3 minutes with Rob Hulse: striking prospects

Recent physio graduate Rob Hulse played for West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United. His degree was part-funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association.


What led you into physiotherapy? 

After spinal surgery to correct my spondylolisthesis, I understood that a career in football could be taken away at any moment and knew it was important to find a passion for something else. I had some fantastic help over the years from physios and medical teams and soon realised that my exit strategy lay in physiotherapy.

Did you enjoy being a mature student? 

I loved it and cannot speak highly enough of Salford University. I found it quite daunting stepping back into education after such a long time, but the course and staff were fantastic. The  balance of support and self-governed learning helped to generate a fun and stimulating environment. As I am dyslexic, I dreaded the written assignments but, as with most things, if you have a passion and desire for your subject, learning is much easier.

Are there tensions between the need to rest after injury and having to play again?

I would say 90 per cent of players are nursing and managing injuries throughout the season. With the added internal and external pressures placed on players, medical teams and coaches in the modern game, it can be a very fine balancing act to find a happy medium for players and teams. Unfortunately, players’ welfare can sometimes take a back seat due to the high expectations and pressures placed on teams today.

Would you like to be a sports physio one day?

I am sure I will be involved in sport at some point but feel it’s important not to be pigeonholed. I intend to develop my career and gain experience in other areas of this diverse profession. I know this will set the foundations to help make me the best practitioner possible in the long term.  Just because I have played sport doesn’t mean I’ll be any better than the next physiotherapist but I believe the cognitive empathy of knowing what players and athletes have to endure, and are going through, mixed with experience of team environments and expectations, all helps.

How did it feel to make the switch?

I am determined not to let my life be defined by my footballing career and have always thought being a physio would be a rewarding way to spend the rest of my working life. It is well-known that athletes can face emotional difficulties as they make the transition away from elite sport and experience identity changes. But it was ultimately my decision and I felt happy that it was time for a change in my life. I have a wonderful family and feel excited about my new profession. I am really enjoying the learning experience of going up a new path. I am a firm believer that there is a huge scope for improvement within professional sport, particularly football. More emphasis needs to be placed on a improving support systems for players of all ages and standards as they make the transition out of the game. Sport has a duty of care to help its athletes, particularly as mental health issues have been at the forefront of late. Let’s be honest, football has the financial resources to lead the way, if it so wishes.

How do former footballers stay fit? 

Well, after I retired I rowed across the English Channel to raise money for the Melanoma Cancer Fund. That helped give me something to aim for, which was important after spending my life dedicated to training. Exercise for me is a real stress reliever and we all know how integral it is to our profession. At times, I have struggled to adapt to the lack of organised training but am improving.

Your tip for the Premier League title? 

I don’t watch football much nowadays. Manchester City aren’t looking bad, but I hope Leeds will get promoted this season and win the title in the following one (you can dream). fl
  • Rob Hulse is based with Dudley Group NHS Trust
Rob Hulse is based with Dudley Group NHS Trust

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