Dr Loretta O’Sullivan-Pippia
I grew up on a dairy farm just outside Toowoomba in a little town called Ascot/East Greenmount. As one of eleven children, you can imagine how we were very competitive growing up. Best of all we had enough for a team in most sports, we were all very sporty!
Diagnosed with Scheurmann’s Disease
At the age of twelve, I was diagnosed with Scheurmann’s Disease (a relatively common adolescent condition affecting the thoracic spine). My orthopaedic surgeon referred me to physiotherapy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the greatest experience – I felt the physiotherapist didn’t really get me. She didn’t really understand my condition or value the things I was worried about. Even the exercises were difficult to do (because looking back now, they weren’t specific to Scheurmann’s or me) and were boring – I wasn’t compliant, so I guess I just put up with it.
Found My Love for Sport
As I got a bit older, I found that keeping fit and continuing with the sports I was able too actually helped my back and my pain. At 15-16 years of age, I found my groove in sport, though a knee injury in year 11 saw me back at the physiotherapist once again. Luckily I was only out for a few weeks and this was a much better physiotherapy experience.
Studying to be a Physiotherapist
By year 10, I was loving not only the competitive side of sport but even moreso the physiology/anatomy/sports analysis aspects. I decided I wanted to work in the sports medicine field and was lucky enough to be accepted into physiotherapy at the University of Queensland first round. Our year of university saw the addition of a standalone sports physiotherapy subject for the first time, and this was by far my favourite subject. It quickly became clear to me that sports physiotherapy was going to be my pathway.
After university I moved back to Toowoomba and started working at the private practice where I did my work experience. Somehow I managed to convince the owner who was looking for an experienced physiotherapist, to hire a new graduate. This clinic was also next door to a private girls’ boarding school and every afternoon I would see many of these girls in the clinic. The school doctor could see how much the girls were improving with me and so he started referring school students from other schools. I was working as the club physiotherapist with a local rugby club and loved working with the U19 team the most. I started to work closely with, and was mentored by, the Australian Swim Team Physiotherapist, The Australia Track and Field Physiotherapist, and the Australian Hockey Physiotherapist. It wasn’t long before my biggest patient group by far were teenagers and I loved it
Working with Elite Athletes, Olympians & Rockstars
After two years of this work I decided to refine my physiotherapy skills to sports. So I completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Sports Physiotherapy and every opportunity I could, I focussed my assignments on adolescents or conditions most common in adolescents.
My sports physiotherapy degree led me on a journey around the world working with elite athletes in all manner of sports working with names like
- Nikky Mott (Hudson) (Hockeyroos Captain, Olympic Gold medalist, player of the Olympics, top goal scorer of the Olympics hockey tournament)
- Tim Henman (World number 4 tennis player)
- Marlene Ottey (Jamaica Track & Field – Sprinter, 9x Olympic Medalist, 7 Olympic Games);
- Pauline Davis (Bahamas Track & Field Sprinter – 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 5 Olympic games)
- Kieran Perkins (2x Olympic Gold Medalist, Swimming)
- Tony Popovic (Socceroos, Crystal Palace football, now A-League Coach)
- Aziz Zakari (Ghana Track and Field, Olympic 100m track finalist)
- Abdelatif Benazzi (Rugby Union – 3 World cups for France, Saracens Rugby Union)
- Justin Anlezark (Australian Track & Field – throws, Olympian)
- Teams such as Great Britain Athletics, Saracens Rugby, London Rowing Club, Queensland Firebirds Netball, Australian Rugby Union National Talent Squad, and Olympic Games – track and field.
I even found myself working with a host of musicians too, names like Brian May (Queen): the cast of The Queen Musical; Placebo; Guns and Roses; and Daniel Bedingfield.
Becoming an Adolescent Specialist
But even after experiencing the world of elite sport, something was missing – I loved and missed helping young athletes at the beginning of their sporting journey and two adolescent athletes (Angie Skirving (Hockey – Olympic Gold medallist) and Nathan Friend (NRL – Broncos, Storm, Titans, Warriors)) I had treated earlier in my career were now living their dream as elite athletes. I returned from my travels and started working with St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace and St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, which I have continued to work with. It was evident that there was, and still is, very little adolescent-specific healthcare in Australia.
Applying my sports physiotherapy skills, experience, and knowledge in the adolescent space wasn’t enough; adolescents deserved better, much better. This was the drive behind my Doctorate of Clinical Physiotherapy focussing on adolescents in sport, Specialisation in Sports Physiotherapy and Sub-Specialisation in Adolescents in Sport. Ultimately this lead to the birth of Twelve9teen Sports Physiotherapy for Adolescents. The first clinic of its kind in Australia. My focus is on supporting adolescents at the top of their game to be the best they can be. I am very proud to now be able to watch so many of my former adolescent patients on TV as professional athletes.
I’m the hands and the brains in the clinic – if you book an appointment with Twelve9teen, you get me and all my 25 years+ of experience with elite athletes and teenagers and all my qualifications.
Raising My Own Family
As a mum, I understand wanting the very best for your child, wanting to get the balance right, wanting to give them every opportunity you can, but not pushing them to burn out.
- I understand your concerns about your child’s long-term health, your concerns about the impacts of sport and injury on growth and development, and your natural intuition when you feel something isn’t quite right.
- I understand the total devastation for the whole family when an injury crushes your child’s dreams, but equally, I understand the sheer joy for the whole family when your child does reach their dreams.
- I understand the juggle of competitive school and club sport with academic and social loads and pressures.
- I understand the drive to win and to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence.
- I understand that adolescence is a transition from being a completely dependent child to a completely independent adult and that transitions are never smooth. They are difficult, they are frustrating, and they will make you tear your hair out.
- I understand that letting go is the hardest thing to do as a parent, but letting go and loving are our two most important roles
- I understand how beautiful and amazing the adolescent brain is and how to channel this potential to assist with recovery and achieving goals.
- But also, I have the resolve to be that calm influence for your teen and your family to guide you through the rocky journey to elite sport.
I still love sport, I might not be competing anymore, but I love the competition and I love to win – I love being part of a team, even if I am now relegated to sitting on the side line as a physio.
What makes us different
Focused on whole body recovery
Only Adolescent Sports Specialist In Australia
Qualifications in B.Phty, Post-Grad.Dip.Sports Physio., D.Clin.Physio., F.A.C.P.
Experience working with Olympic & Elite Athletes
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