How to survive your police career

Mark Heffernan

Mark Heffernan

Exercise and Injury Prevention

Mark Heffernan is a chartered physiotherapist, qualifying in 2002. He joined the police service in 2007 and enjoyed hurting – or treating – police officers and staff so much that he stayed.

In his time working with police he has developed his role to that of ‘injury reduction consultant’ and delivers talks to all new recruits on how to reduce their risk of injury in the first place. This, he thought naively, would allow him to make a cup of tea, put his feet up and become redundant – no chance in this line of work! Fast cars, riot shields and Saturday night roll-around cause injury but then so do poor eating, seating, sleeping, stress, computer screens, mice, mobiles and shift work – please sit up properly while reading this!

In Mark’s efforts to understand the business of policing, he has spent time kitted up with firearms, public order, method of entry and helps train recruits in fitness to ensure they are robust enough for the rigours of the Police service whilst reducing their risk of injury.

In his younger years he attempted to make it as an athlete, but soon found that even giving 100% was never going to replace the talent he lacked in abundance, so, he hung up his spikes for a decent pair of shoes and became a postman … well, he thought, it would be better than walking the streets! Thirteen years later and noticing that heavy post bags cause twisted spines he sought a way out. First he became a diving instructor while also gaining qualifications in personal training and massage. Having had enough of being chased down streets by dangerous dogs and now 36 with three children, (4,3,1) he decided to test his marriage to the full by going back to college and getting those academic qualifications that so easily eluded him in his younger years. During these hard years, the highlight of his week was finding a quid down the back of the sofa so they could buy a loaf of bread. He passed the access course with flying colours and went to university to study Physiotherapy. Now 37 and a mature student he hoped when he got to Uni that he wouldn’t be so old as to be classed as mouldy. He was very relieved to find he wasn’t the oldest.

Six months before qualifying, while on placement in the NHS, he challenged a superintendent physiotherapist who was not treating the elderly patients well and came close to being thrown off the course. But he was vindicated. Returning to university, and rapidly approaching 40, he was asked by two fellow students, ‘When were diagnosed with dyslexia?’ to which he replied, ‘No I’m not dyslexic, I think it’s my dodgy eyesight. The words jump up and down and I get a headache after ten minutes of reading.’ They laughed but he went for an assessment to be advised that he must have been severely dyslexic as a child and was now a compensated dyslexic. Armed with a ‘disability’ he was asked to attend a counselling session at the university and asked, ‘How do you feel about being given this diagnosis?’ to which he replied, ‘Thank you very much … always thought dyslexics were more intelligent than the concrete sequential learners! Einstein, Newton, Branson, all dyslexic and now I’m in the same club … ta very much.’

From university, Mark spent five years working in the NHS taking in such disciplines as neurology, outpatients, orthopaedics, paediatrics, respiratory and intensive care but left shortly afterwards as a result of a serious assault one morning in-between treating patients which led to PTSD. A stint of sick leave followed during which time a chance encounter with the Metropolitan Police led to Mark being offered the role as Kent Police physiotherapist.

In 2014 Mark challenged his dyslexia to the limit by writing and publishing a book, ‘I Am The Referee’ about the world’s best, (at time of writing) boxing referee, Ian John Lewis. It continues to sell well. Writing is his hobby and he is currently negotiating to have the two novels he has written transferred to the screen – watch this space!

Now, at 58, he still plays football and is in the same team as his two sons who are 24 and 21. Life is good and he is glad to report that it’s been a few years since he has had to frisk the sofa in ‘search’ for a meal!


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