London Marathon: a great route for physios to gain experience and showcase expertise

Volunteering your physiotherapy skills at the London Marathon is a great way for CSP members at all levels, including students, to gain valuable experience, said the lead physio for the event, Rory Brown.

Physio students massaged MS Society runners at the London Marathon

'We have people with vast amount of experience right down to those who are newly qualified,” said Mr Brown, who organised physio volunteers for the finish line.

Learning experience

'And we have people from a broad range of specialities, but everyone can learn. Even if people have been working in sport for a number of years, they can still learn from the neuro specialists and others.'

He said that many of the 40,000 runners in this year’s race brought along different pre-existing conditions, which could be affected by fatigue and dehydration.

Physio volunteers often work as part of a multi-disciplinary team at the event and have the opportunity to showcase their expertise to doctors, podiatrists and members of St John Ambulance.

Route volunteers

Meanwhile, Abbi Taylor and Deborah Silver led the volunteer physios along the course of the race.

Ms Taylor started at a volunteer herself and at a time when there were no student physios.

'I think it’s a valuable experience for students,' she said. 'They learn a lot during the day itself by watching what the qualified physios are doing.

Acute environment

'They will get a sense of what it is to treat people in an acute environment, with what you have at the time. Also, learning to quickly assess and decide what treatment you are going to give in a challenging, demanding environment.'

Chloe Dooley, a second year physio student at Cardiff University, is a keen runner, but this year was her time as a London Marathon volunteer.

Reading Frontline, she found out about the need for volunteers at the event and decided to apply. Having loved the experience she said: “It was a great way to apply theory.

Variety of ailments

'We were literally at the side of the road seeing cramp, muscle strain, or people who had an injury from training and still wanted to run the marathon.

'So we were giving them advice or taping them up to keep them going – and a lot of encouragement too, because we were just after half way along the route.'

Karen Atkinson, professional lead for physio at the University of Hertfordshire, said that 27 second and third year students volunteered to provide massage for people running on behalf of the MS Society.

Massage beds and other equipment were provided by the charity. Typically two students staffed each bed and Ms Atkinson said that feedback from the students was very positive.

Hands-on experience

'A few of the students already have some sports experience, but a lot do not,' she said.

'Working first-hand with people who have literally just run 26 miles is great hands-on experience.'

She thinks that supporting the MS Society provided a link to a organisation that works on behalf of a client group the students will come into contact with after they qualify.

Based on the last mile of the 26-mile route, were volunteer physios from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. Sue Crewe-Smith, a senior physiotherapist at the trust, said CSP members are a very prominent part of this important event. 

She added that the volunteers had 'helped to put Coventry and Warwickshire on the map'.

Professional and personal development

And on the benefits to the physios themselves, she said: 'I noticed the improvement in their professional and personal development following the event.'

While it’s a long stretch to the 2020 London Marathon, you can find out about volunteering by emailing

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