medicine, Exercise and Health MSc

Professional Biography

John Reilly is a qualified physiotherapist, one of two currently on the MSc course. He is studying part-time, with support from his employer. John qualified as a physiotherapist in 2009. He is currently working for private medical provider Spire Health, having worked in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and swimming teacher, and coached and trained Gaelic football and rugby teams.

“I offer career guidance to young people that are looking at careers in physiotherapy”, says John. “I explain to them that the majority of my work is with the everyday person rather than sportspeople, dealing with back injuries, shoulder injuries and so on. It’s very important to have a good reputation and I think doing this course will add to that.”

John feels that the course also covers what you need to know to work in either public health or health education. “What we’re talking about really is injury – looking at ways to identify where injuries are occurring and trying to implement measures that can change and decrease the amount of injuries or improve how we manage them. It can even extend to chronic disease such as diabetes or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). We’ve looked at cerebral palsy in sport and disabilities in sport, so you can branch out and apply the material in many ways – your imagination is your only limitation.”

High-calibre lecturers

A friend who completed the course previously recommended it to John, who says he was also attracted by the calibre of the lecturers. “I was familiar with many of their names. On the course these guys are there to learn from, ask questions and get guidance from. The other thing that impressed me is the links with sport. Being part of University College London, when you come out with a Masters degree from here, that opens doors as well. Being so centrally located also means that it’s an easy commute for me from my home in Reading.

When asked about his experience so far, John says the wide variety of conditions encountered on the course is enabling him to take a more multidisciplinary approach, and increasing his ability to assess possible causes and avenues of treatment. “Everyone else in the class is great. As a physio among a lot of medics, you think it might be hard but we learn from each other and there’s a few guys in sports, and others in strength and conditioning, so you learn from the doctors, you learn from the osteopaths – we are all able to cross-reference. Coming from a physiotherapy background, my skills and handling are pretty good while the medics are very good at analysis and diagnosis – so we can learn from each other.”

Once he has gained his MSc, John plans to set up his own clinic in Ireland. “There is a bit of a vacuum there at the moment for sports medics and people who are able to accurately diagnose patients and treat them quickly”, he says. In the meantime I’ll continue working with Spire Health Care – I’d like to branch out into doing some acute trauma clinics and working with sports teams in the area.”

Epic challenge

John has a sporting background, having played Gaelic football at a high level as well as rugby: he also coaches rugby players. Last year he undertook the Iron Man Wales challenge, a 2.4-mile sea swim followed by a 112-mile bike road and a 26-mile run, which he describes as “pretty epic”.

John says the intensive training required gave him valuable experience. “The great thing about the MSc is hearing from people who worked with patients who participate in a range of sports from judo, track and field, and cycling to gymnastics. Understanding movement patterns is important for injury prevention and treatment. For example if you look at judo, it’s the rotational forces and the stance – it’s really important to understand that.”

He says that the exposure to clinical practice on the course has been especially valuable. “We attend 32 clinics a year and get to shadow the people who are lecturing us every week. We are encouraged to go and see other clinics as well – I went to see London Irish and Reading Rugby. It gives you an opportunity to see how different people work. I think that’s an important aspect of the MSc. We’re also representing the university when we go out – people know we’re from UCL and that the students are professional and proactive.”