So I set off to Portugal for a test holding camp for the 2012 games - we will be going to the same camp next year before the games and this was a
chance to 'test' out training venues and let the staff work out how best to set up their services out there. As a physiotherapist I work in close
conjunction with the rest of the sports science and medical team comprising of a medical officer (sports doctor), physiotherapists, sports masseurs,
physiologists (sports science), nutritionists and performance analysts (video analysis). This was again back out of the frying pan and right back
into the fire once more - even more disabilities and more complexities!
The variety in disabilities is mind boggling, you could be working with
athletes with less than 4 limbs due to an accident or a congenital condition or with congenital deformity of those limbs, you could also work
with blind athletes, athletes with brain injury or intellectual disability or athletes with peripheral nerve problems or spinal injury affecting
their movement and even sometimes you will come across athletes with completely rare syndromes or their own specific problems it all in all makes
your work very varied.
To work effectively within this environment you need to step back from the disabilities and not focus on what the athlete can't do,
but address their needs and abilities and focus on these instead. For example you could have the same rehab programme for the same problem for 2
different athletes in the same sport but one athlete is blind and can't see what you are trying to show them and the other athlete be working has
one arm and 3 fingers on that arm so you are always modifying what you do to suit the athlete either through how you communicate with them or by
having to change how the exercise is done, possibly by using aids/different equipment or utilising a different position for holding bars, performing
certain exercises etc.
This complexity is what I find challenging in my work with this group of athletes and it certainly keeps you busy. So although working with
Paralympics Ireland has been a challenge it has also been very interesting work and something a little out of the ordinary. The best bit about
working with this group of people is that because you are seeing so many complex and unusual complaints, when you arrive back to working within
a non disability group again it is far easier to understand the complex issues you might only see very occasionally day to day. Therefore it has
really enabled me to be a better physiotherapist within my clinical work as well.
The 2012 London games are flying towards us now and it's not long at all until it all kicks off. The summer games will be held from 29th
August until the 9th of September after the Olympics has been completed. It will be amazing to see what East London looks like now and what its like to be
inside the Olympic Village.
Preparations for our teams are going well with us taking more Irish athletes than ever before, for example the cycling team recently
secured 7 places for the games in comparison with 4 in Beijing in 2008. This games will see us taking a rowing team for the first time ever as well.
There is a lot going on in preparation as you can well imagine. We will be meeting up as a squad several times before the games, with camps in Limerick,
Northern Ireland and Portugal before the games. More importantly the athletes will be competing to secure their place on the plane and they will be
training a serious amount of hours in addition too, and knowing our athletes they will spend every waking minute preparing every last detail for them too!
There are a number of gold medal winners going out to retain their crowns in Athletics: Jason Smyth T13 100m, 200m champion, sensationally
Jason is attempting to qualify for the London Olympic games with a sub 10.18 A standard 100m qualifying time (good luck Jason), Michael Mckillop T37 800m champion
who is also going for the 1500 crown. There are also some current world champions who are looking to take the next step at London by going for gold these are
Athletics; Catherine O'Neill F51 discus, Paracycling's; Mark Rohan HC1 time trial and road race champion, Colin Lynch time trial and track champion, Catherine
Walsh and Pilot Fran Meehan tandem track champions, so things are looking exciting for the games in August and September.
For me personally the games are going to be an amazing experience as it's my first attendance at the Paralympics and I'll be right in
the thick of the action in the Olympic village and venues, which is a very exciting prospect. I just hope I can deliver in regards to my work and be a
part of giving the team the service it needs to reach the highest levels possible at this games. I know we have a great support team and administration
team and an even greater set of athletes so I have full confidence we can go to London and come back to Ireland with our heads held high and share a full
success everyone back home.
Come on Ireland!!
Jon Faulkner MISCP
Chartered Physiotherapist to Paralympics Ireland and Physiotherapy Works - Naas
See Paralympics Ireland's website for all the latest news on the Irish team!
And for all thing London 2012 see: