Katy Hornby.jpgTo mark the arrival of international women's day (Wednesday 8 March), we're spotlighting a particularly special Hampshire Hospitals colleague.

Alongside her role as a sports exercise and medicine consultant at HHFT, Katy Hornby recently became the first ever female team doctor for the England Rugby men's team - an incredible honour within elite sport - after being appointed ahead of the current Six Nations tournament.

Hear more about her story, how she's leading the way for women within the game and why celebrating international women's day is important to her:


Tell me about your journey with England Rugby and within HHFT...

I started working with England Rugby back in 2015 when I was a sports exercise and medicine trainee, and an advert came up saying they needed some cover for the England Rugby senior women's side for the upcoming Six Nations. After working with the team for that tournament, I worked with the England Rugby under 20 women’s side and then was lucky enough to go out to Ireland to do the England Rugby senior women's World Cup in 2017 – which was a great experience – before taking the team doctor role full time with them in March 2020.

I then had my children and realised I didn't want to be away from home for loads of time, so I then moved into a clinical governance role with the RFU alongside working for the Harlequins Rugby men's side as one of their team doctors.

I took on the role of a sports exercise and medicine consultant at Hampshire Hospitals in September 2022, working within the orthopaedic department and seeing patients referred for musculoskeletal injuries. In December 2022, I then got a phone call to ask whether I'd also be keen to be involved with the England Rugby Men’s Six Nations alongside my role at HHFT! England Rugby had not had a female as a team doctor for the men’s side and it was a phenomenal opportunity. After speaking to the team at HHFT, they were really helpful and supportive, and lots of what I would learn I would put back into practice in my NHS role, so it was perfect. It's a nice mixture for me to have half my week doing my role with HHFT and then half my week normally doing elite sport.


What does it mean to you to be the first ever female team doctor of the England Rugby men’s team?

It means masses and I didn't think it would ever happen. I have worked my way through the teams so I feel like I've earned it and I don't think there's any reason why a woman shouldn't be the team doctor, I think it just hasn't necessarily been done before. I want to show women working in sport that just because you're female it doesn't mean you can't get the top jobs. So it's really important and I feel really proud and privileged – I'm hoping I'm sort of showing my daughter that you can do whatever you want to do, you’ve just got to work hard to get there and be the right character for the role.


What does a normal day working with England Rugby look like?

In terms of my day-to-day working with England Rugby, we're up quite early with the players and assess them before training in the morning. They’ll do a training session in the gym, then they'll go and do a skill session, and as medics, we’re always on hand. We then normally have what we call a refuel, with the players having some food etc and then we'll go out and do a session actually on the pitch, where as a group there are three physios, a soft tissue specialist and myself that remain pitch side.

Following that session, we’ll then be assessing injuries, have meetings to discuss player fitness and other areas that need medical input. Game days are generally about being pitch side, wherever we're playing, and providing medical support as needed. Once a game finishes, we'll do a check list and go through each of the players, checking that none of them have anything that we need to investigate or look into further.


What do you enjoy most about your roles and how do you balance everything?

Working with all the people that I work with and working as part of a team is the biggest thing for me, both at England Rugby and HHFT. With England Rugby too, it's the pinch me moments, for example sitting on the bus arriving at Twickenham and seeing fans screaming and so excited. If someone had said ten years ago, that's going to be you, sitting on the front of the bus, I never would have thought it.

In terms of balancing everything, I've got a very supportive family and my other half used to be an analyst in rugby, so he knows what it's like to work in sports and is very supportive of that. My mum is a former GP too and understands what it's like to be a medic. For me, when I'm at home I try to be connected to home and then when I’m at work it’s being connected to work.


What advice would you give to a young girl who looks at your journey and is inspired?

I would say don't give up, don't lose faith in yourself. Work hard for what you want, but also be humble. Also, maybe take on the jobs that don't pay the most or the jobs that aren't that glamorous, because the things you're learning there are the things that you need to know for doing the bigger jobs. I've worked my way up from a Division One team, where I probably got paid less than it cost a ticket to go to the game, and to now be working for England men’s team, it shows that you shouldn’t give up.


What piece of advice has changed your life or made a difference to you personally or professionally?

Believe in yourself. As a female working in sport, it is a bit trickier to get to the top. I'm really lucky, actually, with England because there's a female physio here, we've got a female sports therapist, Catherine our media manager, and our team manager is female too which is brilliant. But I think I've probably struggled over the years with confidence and being told I wasn't going to be able to do something and actually, I realised that doesn't need to stop you at all.


What does international women’s day mean to you?

International women’s day gives us an opportunity to celebrate all the things women have achieved and are achieving, and where we have come from to where we are now. It’s important to celebrate those women from history that have got us to here and given us those opportunities, because without them, there's no way I'd be sat here today. So for me it's celebrating the past and the women that have paved the way for us to now do what we do.