By Daniel Browne, Physiotherapist, Langwarrin Sports Medicine Group
Since 1930, every four years the Commonwealth Games are held to both celebrate and test the athletic ability of the countries residing under the Commonwealth of Nations. This year the Commonwealth Games were held up in the Gold Coast in Queensland from the 4th-15th April.
This marked a significant milestone in Commonwealth Games history, as it was the first event to have an equal number of male and female athletes competing, as well as the inclusion of para athletes within the main time slot of the able bodied athletes. This provided much needed exposure and the tens of thousands of crowd patrons the opportunity to experience something special that otherwise may have flown under the radar.
In total there were more than 6500 athletes and team officials from 71 nations and territories competing in 18 sports, and 7 para sports with a total audience of 1.5 billion.
Through an extensive application process I was afforded the opportunity to lend my skills as part of the Medical team at the Carrara Complex. This included work with the weightlifting, para- weightlifting, badminton, wrestling as well as liaising with the athletics medical team.
Each team comprised of a sports doctor, physiotherapist, sports masseuse and sports trainer entrusted with providing care to both on field incidence, between game management and overall rehab day to day. Day to day challenges included interactions with athletes, team officials, technical officials as well as the sport specific and country specific medical personnel.
A particularly warming tale came on my second last day treating a female badminton athlete from Fiji. She formed one half a doubles duo that was an outside chance for a medal going into the round of 16. Clinically it appeared she had a significant high ankle sprain, but she was desperate to play for herself, her country, but most of all for her doubles partner. After what seemed like 100 conversations with her, the games staff, her coach and her team doctor – all while her partner frantically sprinted up and down the court behind us eagerly keeping an ear out – I was able to support her ankle in such a way that would give her enough pain relief to play and function so as to not significantly increase her risk of injury. She played, and won. Afterwards she was a bit tender, but ecstatic that she was able to move through to the next round which was the following day. I handed her over to a treating practitioner at athlete’s village and left feeling positive about the whole experience. I followed up with her the next day after competition. She unfortunately lost the next round, but her ankle was feeling ok. My reward was a Fijian pin (the secret currency of Commonwealth and Olympic games).
Looking back on my experience now, I am glad that I took the time to head up to the Gold Coast and volunteer for 2 weeks. It gave me the opportunity to be part of something bigger then myself. To help other athletes achieve and most importantly participate in something that they have spent their life working towards is both a humbling and empowering experience. I would encourage everyone to check out the Commonwealth Games next time in Birmingham, England 2022.