Sports Physiotherapy in Belfast: How Belfast’s Sports Physios Are Keeping Athletes In The Game

Like most major cities, Belfast in Northern Ireland is home to a wide range of sports clubs to suit all abilities and tastes. Many sports are played, including rugby, golf, cricket, bowling and sailing.

In this article we’ll take a look at the unique sporting landscape of Belfast, and the important work that is done by a Belfast sports physio in keeping athletes on the pitch.

Gaelic Sports

What makes the sporting landscape of Belfast and Northern Ireland particularly different to that of mainland UK is the prevalence of Gaelic sports. Gaelic sports often form an important part of the community and there are many clubs competing at local and county level. Gaelic sports are governed by the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA), and Gaelic Athletic Clubs often use the acronym GAC.

Two of the most popular Gaelic sports in Belfast are Gaelic football and hurling:

Gaelic Football

Gaelic football is a fast paced and very physical game played on a pitch with a round ball. It has similarities with both rugby and soccer. The game is played with an H-frame goal and that the aim is to kick the ball either into the netted goal (for 3 points) or over the crossbar (for 1 point). Players can run with the ball, bounce it or kick it. 


Hurling is another field sport played on the same pitch as Gaelic football. Rather than a ball, hurling is played with a small, hard puck called a silotar, which can be hit with a curved stick – similar to a hockey stick – called a hurley.

Again with an H-framed goal, the scoring system is the same, with 1 point to hit the silotar over the crossbar, and 3 points to hit it into the goal. Like Gaelic football, hurling is fast-paced and highly physical.

The role of sports physios in Belfast

With the prevalence of Gaelic and other contact sports in Belfast, sports physios have an important job to do. Injuries are reasonably frequent, and could be as a result of a direct contact (a trauma injury), sprains and strains caused by overexertion, or repetitive injuries brought on by overuse, such as tendonitis, tennis or golfer’s elbow, or bursitis.

Sports physios in Belfast come from a range of different backgrounds and work in various different ways. Some will have previous experience in an NHS setting whilst others will have gone straight into private practice. Some may also have experience working as a “club physio” for a particular club or organization, or are currently attached to one particular club, whilst others are more independent and treat players from a variety of clubs as well as private patients.

Techniques used by Belfast sports physios

Like all physiotherapists, sports physios use a variety of techniques to treat and rehabilitate their patients. After an initial examination and assessment, these will typically include soft tissue treatments like massage therapy, joint manipulation and joint mobilization. All of these relax muscles, promote healing blood flow and reduce tightness in injured tissues. Some physios may employ other forms of treatment such as therapeutic ultrasound, shockwave therapy or kinesiology taping.

There is great scope for patients to aid their own recovery by carrying out a bespoke exercise programme in their own time, complementing the work that is done by the physio. This might involve stretching, mobilization, and progressive reloading of the joint or muscle in question, ensuring that rehabilitation and return to sport is safe and not attempted too quickly.

Newforge Sports Centre

Belfast’s enthusiasm for sport is underlined by the £12M redevelopment in 2023 of the Newforge Sports Centre. Formerly the police sports center, the new development is open to all communities and boasts 3G pitches, an onsite sports physio clinic, a sports hall and state-of-the-art gym, all with a focus on accessibility and inclusivity ensuring that disabled users can also make full use of the facilities. The facility also offers corporate hospitality options, with a six-room conference center, and onsite catering is available.