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Elite Athletes ≠ Elite Treatments

Early last year my website lost a Page –  “Electrotherapies”. It would have gone largely unnoticed as, despite my training, qualification and insurance to carry out such treatments, I have never felt comfortable with their efficacy, and so very, very few people will have even realised it was a treatment modality that was on offer. It was far more likely that someone had asked for that specific treatment, and I had gently talked us out of it, in favour of a more effective, and so cost-effective, treatment plan.

This is a good article, by physiotherapist Adam Meakins, looking at where these modalities sit;

“To try and help with this issue Connect Health shared their traffic light system they use to help their physios focus on what should, could, and doesn’t need to be done with patients. A GREEN LIGHT means there is strong evidence that this intervention SHOULD always be done. An AMBER LIGHT means ambiguous evidence so this intervention COULD occasionally be done. And a RED LIGHT means this intervention has no strong evidence of effectiveness and so DOESN’T need to be done”.

The article continues to say that ultrasound has been “red lighted and now removed as an intervention for all MSK conditions”

But wait, here’s a picture of the most expensive footballer in the world having ultrasound treatment on his injured foot. So if you have foot pain, this MUST be the best treatment, right…?

A quick scan of some research;

“There was little evidence that active therapeutic ultrasound is more effective than placebo ultrasound for treating people with pain or a range of musculoskeletal injuries or for promoting soft tissue healing”


“No high quality evidence was found to support the use of ultrasound for improving pain or quality of life in patients with non-specific chronic LBP.”


This is an interesting one which found;

“A significant improvement was noted when the effect of continuous ultrasound was compared with rest, but continuous ultrasound treatment was not significantly better than placebo ultrasound.”…/19967762_A_comparative_study…

…..where “continuous” ultrasound was 2 appointments per week for 6 weeks, and still no better than placebo!

That’s gonna cost.


Which is where I sit in conclusion; I understand why elite sports teams use these modalities, as money is – seemingly – no object and there are a lot of hours to fill in the life of an injured athlete, so why not? There seems to be no negative effect…

At least not for the athlete – the negative effect can be that weekend warriors, gym goers, even chronic pain sufferers can get caught up in expensive, long term treatment plans that simply don’t make sense, because we correlate elite athletes with elite treatments. Taking into consideration hugely important factors such as time constraints, money available, psychological and sociological factors there is always a better option.

Here is another article looking at why exactly you will see these treatments carried out in elite sport, but why that doesn’t make it the correct treatment for us, non-full time athletes;

Thoughts welcome

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

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