Last updated: November 23, 2011
Born To Perform, by Gerard Hartmann is an autobiographical story-so-far of Ireland’s most renowned Physical Therapist. It traces how his life has intersected with the early years of triathlon at home and abroad and then, when forced to leave a sport he dominated at National level, how he very quickly established himself as Physical Therapist to the elite stars of the international athletic and sporting worlds.
The book is written as a personal account, benefitting from what’s been fairly described as a lively and jaunty style. The telling is not constrained by standard structures or formalities and benefits from this, perhaps also reflecting the author’s personality, for Hartmann is truly unique in what he has achieved and in how he presents it.
The book opens with him in hospital, hip broken, identity shattered and contemplating the sickeningly premature end to his sporting career. A wandering armadillo has scuttled his dreams of an eighth All-Ireland triathlon victory and doctors have told him to leave a sport in which he has excelled. True to form, Hartmann doesn’t dwell on the profound disappointment that a career-ending injury can bring, but moves quickly to the decision to focus on a new path and become the ‘best that he can be’. A theme throughout is the energy, positivity and commitment he brings to his life and his endeavours. In changing profession we see how effective he is in the application of this philosophy, finding enthusiasm and purpose somewhere from the ashes of a brilliant sporting career. For whatever accolade he achieved as a competitor, all is surpassed in his second coming as a Physical Therapist.
The Hartmann patient-list reads as a who’s-who in sport. His timely interventions by all accounts guide even the most seriously injured athletes from the treatment table through the tape as winners and champions. Local, national and international stars benefit from his care and the book is thick with testimonials; each breathless recommendation exceeding the previous.
Scarcely a year into his course he found himself as adviser to a young – and injured - Sonia O’Sullivan. Barely graduated, Hartmann is then assigned as therapist to the Atlanta Olympics in 1992 and Carl Lewis - the sensation of the Games is among the first on his treatment couch. From then on, Hartmann’s magic hands touch an astounding array of Olympic athletes; 61 to date and counting.
If you were hoping to read treatment tips or therapeutic techniques to embellish everyday practise, the book would be a disappointment. Or, if you thought that he somehow took the lessons he learned from the care provided his own injuries and applied them as a template to help him achieve excellence in practise – you’d be wrong again. What the book does, is to give a clear picture of the energy, drive and passion that Hartmann brought first to his sport and subsequently to the treatment couch. It is entertaining and inspirational in equal measure and leaves the reader sensing a wealth of untold stories. Gerard believes in stressing the positive and that the psychological wound must heal just as well as the muscular for the rehabilitation to be effective or complete. It is testament to the man that he returned to his sport, completed the infamous Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon and achieved gold in his age-group when he reached the summit in the Marmotte, never allowing the post accident prognosis to put a ceiling to his ambition or a limit to his achievement.
The armadillo who inadvertently brought a premature end to a young man’s dreams seems to have at least been the indirect salvation of hundreds more in steering a new world-class therapist into a career where he truly has made a difference.
Last updated: November 3, 2011
I read Fiona Reddan’s article When is a physio not a physio (Irish Times, Nov 1st) with interest though it may not have fully represented the similarities between the two leading bodies in the Irish muscular skeletal healthcare sector; physiotherapists and physical therapists.
The regulating body for physiotherapists in Ireland is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) and the regulator of physical therapists is the Irish Association of Physical Therapists (IAPT). Both are long-established voluntary organisations representing their respective members and both operate on a non-statutory basis. Currently, minimum entry requirements for both are an internationally recognised, 3-year, full-time degree. Both organisations stipulate a minimum number of CPD hours for ongoing membership. In each case the public can direct complaints to the respective governing bodies who are empowered to take appropriate disciplinary action. Private health insurers offer similar levels of cover for both approaches.
Some – a small number - of practitioners, who are not educated to degree level and consequently would not qualify for membership of either body, misrepresent themselves in the workplace as either ‘physiotherapists’ or ‘physical therapists’. For some years, physiotherapists have claimed to have a ‘large file’ of this kind of misrepresentation but presumably it does not involve members of the professional body – the IAPT - as no evidence to this effect has been produced. It is worth stating that physical therapist members of the IAPT have an impeccable record of service in the community, now stretching from the 80’s.
What differences there are revolve around the fact that physical therapists specialise in private practise whereupon their education and training is totally focused. They come to the profession as mature students to provide a patient-centred approach using their unique “hands-on healthcare” and as such have established themselves as worthy and effective healthcare providers. Only the largest representative organisation from each country can join the World Congress of Physical Therapists and in this case the honour falls to physiotherapists. A recognised degree is not mandatory for membership and member countries refuse to recognise each other.
Physical therapists work alongside and respect other healthcare professionals. For many years the training body for physical therapists in Ireland – the Institute of Physical Therapy, has offered to fund a joint programme under the auspices of the Department of Health and Children explaining the differences between both approaches. This would ensure that the public continues to have access to both physiotherapy and physical therapy, can choose either with knowledge and confidence and enjoy the benefits of competition in what is otherwise an often-sheltered environment.
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Follow your therapist’s prescribed exercises online. An illustrated guide.
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