Physiotherapists use sport and exercise to benefit young disabled people

EFDS logoA new report released by the English Federation of Disability Sport today aims to understand sport and physical activity as a therapy choice for young disabled people. The report, in partnership with the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists, Cerebral Palsy Sport and WheelPower, explores the paediatric physiotherapist’s role and their experiences in supporting more disabled people to be active for life.

The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists (APCP) is one of the CSP’s largest Professional Networks with a membership of approximately 2000 paediatric UK physiotherapists and a growing number from overseas. Their work means they have first-hand knowledge of young disabled people as well as sport and exercise’s use in physiotherapy. Working alongside Cerebral Palsy Sport and WheelPower, the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) put together a series of questions for APCP’s members to find out more. The findings provide more insight, which will support programme development and engagement specifically with young disabled people.

Results include a baseline understanding of the value they place on sport and physical activity as a therapy choice. They also determine an understanding of the type of training they receive when they recommend or provide sport and physical activity for young disabled people.

Among the findings, the report showed:

  • Almost all physiotherapists (99 per cent) surveyed currently use sport and physical activity as a therapy choice- for at least some, if not all young disabled people.
  • 3 in 4 (75 per cent) physiotherapists said that during their assessment of young disabled people, they take into account their current level of involvement in sport or physical activity.
  • Almost half (45 percent) of the physiotherapists felt the social integration and associated social skills sport and physical activity can help develop were most important.
  • Around 1 in 3 physiotherapists felt that the health and fitness benefits, impact on confidence and self-esteem, and fun and enjoyment of taking part were all important reasons to encourage participation.
  • Physiotherapists feel that sport and physical activity complement standard treatment and offer potential lifelong benefits that individuals can manage themselves.

Despite these positive views on sport and physical activity, findings show there are numerous barriers, which prevent physiotherapists from using them as part of their work.

  • Less than 2 in 10 (18 per cent) of those surveyed have received any training in how to incorporate sport and physical activity into treatment plans.
  • Physiotherapists are frustrated that their knowledge and awareness of suitable and relevant opportunities for people with different impairments restrict them, in addition to being unaware of local provision that they can refer young disabled people to.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive for EFDS, said:

“This report shows that professionals, such as physiotherapists, play an important role in encouraging some disabled people to take part in sport and physical activity. We are delighted to share the findings and hope the report can be used to help make the necessary improvements and build on the insight within it.”

Evidence has shown that many disabled people come in to contact with a physiotherapist or linked therapist in their daily living. Those disabled people who require physiotherapy often have long-term regular contact with the same physiotherapists from childhood, which can lead to strong and trusting relationships. Therefore, their advice could prove more influential over short and long-term periods.

A representative from the National APCP Committee said:

“We hope to be able to increase the number of young disabled people taking part in sport across the UK and facilitate the training required so that sports coaches as well as teachers can mainstream their participation.”

Download the full report on the EFDS research pages

More information about EFDS is available on www.efds.co.uk

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