About Dave O’Sullivan And The ProSport Academy…
Dave O’Sullivan is a Chartered Physiotherapist and holds a master’s degree in Strength and Conditioning. Dave has worked as sports physio with England Rugby Union in the 2019 Japanese Rugby World Cup and with England Rugby League in the 2017 Australian Rugby League World Cup. Dave built his Huddersfield private practice from scratch, creating a leading clinic with over ten members of staff helping patients who have failed traditional approaches every single day.
Over the years, Dave developed a unique step-by-step approach for use with his own sporting and non-sporting patients. He now teaches his innovative methods to therapists all over the world.
Dave O’Sullivan, Private Practice And Sports Physiotherapist
Dave’s mission is to empower people to restore control over their body and mind so they can truly live. Dave is achieving this mission personally through his clinic and also through his vision with ProSport Academy. His vision is to support and guide over 1500 therapists in over 50 countries, helping millions in pain and giving therapists the confidence and clarity to help patients who have failed traditional approaches. This all starts with understanding the ‘WHY’ behind every action and having a structured step-by-step system in place that gives repeatable outcomes and takes the emotion out of decision making for therapists in private practice and pro sport.
Get in touch with Dave and the ProSport Academy team here.
Certificate In Physiology And Health Science, IT, Carlow, Ireland
BSc (HONS) Physiotherapy – University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield
MSc Strength And Conditioning – St. Mary’s University, London
Sports Clubs / Athletes Worked With In The Real World:
England Rugby Union, England Rugby League, Leeds Rhinos, Munster Rugby, Huddersfield Giants, Bradford Bulls, Warrington Wolves, Hull F.C, Professional Golfers, Professional Superbike Racers, Professional Footballers, Professional Singers, Olympic Ski/Snowboard Athletes, Inter-Country Gaelic Football And Hurlers
Private Practice And Sports Physiotherapy Mentor:
Private Practice Owner, ProSport Physiotherapy In Huddersfield, U.K
Developed The ProSport Academy ‘Go-To’ Therapist Mentorship Program In 2015
Over 500+ Physiotherapists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Sports Therapists, Strength And Conditioning Coaches And Pilates Instructor
Dave’s Story (Part 1) – How The ‘Go-To’ Physio Step-By-Step System Was Born…
I remember the first time I realised I wanted to be a physio…
I was in fifth year in Colaiste Chriost Ri, Secondary School in Cork City.
My Irish Teacher (and hurling coach at the time) said to me “what do you want to be?’.
That isn’t always an easy question for a 16-year-old.
But I had an answer….
The night before I had watched a football match and the image of the physio running onto the field was the one thing that stuck with me. I thought ‘that’s what I want to be’.
That was my answer. I hadn’t had an injury myself. I hadn’t had to overcome this or that. I just saw a guy on the football field and thought ‘that looks cool’.
I wasn’t ‘smart enough’ to study physio in Ireland. I didn’t get enough points in my leaving cert exam.
But I found a way there.
I went to IT Carlow for two great years to study Physiology and Health Science (and nearly ruined my liver in the process in all honesty J).
That allowed me to get into Physio at the University of Huddersfield and begin my three-year degree.
Leeds Rhinos Physiotherapist
It had always been the aim to be in professional sports.
After University, I was offered a job at Leeds Rhinos Rugby and was lucky enough to be involved with one of the greatest sport teams of their generation.
I was involved in 2 Grand Final wins at Old Trafford, 2 World Cub challenges at Elland Road and 2 Challenge Cup finals at Wembley in such a short space of time.
I loved it at Leeds and was so lucky to have a great mentor in Meirion Jones. He guided me and allowed me to learn from his mistakes.
The Dream Sports Physio Job At Munster Rugby
The dream had always been Munster Rugby.
That was my ambition. And within four years of qualifying, I got the offer.
I flew back to Ireland and my dream job.
Treating British and Irish Lions players like Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls day in day out.
I wish the happy ending could end there, but it didn’t go so smoothly…
International Rugby Players Retiring On My Watch
I’d like to think overall that I got good results while at Munster Rugby (In fact, I had an opportunity to return again a few years later)…
But there were two players in particular that were forced to retire on my watch.
When I arrived, I’d inherited their injuries and being a bit naive, I thought I could fix anything….
I was brought back down to earth quite quickly.
The two players were high profile and yet both injuries were very different in how they needed to be approached.
For one, there was a big psychosocial component which I hadn’t respected enough while the other was a case of genuine pathology affecting his ability to function at the level he needed to.
Two warriors of the game. Two brilliant guys.
But two very different approaches were needed.
Over Relying On My Hands On Treatment
Looking back, I was too reliant on my hands-on treatment.
I didn’t have confidence in rehab exercises to ‘get the same results’ or make the players ‘feel the same difference’ as when they jumped off the bed.
But with these two players, I was getting increasingly frustrated with the short-term changes that hands on treatment was giving.
They were feeling great leaving the treatment room but the pain and loss of range of motion would shortly return.
