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RehabilitationDec 6, 2021

Meet Trevor Donald from SportsMed, the company that distributes AlterG treadmills in the UK

Trevor Donald is the managing director of SportsMed Products Ltd – the Buckinghamshire-based company that’s had the sole rights to distribute AlterG treadmills in the UK for six years.

Trevor, an engineer by background, says becoming AlterG’s sole UK distributor offered him the chance to build on a well-established reputation in the field. He had previously set up the iconic treadmill’s UK and European sales network, working directly for the US-based company.

‘In 2015 we formed a new company, and I was keen to add equipment to our portfolio that also offered good quality and good science.’

A therapist with a patient moving from his wheelchair on to an AlterG Fit treadmill

Power Diary 3rd May 2022
Power Diary 3rd May 2022

AlterG’s technological roots can be traced back to NASA in the US and the need to prepare people to walk in space. But it wasn’t long before the treadmill’s potential in developing sporting prowess and keeping people conditioned during rehabilitation began to be exploited, Trevor explains. ‘People began to ask: “How do we get runners to run longer and faster without breaking down?” AlterGs provided the answer.’

Over the years, AlterG’s appeal has ‘morphed’ into areas such as NHS neurology units, Trevor explains, with the advanced technology helping children with cerebral palsy to learn to walk and adults to recover after stroke. People who are obese receive a motivational fillip when find they can walk or even run again as the machine takes the strain off their joints.

The charity Help for Heroes supplied a number of AlterG treadmills to gyms helping injured servicemen and women to get back on their feet and, ultimately, the frontline. ‘I think of it as being like hydrotherapy without the water – and there’s no resistance to push against,’ Trevor notes.

The need for 'good science' behind the products

‘AlterG was already a success story, but we rapidly found that there was a limited range of equipment out there that had good science behind it,’ Trevor recalls. ‘It took us some time to nail down the products that we wanted to sell.’

Today, SportsMed offers three other main products. There’s KT Tape, the original kinesiology therapeutic tape that’s designed to aid recovery in sportspeople and runners, and Spirit Gym Equipment to offer a more traditional gym and rehab experience.

Finally, there’s the HUR equipment range, which is proving to be popular with physiotherapy clinics that include gyms. The ‘active ageing’ market and the residential care sector also keep Trevor and his daughter, Nikki, the company’s marketing director, busy with queries and orders.

‘The beauty of HUR machines is that people can lift weights that offer much smaller increments than standard gym equipment,’ Trevor explains. ‘People like to see they are making progress and for this to be logged and available to their therapist,’ Trevor explains. ‘Our products enable private physio clinics to answer the question: “How can we be different from what’s on offer down the road?”’ *

An 'additional pair of hands'

Being able to offer a structured rehab programme on an anti-gravity treadmill to someone recovering from, say, a total knee replacement, gives you a wonderful opportunity to promote your business and grow [Trevor Donald, SportsMed]

Trevor says his company has supplied AlterGs to private physiotherapy clinics and although the cost may initially seem daunting, the machines are available on a series of finance options. His key message is to consider the range of long-term benefits.

‘While you as a clinic owner are not going to recoup that money instantaneously, being able to offer a structured rehab programme on an anti-gravity treadmill to someone recovering from, say, a total knee replacement, gives you a wonderful opportunity to promote your business and grow.’

‘Physios can offer local runners the chance to train and improve their technique on AlterGs just like their idols Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah have done. Forward-thinking physios are now saying: “I don’t need a treatment room; I need a gym.”’

Having access to an AlterG also gives physios ‘an additional pair of hands’, says Trevor, as patients quickly learn how to use the machine, follow a pre-set programme and manage their own sessions – without a physio having to observe them directly. Another advantage is that the treadmills naturally offer social-distancing opportunities between therapist and patient, should concerns about Covid-19, for example, come to the fore again.

‘Research conducted at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital showed how physios’ time can be freed up, allowing them to do what they do best: which is assessing people and setting up and monitoring appropriate programmes.’

Lessons from Scandinavia

Trevor admits he’s become ‘something of an evangelist’ for changing how older people’s health and fitness are generally viewed in this country. ‘When you look at Scandinavian countries – and I have visited several of them to see what’s going on – they focus on maintaining overall fitness levels, whereas we just seem to focus on the cardiovascular aspect. But, to me, there’s no point in having a healthy heart if you can’t get out of your chair!’

As a former footballer himself, albeit at a non-professional level, Trevor’s eyes light up when he talks about the links his company has forged with Premier League clubs. But it’s not just the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City that want the latest AlterG to increase their rehab regimes.

SportsMed also supplies treadmills to football clubs with more modest means and to a host of professional rugby clubs and a number of cricket clubs. And it doesn’t stop there, says Trevor. ‘Because they know they can rely on us, many clubs also ask us to undertake complete gym re-fits during their close season, where we supply a variety of equipment from a range of sources as well as an AlterG or two.’

* Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Stirling recommended the use of resistance training to improve frailty among older people. The paper, by Professor Anna Whittaker and colleagues, appeared in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. In their study, a group of care home residents used HUR machines equipped with smart-activated technology. 

For more details about the University of Stirling study, visit: https://www.stir.ac.uk/news/2021/october-2021-news/experts-recommend-resistance-training-to-improve-frailty-in-older-people

For more information about SportsMed Products Ltd, visit: https://sports-medical.co.uk

Author: Ian A McMillan
Power Diary 3rd May 2022
Power Diary 3rd May 2022
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