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All in one

A new building in Bolton brings the NHS, sports facilities, researchers, students and therapists together under one roof.  Ian A McMillan meets the physios who help to make Bolton One unique

Standing tall and proud in the centre of a town with one of the highest levels of deprivation in Greater Manchester, Bolton One houses a brand-new NHS-run health centre.

Nothing so unusual in that, perhaps, but look further and there’s also a research centre for health and wellbeing, and a public leisure centre.

Boasting a fitness suite, gym, dance and workout studio, a 50-foot high climbing wall as well as a competition-standard swimming pool, the leisure centre is named after Jason Kenny, the Bolton-born cyclist who picked up two gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games.

A hydrotherapy pool is used in the rehabilitation of sportsmen and women as well as by local charity Bolton Neuro Voices, which has teamed up with a Bury-based physiotherapy and occupational therapy practice owned by Susan Pattison.

At April’s official opening, the Princess Royal visited the university’s athlete development centre (ADC) where lecturers, including two with physiotherapy backgrounds, demonstrated some of the resources on offer – such as biomechanics, physiology, and sports pre-habilitation and rehabilitation.

The ADC offers coaches and their athletes a range of specialist support services, using the latest applied sports science disciplines – from strength and conditioning to sports psychology to endurance testing.

The centre, which hosts England Athletics’ first centre of excellence in the north west for developing endurance athletics coaches, boasts an array of sophisticated equipment such as a seven-camera system that’s used in 3-D gait analysis.

Former Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba, who famously survived a cardiac arrest during a match with Tottenham Hotspur in 2012 – thanks largely to the timely intervention of the clubs’ physios – helped to demonstrate the centre’s resuscitation teaching equipment to the Princess Royal.

The ‘sim man’, which makes realistic ‘groans’ and other signals of distress, can be programmed to mirror a specific set of symptoms. The model is used by NHS staff visiting the centre as part of their professional development.

Three local organisations – Bolton Council, NHS Bolton and the University of Bolton – pooled their resources to build and equip Bolton One, which began opening in stages  early last year at a cost of £31 million.

NHS services include a GP practice and outpatient services including breast screening, orthopaedics, rheumatology, thoracics and radiology.

Speaking as staff began moving in last year, Professor Carole Truman, then the dean of wellbeing and social sciences, said: ‘The research element of Bolton One is unique within the UK. Bolton One’s research-healthcare services will create the equivalent of a primary care teaching hospital.

The Centre for Research for Health and Wellbeing undertakes high quality research which relates to professional agendas and social issues connected to the health and wellbeing of groups and individuals,’ she added.  

Rugby league is ‘in the blood’

Bolton One is physiotherapist Anna Fitzpatrick’s new base.

She took up her first academic post at the University of Bolton in 2006 and helped develop the university’s sports and spinal clinic, which opened two years later.  

CSP member Mrs Fitzpatrick now leads the university’s BSc sport rehabilitation course, lecturing on modules such as advanced clinical skills, differential diagnosis and clinical experience.

She continues to practise at the sports and spinal injuries clinic, which, for example, charges members of the public £17 for a 30-minute treatment session.

It’s linked to the university’s Sports Rehabilitation BSc (Hons) degree and second and third-year students provide massage treatments.

When Frontline visited, local businessman Mark Brocklehurst was receiving physio treatment for a pulled calf muscle in preparation for taking part in the gruelling 3,000-mile Atlantic Rowing Challenge at the end of the year.

The four-member crew will row across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to Antigua. raising funds for the Bolton Lads and Girls Club en route.

After graduating in physiotherapy at the University of Salford in 1999, Mrs Fitzpatrick worked in the NHS before spending four years as the Bradford Bulls rugby league club’s physio.

During her spell with the Bulls, Mrs Fitzpatrick, who has a special interest in shoulder and knee injuries, was also physio to the England Rugby League Academy.

Her CV proudly lists some of the Bulls’ achievements during her time with the club, including two Challenge Cup wins and two Grand Finals.

Having been introduced to the game as a girl by her father, who supported Salford, rugby league is clearly in Mrs Fitzpatrick’s blood. ‘It’s a real family sport,’ she says.

Indeed, she met her future husband Karl when he played for Salford City Reds. Now retired from the rigours of the game, Mr Fitzpatrick is Super League club Warrington Wolves’ football manager and player welfare officer.

Charting sporting injuries

Mrs Fitzpatrick reckons her time is evenly divided between research, lecturing and practice.

With a Masters in health and social care under her belt, Mrs Fitzpatrick is in the middle of a groundbreaking epidemiological study into injuries affecting rugby league players as part of a PhD.

Stressing the study is only possible through the efforts of earlier researchers and with her colleagues’ support, Mrs Fitzpatrick’s eyes light up when talking about the joys of rugby league, which vies for popularity with football in many parts of north west England and beyond.

‘I like the sport in its entirety. I watch games when I can and also get a chance say hello to the medical staff,’ says Mrs Fitzpatrick.

‘As a full-time professional sport, there’s such a variety of injuries and, of course, the players are colossal. To have this opportunity to analyse trends in a way that’s never been done before is just fantastic.’

Tackling obesity and encouraging walking

Mrs Fitzpatrick is quick to pay tribute to the cooperation and backing she’s received from Super League physios, and from colleagues at the university and the RFL (the governing body for rugby league in the UK).

‘The physios in the 14 Super League clubs record details of the type and severity of the players’ injuries online and that information is recorded on a university electronic database.

‘Once the data are there, we can analyse them and produce a report for the clubs and the RFL.

The physios are the heroes in all this – without their input and support, this project would not have been possible.’

As well as getting faster and fitter in recent years, the players have also become bigger, says Mrs Fitzpatrick. ‘They changed the rules a few years ago to help keep the players safe, so having ongoing injury surveillance is really important.

‘My husband Karl had to retire in 2008 because of crippling long-term injury. These are really hard-working, good people who deserve to have longevity in their careers.

Every physio I know works hard and successfully to make that happen for them, This study should expand the existing pool of knowledge for the club’s physios, medical teams and coaches, help to inform our practice and show all the good work that we’re doing.‘

One of the physios working alongside Mrs Fitzpatrick is Andy Schofield, a senior lecturer in sports rehabilitation. Before moving to the University of Bolton in 2011, Mr Schofield was head physio with Burnley football club’s youth and reserve team.

‘During this time I completed my Masters degree in exercise and sport injury, which led to a keen interest in injury prevention and areas of specialism now include treating lower limb injuries and late-stage rehabilitation.’

He lectures on the therapeutic kills, research methods, differential diagnosis, and psychology in sports rehabilitation modules, as well as practising clinically in the sports and spinal injuries clinic.

One of Mr Schofield’s patients, who was referred by her GP who had heard an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill was on site, is an overweight woman in her mid-50s who has had knee replacement surgery and hip problems on her other side.

‘She doesn’t want to have another operation on that side. We are using the Alter-G equipment to take some of the weight off her temporarily so she can exercise in a normal walking pattern.

She’s now walking normally twice weekly on the Alter-G for 45 minutes and bearing from 40 to 50 per cent of her weight.’ fl

University of Bolton’s sports-related courses

  • Sport Development and Coaching BA (Hons)
  • Sport and Exercise Science BSc (Hons)
  • Sports Rehabilitation BSc (Hons)
  • Sports Science and Coaching BSc (Hons)

Postgraduate courses

  • Strength and Conditioning MSc
  • Leisure and Sport Specialisms MPhil/PhD


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