An Interview with Nikhil Dodhia, a Sports Therapist with his own business
Q: Tell me a little about yourself!
I graduated in 2017 with First Class (Hons) in Sports Therapy before completing my Masters in Strength and Conditioning in 2018. I’ve worked in sports teams and at different clinics as a sports therapist, before starting my own business. I’ve always enjoyed sports having played football, cricket and swimming from a young age. I even got a black belt in karate! Currently my main sport is field hockey. I’m an active person and like walking and running. One amazing experience I had was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (highest free-standing mountain in the world) in 2016. I also enjoy fundraising and have raised money for a few charities.
Q: For those of us who aren’t very sure what Sports Therapists do, could you please elaborate on what you do in your job?
I deal with people who have injuries or are in pain. I sit down with them and try to find out what the issue is. I conduct a physical assessment of their movement, testing different structures such as muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints to find out why they are in pain. I find out if the pain is caused by an injury or is idiopathic (for no apparent reason) and once I find out what’s wrong, I diagnose them and come up with a treatment and rehabilitation programme. I provide individualised exercises to promote more efficient movement. I also work with them to build them up stronger than before, to reduce their risk of re-injury.
I treat quite a large variation of people, ranging from those that play sports to those that don’t. I’ve worked with professional and semiprofessional football teams, England Netball, as well as wheelchair basketball players, which was amazing and was a really good experience! I also volunteered at the Transplant Games working with athletes who have had organ transplants. In my clinic, as I work for myself, I see everyone, ranging from people who play and don’t play sports.
Q: Could you tell me more about how you started ND Sports Therapy?
I’ve worked in different clinics before, but the end goal was always to set up and own my own business and help as many people as I can. Although I did enjoy working for others, there were also aspects I did not enjoy. However, the experiences allowed me to take the positive aspects and put them into my business. In November 2019, I created my business and decided to get a place and rent a room to start off and also got my website up and running. I started by getting people I had already treated with injuries, as well as friends and family to help out by referring people to me, from there I just built up a base of clients.
Q: Tell me about a typical day in your life at work!
I work quite long hours, from around 10 am to about 8pm. I usually get into the clinic quite early. A lot of people get in half an hour or 15 minutes before their first appointments, but I like to get in an hour before. This is to go through who's booked in and start planning for the day ahead. If it is a returning patient with an injury, I go through their notes so I can refresh my mind about what is going on. Depending on the day, I get a variety of musculoskeletal injuries, as well as people with no injuries who just want a sports massage. For instance, someone may get a sports massage because they feel their muscles are tight or when they want their muscles relaxed before an event such as a marathon or an upcoming match. I try my best to put in small breaks because as therapists we have to look after ourselves too. After I finish work, I usually stay for about half an hour longer to write up any notes I haven’t written yet.
K: Do you have anyone to help you in running the business at the moment?
At the moment I don’t. It’s just me booking people in, doing admin, handling referrals to other specialists and advertising the business. My family does support me a bit, but I pretty much do everything at the moment.
K: Wow! You must be really busy
Q: What’s your favourite part of being a Sports therapist?
The aspect I enjoy the most is meeting people, talking to them and helping them feel like themselves again. I love when I can help people who come in with a lot of pain or discomfort they’ve had for a long time, which often stops them from doing something they enjoy. When they leave the clinic, seeing them smiling, knowing that I’m really helping people, makes me feel very happy. When people tell me how much better they’re feeling after their treatments and are able to go back to doing what they like, it makes me smile and every day when I leave work, I feel happy and fulfilled. Helping people out is really the best part of my job and there is nothing more that can beat that.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about your job?
The hours are sometimes difficult as they’re quite long and I can sometimes wake up feeling tired, not wanting to go in. For instance, this week, I worked really late on Thursday (I didn't get home till about 10pm) and when I woke up on Friday I felt really tired. But once I'm in the clinic and seeing my clients on Friday makes it all worth it.
It’s rare, but you can get difficult clients. These are usually people who have had pain for a long time and take their anger out on you when you first meet them, which can be difficult to deal with. However, therapists and medical professionals have to understand what people are going through physically can also begin to affect them mentally and change their lives. Being in pain all the time, for months or years, can really affect people’s mental health, so that should always be taken into consideration. As a therapist you need to remember it’s not your fault, and as a healthcare professional, you have to do your best to reassure them, calm them down and help them as best as you can. Having said all that, if someone is abusive towards you, you should never just take that (but that almost never happens).
Q: How has Covid-19 affected your work?
During the first lockdown in March, I had to stop working as Sports Therapists did not have clearance to work. This was a little annoying because Physiotherapists and Osteopaths were still allowed to work. I wasn’t able to work from March to July which was quite difficult and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I decided to focus more on my business and to promote it, as well as to post more videos on Instagram and social media to get people moving as I knew a lot of people would be staying home and not moving and would thus come out of lockdown feeling quite stiff and achy.
In this second lockdown, the government gave us clearance to work which was great. However, my client base has dropped as we are only allowed to treat those who are in pain or have a musculoskeletal condition. This means anyone that wants a sports massage to reduce tension and tightness can not book in. Hopefully this will change after lockdown and more people will be able to come and see me.
Q: What would you say is the most important thing in being a good sports therapist?
Communication. You could have all the knowledge in the world, but if you can’t communicate to clients you’re not going to get anywhere or be able to help. It’s really important to educate clients about their injuries, to help them understand their body more and why they’re in pain and what they can do to stop it from happening again in the future. Communication and educating your clients is key to being a good sports therapist. You also need to be positive, your energy will rub off onto your clients.
Q: What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
Probably setting up my business as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and a huge achievement. I’d really love to progress it more and I know what direction I want it to go in.
I’ve also been really lucky to work with quite a lot of professional sports people, which has been amazing as well.
Q: If you could do it all over again, would you still choose the same path?
Yes I would! It’s funny, because when I started my degree, I dislocated my shoulder on the first day of University. It was so badly dislocated that I needed surgery! All of that and what I’ve done, I honestly wouldn’t change any of it. Everyone I’ve met along the way, all the support I’ve been given has been amazing. I want to keep working hard and continue helping people out.
Q: What is some advice you would give to someone who wanted to be a Sports Therapist and set up a business like you?
Well, for A levels, I did Maths, biology and P.E. I did Sports Therapy as a degree and taking a Masters (in Strength and Conditioning) was really good as it enhanced my knowledge on rehabilitation and making people stronger. Building up on experiences along the way is also really important. For instance, in University, I volunteered by working with England netball, transplant athletes and wheelchair basketball players. Try and build up as much experience as you can! A lot of people only want to work in one sport, such as football, but I really thought that building experiences in different sports would enhance my understanding a lot more. In different sports there are different movements and different types of injuries, so I didn’t want to just stick to one sport. Pick many different sports to volunteer and work with, like wheelchair basketball. Its so different, yet so rewarding.
Honestly, I originally wanted to work in sport for a while first, then set up a business in about 20 years time. However, plans can change, I realised what I enjoy and right now I am so happy with everything (even during this pandemic). The only way you’ll really know if you like doing something or not is by trying it out.
K: Thank you so much for this! Any more advice?
For anyone who wants to work in this field, you have to enjoy it! Also remember to make time for yourself. It’s all about balance, there is no point working and taking care of other people, if you can’t look after yourself. Work hard, be positive, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
K: It was great speaking with you! I really enjoyed it. Do check out his Instagram page @ndsportstherapy as well as his website www.ndsportstherapy.com