Sarah Connors is a chartered physiotherapist who has specialized in treating track and field athletes for the last 20 years. She has worked for the British Athletics Team at all major games including the Sydney Olympics and was lead physiotherapist for the English Institute of Sport in London before setting up a successful sports injuries clinic.
She now lives in Birmingham where she works privately with endurance athletes from a squad in Birmingham University, on Camp with Kelly, world class international athletes from Loughborough and local runners.
Sarah Connors Q&A
What is your favourite sport?
Athletics and skiing.
Can you give us a brief career history?
I qualified in 1989 and I worked in the NHS for 2 years then I went to a private sports injuries clinic. From there I did my diploma in sports physiotherapy in London and I worked at the World Student Games in Sheffield where I met coaches and athletes from Stoke Athletics Club and then I went to work with Midlands, England and then Great Britain athletics. I started off working with the juniors and then worked through with them, they included Dwayne Chambers. I also had my own private practice in London and spent 6 months working for the English Institute of Sport in London.
What is the longest distance you have run?
When I was younger I ran 20–25 miles but now I will do around 10-12 miles.
How long have you been working in athletics?
Around 20 years now.
What is your favourite running discipline?
How did you first get into physiotherapy?
I was always injured when I was younger. I ran from the age of 10 but I was always crocked so I ended up seeing lots of physios and I decided that was what I wanted to do.
What are your accolades and achievements to date?
As a physio I have been to two Olympics and nearly all of the major games. I have written a book and treated a world champion.
What is your career highlight?
Seeing an athlete I work with win the world indoors is one of them as was seeing him win the European championships.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever given?
Working on the core.
How does it feel to be part of the ASICS Pro Team?
It’s fantastic to do something other than hands on physio, which is actually going to get knowledge across to the general public and help them.
Do you have a sporting hero?
When would you recommend someone to see a physio?
Sooner rather than later, because if you leave problems then they can become chronic and will take longer to settle down. A niggle can sometimes be cured in one session whereas a chronic problem can take a lot longer. Anyone can come and see a physio but of course if you need to make a claim for any purpose then you will have to be have been recommended to us by a doctor.
What’s the most common problems you see in a runner?
Lower back related problems, be it tightness in the legs or lower back - so biomechanical overload pain.
Do problems differ between sprinters and long distance runners?
Sprinters tend to have acute pulls as they are doing a much more explosive sport. Again, it’s a build of bio mechanical overload which is where they cause repetitive stress to a muscle as they keep repeating the same exercise over and over so it is a build up of what they have been doing over a period of time.
Is there anything you can do about shin splints?
Yes there are lots of different causes which include old trainers and poor biomechanics so if your trainers are shot and your mechanics are wrong then you are going to overload the muscles on the inside of the leg. The actual term shin splints actually means pain on the medial aspect of the shin. This could be a fracture on the actual bone in which case you will have to rest or it could be soft tissue damage in which case you may get away with easing it out and icing the area. It is one of the most common problems I see with runners.
Can you use physiotherapy to advance your performance or will it only aid recovery?
I went with Dwayne Chamber to every race and he was very rarely injured and the reason he took me was to advance his performance, so the better his core was the better he would actually perform. I can help as if your body is tight then it’s not as free to perform and do what it is supposed to do. So even if you are not injured you can free up your key areas in the body. I believe that if your joints are tight and your joints are in the wrong place then it is pulling the muscles tight so sometimes you can stretch and stretch but it won’t ease the muscle so if you make sure that the joint is free then the muscle relaxes straight away.