Sports Physiotherapy Specialist, High Performance Sport New Zealand
Master of Philosophy
Master of Health Practice in Western Acupuncture
Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy
Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy)
Rebecca Longhurst was one of the first sports physiotherapy specialists in the country. She currently works at High Performance Sport New Zealand with elite athletes and consults out of Axis Sports Medicine as a sports physiotherapy specialist one day a week, looking to help patients and physiotherapists to optimise sport physiotherapy outcomes.
“One of the driving forces behind me looking to attain my sports physiotherapy specialist scope of practice was to have a platform to stand on to advocate for, and grow, the sports physiotherapy profession,” says Rebecca.
“Growing sports physiotherapists has long been a passion of mine. I was the chairperson of the Sport and Exercise Physiotherapy New Zealand Education Committee (SEPNZ) for five years and during that time we completed the development of the SEPNZ Sports Physiotherapy Certificate. I’ve continued to look at avenues to develop sports physiotherapists and am currently working with AUT on the delivery of its postgraduate course in sports physiotherapy.”
Rebecca counts herself extremely lucky to be able to work in sports and describes how she loves how sport both showcases and challenges human potential, and brings people from all backgrounds together under one cause. “I love our profession and genuinely love what I do. I’m extremely privileged working in high performance sport that I get to sit in the waka with our athletes on their journey and watch them develop as athletes and as people.
“I’ve travelled the world with a variety of sports and athletes, and represented different countries through my role as a sports physiotherapist and have been lucky enough to attend multiple Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cup events. We know that sport has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and I believe that rather than only focusing on the successes and when things go well, that the learning from both the highs and lows are equally as important. Some of my best and most rewarding work has been with those who don’t necessarily reach their sporting goals.”
An easy decision
Deciding to study physiotherapy was easy for Rebecca who started with a Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) before returning to AUT for postgraduate study a few years later.
“I always wanted a career that would involve helping others and because I had a passion for sport, I felt that physiotherapy would be a great fit for me. I’ve been very fortunate as not only did I get accepted into the programme, but I also relished learning about all the different ways in which physiotherapists can work.
“I chose AUT for my undergraduate degree as it was a targeted programme that had great opportunities with practical application alongside the academic work. I decided to return to AUT for my three postgraduate programmes as I felt that not only was the standard of academic learning really high, but that I was seen as an individual rather than just another student.”
Rebecca appreciated the flexibility of the postgraduate physiotherapy programmes.
“Postgraduate study at AUT was flexible, and could be fitted around my clinical work and travelling with sports teams. Being able to focus on sports physiotherapy for my Master of Philosophy thesis made the outcomes more meaningful to me, and hopefully also for the profession. Studying with like-minded individuals also gave a richness and context to learnings and opened opportunities to look at things in different ways. I’d definitely recommend postgraduate physiotherapy study at AUT to others.”
Advice for other students
Rebecca – who is proud of balancing her work with being a mother of two young girls – has some great advice for other students who are considering becoming a sports physiotherapy specialist.
“Be prepared to put in the mahi. Understand and live your why for doing specialisation, and find something you’re passionate about.
“Look for opportunities to help you achieve your goals,” she adds. “Working in sports physiotherapy at the elite level requires you to develop skills across a range of sports and different levels of sports. Find mentors, look for opportunities and, rather than just doing the role, aim to leave every role you get in a better place than it was when you started.
“Opportunities may not always come in the form of paid roles, or well paid roles, so search for and understand the learnings these roles may be giving you, even if they aren’t monetary. The value in these learnings will be the things that will help to develop you as a sports physiotherapist and catapult you into the future roles you’re looking for.”