Just Strengthening Muscles And Hoping For The Best
As their progress stalled and the pressure increased, I then changed tactic and went down the strengthening route.
Trying to get them stronger and hoping for the best.
The problem was these guys were already strong.
They were deadlifting massive amounts of weight…
Doing all the Nordics, all the eccentrics and still no progress.
And then the dreaded days arrived.
One very emotional conversation in my physio room when a player told me he’d had enough and couldn’t go on.
My heart sank and I sat in silence for a good while when he left.
The other was a visit to the consultant with the player. I remember leaving the hospital and thinking ‘that’s it’.
Being completely honest, a part of me probably felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders…
…now these players were retired I didn’t need to worry about getting them fit anymore, they weren’t my problem.
And I knew in my own heart and soul I had done everything I could for them. I had tried my absolute best to get them back.
But The Reality Was My Best Wasn’t Good Enough…
That’s when I knew I needed to get better.
I wanted to be the go-to therapist. I wanted to be the one who was able to help people that failed traditional approaches and I knew I wasn’t good enough.
I knew I needed more skills than just hands on treatment and a knowledge of strength and conditioning to help people who were not responding to traditional approaches…
I knew these two players needed different approaches.
I knew I needed to start looking at the person rather than the site of pain.
Huddersfield Giants Head Physio And Becoming A Physiotherapy CPD Course Junkie…
When Huddersfield Giants Rugby League approached me in late 2012, I still felt I had unfinished business with Munster Rugby.
But with my soon to be wife, Georgina and young daughter at the time, Ava May still living in Huddersfield, it made sense to move back to the UK and actually work with the pro sport team in the town I lived in.
I had set up my private practice there whilst working with Leeds Rhinos and so had some roots still laid down in Huddersfield.
But moving back to Huddersfield didn’t deter me from addressing the true problems in my own physiotherapy approach and my hunger to be the best physio I could be.
The reality was I knew I was far from the finished article as a physio, even if I had achieved my dream job.
My hunger to learn grew even bigger.
Immediately, I went on more and more courses.
I spent thousands of pounds of my own personal money.
I became obsessed, jumping from course to course.
There Is No Magic Bullet, Technique Or Exercise In Sports Or Private Practice Physio
I quickly learned there was no magic bullet.
The one thing all these courses gave me was short-term results.
In professional sport these were useless.
The player would go out, but you’d see them an hour later and the problem was back.
In a private practice clinic, sure, this can buy you some time but when you’re working in professional sport, there’s nowhere to hide.
The short-term changes were pi**ing me off.
I was left asking, ‘how do I get this to stick?’.
At every course I was being told the same thing again and again, ‘that’s the advanced levels’ or ‘that’s the higher levels.’
I spent nearly £10,000 on one course alone. When I raised the issue of short-term changes, they sold me the dream of ‘you need the advanced levels’ to sort that problem…
That course came to a head when I brought a player down to London to see the ‘main inventor’ of this technique.
And sure, we got some short-term changes…
But alas, by the time we got to the train station, the problem had returned, and I had a two-and-a-half-hour train journey back up to Huddersfield with this player.
I’d had enough there and then.
That’s when I thought to myself…. I need to forget about these ‘magic bullet techniques’, forget about the ‘magic exercises’, forget about the ‘magic hands on technique’.
I needed a structure and a system.
A system – a repeatable way to get a desired result.
Louis Gifford And Developing The Step By Step System
Luckily at the time, I was reading Louis Gifford’s books ‘Aches and Pains’ and it finally all clicked for me.
Instead of looking at these fancy techniques, I knew I needed the clinical reasoning skills first and foremost. I needed to understand the ‘WHY’ behind everything I’m doing….
I knew it was the graded exposure plan I was really missing and why these ‘short-term’ changes were happening.
And that’s why, for the last eight years, I have dedicated myself to refining and structuring the ‘Go To’ physio step-by-step system.
In some ways, the courses and the thousands of pounds was money well spent.
I took all those courses I had taken…
And strived to ‘understand’ the ‘WHY’ behind their success as it relates to physiological principles and pain science (which was usually very different to what the courses were teaching or saying) …
I then built my own system, modifying many of the techniques and approaches to fit my understanding of the physiological principles of human movement and pain neuroscience into a graded exposure plan from the initial assessment right through to the higher-level rehab.
I am by no means the finished article yet but by a million miles I’m a better therapist than the one that was working at Munster Rugby all those years ago.
I live by the principle:
“Make a mistake once, it’s a mistake, make a mistake twice, it’s a choice.”
And that’s why I’m always looking to improve the system.
The ‘Go-To’ Therapist Mentorship
In 2015 my second daughter, Ruby Rae was born, and I was looking to come out of professional sport.
I was always getting emails from therapists, asking me to coach or mentor them so I said let’s give it a go.
So, with 25 people in the first class, I set up the first ProSport Academy Mentorship.
