Physiotherapy at the Games

Being responsible for the physical therapies offered to the thousands of Olympians and Paralympians during London 2012 leaves Lynn Booth unfazed. Robert Millett reports.

‘A lot of Physiotherapists want to be  involved with sport, but, as my first boss told me, people are like bacon and eggs – the hens are involved but the pigs are committed.’

That is the message from Lynn Booth, Clinical Lead for Physical Therapies on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

Ms Booth is responsible for advising LOCOG on all matters relating to physical therapy services and their provision during the Games.

With an extensive background in international sports physiotherapy, Ms Booth first got involved when she was invited to contribute to LOCOG’s medical services advisory group, and her role grew radically when she was appointed in a competitive process to her present position.

As well as overseeing the logistical side, Ms Booth will also aim to ensure that all the Physios involved maintain their professionalism under pressure and aren’t distracted by the grandeur and glamour of the event.

‘There will be people who have never been involved in the Games before and will be shell shocked and curious and going: “Hey – that’s Usain Bolt!”, so we have to make sure they don’t become star-struck autograph hunters.

‘Equally we have to be aware of people who have had some previous Games experience and may be blasé about what’s involved, because they will be in for a bit of a shock. Being a volunteer for LOGOG won’t be like being in a team or get you through turnstiles, for example.’

Ms Booth is optimistic that the Physios will gain valuable continuing professional development through volunteering at the Games.

Senior Physios, who have completed role and venue-specific training, will be on hand to support them.

Most physio activity will take place at the brand-new polyclinic next to the athlete’s village in Stratford.

It  will open around the clock and an impressive array of healthcare staff will treat around 200 athletes a day.

Most of those receiving treatment will come from nations without their own medical team. Around 25 physios will report for duty on each shift.

A total of 98 Physios will work in the polyclinic during the duration of the Olympic Games,with from  65 to 70 for the smaller Paralympic Games.

One of Ms Booth’s biggest challenges will be organising so many volunteers at the 40-odd training and competition sites, and in the other two polyclinics in Portland, Dorset, and Egham, Surrey.

‘We have so many people scattered all over and it’s just making sure that they all have a good experience wherever they are working,’ says Ms Booth.

‘It will be interesting to see how the Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physios gel together. One nice bit of “legacy” will be for all the professionals to see how each other works.

‘They will also have to get used to close inter-professional team working – as lots of people won’t be used to having a sports medicine doctor right there next to them.’

The approach will also provide a unique opportunity for many of the Physios involved. For example, the polyclinic in Stratford is equipped with two sophisticated MRI scanners, CT scanner, a digital X-ray and diagnostic ultrasound, and will be staffed by a radiologist.

‘So they could say: “See what you feel? Now look at what we see. You thought it was this [condition] clinically and this proves it”. You don’t get the opportunity for that kind of instant affirmation very often.’

Ms Booth hopes the CSP will also do its best to capitalise on the spotlight the Games will cast on the profession.

Although her own day-to-day role at the Games will mostly involve coordinating the distribution and workload of the physical therapy services staff, Ms Booth hopes she also gets a chance to do some hands-on work.

This article first appeared in Frontline magazine, the member magazine from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, which owns the copyright.

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