Forget ‘likey-likey’ massages; we need real physios

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FEB 4 — You hurt your knee while on the golf course or during a game of futsal.

You head to a centre that claims to offer physiotherapy only to find a young foreigner to flash a smile and ask: “Foot massage? You likey-likey?”

Sadly, not many understand the role played by a physiotherapist. Some call them mere masseurs. According to UK’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, a physiotherapist helps people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.

In short, a physiotherapist is not one who would say your injured knee will become better after an erotic massage session or by stroking your manhood for a “happy ending”.

Physiotherapists are a group of skilled and certified individuals who, in some instances, would be the first person to attend to an injured individual before medical support kicks in.

Sadly, such a role has been taken for granted as any Tom, Dick and Harry now claims to be a physio. This was evident as many self-proclaimed physiotherapy centres are mushrooming in the country.

Some claimed unqualified physiotherapists, registered as assistant coaches or officials in sports clubs, have been attending to the athletes.

Sadly, no one polices the profession.

The Malaysian Physiotherapy Association (MPA) acknowledged the current woe faced by the industry.

“I came across a man during an event who claimed to work as a physiotherapist with an agency under the Youth and Sports Ministry. He even had a business card which stated so.

“When I questioned his qualifications, he caved in and said he was not a physiotherapist but a masseur,” recalled MPA president Yew Su Fen.

“We are aware there are many centres claiming to offer physiotherapy but did not have certified personnel. Also, football and hockey teams tend to hire sports science graduates as physiotherapists in a bid to cut cost. This is wrong.”

But Yew, who is attached to the Penang Hospital, admitted there was little the association could do as there was no act governing the profession.

“The only way we can enforce strict guidelines is through an Act of Parliament. Otherwise, we can only advise.”

MPA hopes the Health Ministry would help them in their cause.

MPA has every reason to be worried. Athletes face life-threatening situations and the presence of a qualified physiotherapist at the sidelines could save lives.

Former Arsenal physiotherapist Gary Lewin had possibly saved English footballer John Terry’s life after the Chelsea player swallowed his tongue during the League Cup final against the Gunners in 2007.

In 2012, rugby player Sammy Alkhalaf, 20, collapsed on the pitch after suffering a heart attack while playing for Manchester University’s league team but was saved by quick-thinking physiotherapist Ruth Bradley.

Last March, physiotherapist Karen Hull rushed to the aid of a football fan who suffered a cardiac arrest after Liverpool’s home match against Tottenham Hotspur. The spectator survived.

MPA, had in 2010, requested for the government to be stringent in issuing new licences to higher learning institutes to cap the number of future physiotherapists in the country. It remains to be seen if such a call was taken notice.

Hopefully, MPA’s call for an Act would not fall on deaf ears.

Till then, what can be done to save the profession?

“When in doubt, it is only right to ask for the physiotherapist’s qualification. Also, visit registered centres instead of massages centres claiming to offer physiotherapy,” said Yew.

“Do notify MPA if you come across questionable joints or individuals masquerading as physiotherapists. We need to create awareness and ensure the public would not be duped.

Yew added sports organisations and teams should only employ certified physiotherapists.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, had during his speech at MPA’s 47th annual general meeting in 2010, called on physiotherapy practitioners to provide their input on health awareness in schools.

Muhyiddin had also encouraged MPA to work with the Education Ministry to create awareness campaigns among schoolchildren.

Physiotherapists play an important role in the rehabilitation of our health. We should not take them for granted as a skilled physiotherapist could save a life.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

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