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Woman student fulfils goal at professional football club

17 April 2015 - 4:29pm

A physiotherapy student has completed a placement in the male-dominated world of professional football.

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Helen Greensmith treats a Grimsby striker, Jon-Paul Pittman

Helen Greensmith spent five weeks during the final year of her degree with her local team Grimsby Town as the players pushed for promotion from the Football Conference.

Women physios remain a rarity in professional football, and it was only Ms Greensmith’s links with the Mariners, her home-town club in Lincolnshire, that set up the placement.

‘It was being introduced to Dave Moore, the physio at Grimsby, and spending some time at the club that partly prompted me to become a physio,’ she said.

Ms Greensmith previously worked with few female colleagues in IT, and thinks this may have given her the confidence to mix with footballers and coaches who are men.

‘On the playing and coaching side, I was the only woman at the club,’ she said.

‘Everyone was very respectful, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Some of the language was pretty strong, particularly if we had lost.’

Mr Moore said having a female physio probably changed the dynamic with the players, but in a positive way.

‘I think footballers might open up with a female physio more than they would to a grizzled old physio like me,’ he told Frontline.

‘A serious injury that can jeopardise your career can be very hard to deal with mentally as well as physically.

‘For instance, Helen worked closely with a young player who had had ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] reconstructive surgery and developed a very good relationship.’

Ms Greensmith is determined to work in elite sport – preferably football, and ideally at Grimsby Town – once she completes her degree this summer.

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Helen Greensmith with Grimsby Town physio Dave Moore

‘It was a fantastic experience. Because I knew Dave I was working more as a physio than a physio assistant. I became enveloped in the pain when we lost, and the delight when we won.’

Mr Moore said that if Grimsby win promotion to the Football League they will need another physio. The Mariners are currently in a play-off position, and the final, if they make it, will be played at Wembley on 17 May. Victory there would give them back Football League status.

‘I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Helen in that situation,’ he said.

One of Ms Greensmith’s physiotherapy lecturers at Plymouth University is Sue May. She said: ‘We aim to provide our students with placements in the NHS and other settings that reflect the more diverse nature of current working practice.

‘This includes elite sports and other independent placements. We were very happy to support Helen and work with Dave to ensure that we could facilitate this placement experience.’

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