At the start I thought therapists just wanted me to teach them hands-on, rehab and assessment techniques etc…
But what they struggled with were the small things…
Knowing how to make sense of the objective assessment…
Where to start with a treatment plan…
How to give an accurate prognosis and set expectations…
How to progress or regress a patient…
When is it safe to allow a patient to go back running again?
How do you transition from the bed to higher level rehab safely?
That’s when I knew what they really needed was the structure and my step-by-step system.
And to give them genuine confidence and clarity in the clinic on a day-to-day basis, they’d need a lot of the skill sets that professional sports physios have…
Speaking to coaches and giving return to play predictions to set expectations…
Making difficult decisions about when to progress or regress…
And how to know if it’s safe for someone to return to high level activities without flaring up or breaking down.
Because let’s face it, working in a cash based private practice can be just as high pressure as working in pro sport.
Patients’ expectations have never been higher while their attention and adherence never lower.
So, it all goes back to understanding the ‘WHY’ behind everything you’re doing.
And to be completely honest with you…
I still get embarrassed now when I look back at the 2015 class and some of the stuff I was teaching.
But it was where my head was with the system.
The structure of the system has stayed the same, but I’d like to think I’m working smarter not harder 6 years on.
The Value Of Having A Step By Step System…
Now when I go into a club, an organisation, or a complex case comes to the clinic who has failed traditional approaches…
… I’m no longer going in with any perceived ideas or some special exercise that everyone’s going to get.
The structure and system gives me the ability to look and listen to the person, putting the clues in their story together…
…to make sense of the objective assessment and the motor adaptations laid down by their nervous system as a result of previous injuries/stressors.
This then allows me to put it to the patient in simple terms what I think the problem is and the steps they need to take in order to get to the solution they want.
I can set expectations quickly and increase ‘buy in’, adherence and then ultimately increase my chances of getting results.
Each session, I’m not trying to treat everything but simply work towards the next step of the graded exposure plan.
Every patient needs to earn the right to progress.
And my hands-on techniques, my rehab exercises and strength exercises are simply tools to help me get the patient to the next level of load tolerance.
This helps me stay focused on keeping the main thing at the core.
Using The Step-By-Step System In Two World Cup Final Weeks With England Rugby League And Rugby Union Teams…
The system becomes invaluable when you need to make high pressure decisions.
You need to take the emotion out of the decisions and let logic prevail.
This is where the step-by-step system has been invaluable. When I worked with England Rugby League at the 2017 World Cup final week in Brisbane, Australia….
I had two tough calls to make.
But the system allowed me to take the emotion out.
The players had to earn the right to progress and helped me in the decision-making process.
The same in Japan at the 2019 Rugby Union world cup.
My progressions and regressions, my hands-on treatment…
Everything was done as part of the bigger plan of where I was trying to get the athlete to.
This gave me the clarity and ultimately the confidence to answer difficult questions about when they will be ready to train or play again.
With clarity comes confidence. With confidence comes action.
The structure and system gives me clarity and confidence every single day I go to work.
Replicating The Results For 550+ Therapists Worldwide
It’s been quite a journey.
We’ve been able to replicate the step-by-step system with over 550+ therapists in over 26 countries all over the world now and growing.
I still pinch myself sometimes.
When I get someone in New Zealand or Australia in the mentorship forum saying, ‘I’ve helped this person who’s failed traditional approaches’…
That’s a dream come true for me.
That’s what I wanted for myself. I wanted to be able to help people who had failed traditional approaches.
That’s why I set my own clinic up and the mentorship now allows us to help even more people around the world.
Using A Pro Sport Approach In Private Practice
From starting out in a tiny room above a running shop in Huddersfield to now having a state-of-the-art facility with 10+ staff in my clinic is surreal.
But it’s all down to using a pro sport approach in private practice.
Private practice patients are craving a pro sport approach.
They want to know the problem but more importantly, the solution.
They want to know how long it’s going to take and what the plan is.
Once you can set expectations and design a step-by-step treatment plan from the bed to the higher-level progressions, then you’ll do well in private practice with a pro sport approach.
My clinic head physio and mentorship coach, Shane Mooney joined me in 2015 and knows the system inside out. He ensures it is implemented day in day out in my own clinic.
Everything we teach is what we are doing.
My reputation is everything to me, both in the clinic and in the mentorship.
Any patient who comes to my clinic or comes into my mentorship for help, I take that very seriously.
I have a responsibility to deliver results quickly and safely and will leave no stone unturned to help if they are willing to do their part too.
The step-by-step system is the thing that allows me to get repeatable results with such a complex topic and a human being with pain.
And of course, It’s something that is continually evolving.
That’s why I want to give people lifetime access to the mentorship because I am constantly improving.
With COVID-19 and having to do telehealth, that’s really accelerated me as a therapist even more.
I haven’t been able to use my hands and I’ve realised that I have been relying on my hands a little bit too much.
It’s been great. I’ve had to figure things out and in turn, strengthening my system.
These updates to the system have been put into the Mentorship so even those therapists who came on board in 2015, now have access to where my head is currently and the latest version of what we do.
If you’d like to know more about the system and the mentorship, click here.