Monthly Profiles

Sandhya Silal

November 2014 | Senior Physiotherapist, SSISA

I am currently working as a Senior Physiotherapist at the Sports Science Physiotherapy Centre at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa in Newlands, Cape town. We are a team of 7 physiotherapists and run a busy sports and orthopaedic practice.

I graduated with a B. Physiotherapy from the University of Kwa-zulu Natal in 2001 and am currently in my final year of completing a Masters degree Sports Physiotherapy at the University of Cape Town.

Physiotherapy is a branch of rehabilitative health that is concerned with the promotion of mobility, functional ability, quality of life and movement through examination, evaluation, diagnosis and physical intervention.

Physiotherapists see human movement as central to the health and well-being of individuals and use in-depth knowledge of how the body works, combined with hands-on clinical skills, to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. We identify and maximize movement through health promotion, preventive healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation.

1) Briefly describe what your job involves.
At the Sports Science Physiotherapy Centre we deal primarily with sports related injuries, be it professional athletes or the weekend warrior.

As physiotherapists specializing in sports and orthopaedics we provide people with assessments and treatments of sports related injuries. Treatment usually includes a combination of hands-on clinical skills (joint movement and massage) together with rehabilitation, comprising a combination of strength and stretching exercises. Emphasis is also placed on the prevention of further injuries through education.

I am also involved with the supervision of students completing their sports physiotherapy elective at the practice.

2) What would a typical day at the office entail?
A typical day in the office commences at 8:30 consulting with patients every 45minutes up until 5pm. Each physio session is different and dependent on the plan I have for that particular patient. Most of the sessions are spent in the physiotherapy cubicle however, we may go into the gym to demonstrate rehabilitation exercises or stretching techniques where equipment is required.

At the end of the day I complete paperwork which entails writing up new patient assessments, documenting follow-up treatments, compiling referral letters to other practitioners and emailing exercise programmes to patients.

3) Can you describe the most exciting part of your job?
Travelling for work is definitely the most exciting part of my job. I am fortunate enough to travel abroad with a sports team at least once a year. Although being on a tour with a team is more demanding than being in the office, it is extremely rewarding when the team or an athlete wins a medal, knowing you have contributed by being part of the medical team. It also provides an opportunity to meet and connect with other professionals working with teams from different countries. Lastly, if time permits we get to explore and discover a new city or country.

I have travelled with the South African Swimming Team to two FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China (2011) and Barcelona, Spain (2013) and to the BHP Billiton Super Series, Perth, Australia (2013, 2014). I have also toured with the South African Senior Women's Volleyball Team to Thailand and Mauritius (2007) and with the Junior teams to Tunisia (2008), Egypt (2010) and China (2010). Highlights of my career include having been priviledged to represent my country as part of the medical team at two Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India (2010) and in Glasgow, Scotland (2014). I was also selected to represent South Africa at two Zone VI U20 African Youth Games in Potchefstroom, South Africa (2008) and Lusaka, Zambia (2013).

4) What are some of the challenges you had to face and overcome as a woman in your career?
According to UNESCO's Institute for Statistics release on the International Literacy Data 2014, 781 million adults still lack basic reading and writing skills. Women make up 64% of the total, which equates to 496 million women who are unable to read and write. In addition, in more than a dozen countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than half of all adults had basic literacy skills.

I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to study and graduate at a university and work in our community hospitals, clinics and now travel with our national athletes. Perseverence, dedication and commitment to my work and profession, has been instrumental is my successful career in a predominantly male dominated sporting world.

5) How did you make your career choice?
I always knew that I wanted to be in the medical field and although I was accepted for degrees in other faculties, I choose physiotherapy and have not looked back.

6) What qualifications do you require to work in your field?
A university degree in Physiotherapy is required to practice as a physiotherapist.

7) Can you describe the most important skills you require for this work environment?
Physiotherapists assist patients to become as independent as possible and to achieve their personal goals. Good people skills and excellent communication skills allow for effective interaction with patients and other members of the medical team. Education of patients is an essential part of physiotherapy and qualities of patience and empathy are vital skills to possess. Lastly physiotherapists need a high level of fitness to cope with the physical demands of the job.

8) What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a constantly evolving process. It ensures the successful interaction of a team of indiviuals working together towards a common goal. A leader should command, rather than demand respect and should be able to inspire, motivate , challenge and mobilize their team towards success.

9) What advice would you give girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM)?
There is an old African proverb – "If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)"

Women before us fought for equal rights to education and job opportunities among many other demands and today we are reaping the benefits of their struggle. I encourage young women to take up the challenge and choose a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and applaud those who are on that path, for so boldly representing women in a field where we were once barred from entering.

South Africa is a young and alive with every possibility. It is now our time to seize those opportunities and contribute to building this great nation.