In 2014 I landed the job of providing physiotherapy for the commonwealth shooters at the satellite athlete village in Dundee. I work day to day in the Blairgowrie Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic on the High Street in Blairgowrie. I treat any musculoskeletal problem affecting the young and old alike, this can range from a simple muscle tear to back and neck pain to stroke rehabilitation and sports injuries and rehabilitation.
As chartered physiotherapists we are trained to a high post graduate level to deal with the wide range of problems that may walk through the door. However, working onsite at a global sporting event is totally different. There is a sense of urgency and expectation to improve the athlete’s painful musculoskeletal issue so they can perform to the highest level in the competition. In the clinic there is normally not quite as much pressure if a sports person walks in as they normally have a few days before the match or event, in which the injury has time to change and normal healing to start to take place. In my day to day job I also don’t need to go through a body scanner or get my bag searched everyday - although I do miss the yummy 3 course lunches that were provided in the athlete village!
In the athlete village the athletes are booked in before and after their event. With shooting there is no need for pitch side first aid (you would hope not anyway!) and the athletes don’t really suffer from acute injury as there is generally a sport involving sustained positions.
When I told friends and family I was signed up as part of the volunteer commonwealth medical team to treat shooters, they were perplexed as to why shooters would need Physio. There were lots of jokes about treating ‘trigger’ finger etc! However, it is safe to say I never saw an injured finger. The main issues were backs and necks. The athletes presented with very similar patterns of injury, all caused from repetitive sustained loading of the vertebrae and soft tissue.
I absolutely loved my work at the commie games. I met so many people from different countries. I treated athletes from the Norfolk Islands, Northern Island, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, Canada, England, Singapore, Jamaica, Jersey. It was just great – they were so friendly and appreciative of the Physiotherapy. Shooting is so poorly funded that many of these athletes do not receive regular physiotherapy, some of them didn’t even have physiotherapy provision when training in their home countries. Many athletes presented with long standing issues and they were so grateful when after one session they had a lot more movement and a big reduction in their pain. It was a rewarding job to feel like you can help someone, especially just before they go on to compete for a medal which has been 4 years of hard training in the making.
We didn’t miss out on the action as we got to see some of the athletes we had treated in the morning go on to win medals in the afternoon. The athletes gave us little tokems of appreciation – pins from their country. So by the end of the 2 weeks my ID badge was decorated with a variety of pins. A lovely momento to come away with.
Don’t get me wrong- there is no glamour involved when working as a sports physio – it’s long shifts and can be pretty busy. When I have travelled with sports teams I tend to be the first team member working and the last to finish as the athletes need pre-match physio, pitchside first aid and post-match physio. So, when the coaches are having a drink in the bar, the physio may be still working away!!
I love it though – wish I could do more of it! It’s great. Everyone works hard at what they do and it is for the same purpose – to support the athletes and the team.
With a family of three little children travelling with the teams from Friday to Monday gets a bit tricky and this is why I have never had a permanent job working solely in sport. Maybe when the kids are older (although I’ll be a bit of a dinosaur physio by then) I may give it a bash!