Medal-Winning Physiotherapy

The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games got off to a flying start with a flurry of medals on day one for the host nation.  But whilst all eyes are on the athletes themselves as they strive for victory, it can be easy to forget those who work hard behind the scenes to make the Games a success.

From cleaners to ticket collectors and from chefs to medical staff, those who volunteer or work at the games are on the front line when it comes to building Glasgow’s reputation.  For these games the medical team is headed by physiotherapist Liz Mendl.  Liz is in charge of some 1,400 volunteers including 400 physiotherapists.

Building on her experience of previous Commonwealth and Olympic events, Liz has introduced two innovations for these games.  The first is to head up each medical room with a ‘lead physiotherapist’ who is responsible for running the room and ensuring that those in need of help swiftly receive the appropriate treatment from the right member of the multidisciplinary team.  The second innovation is to instil ‘first contact’ physios at training venues to provide instant help for those who don’t have access to a team physio.

On their website the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) highlights some of the many physiotherapists who have volunteered to help at the games.  Browsing through the summaries provided by the volunteers it is hard not to get an overwhelming feeling of the dedication and commitment which physiotherapists give on a daily basis.  Volunteer Emma Knott comments that “there is much more to physiotherapy than the magic sponge!” perhaps summing up best the challenge faced by the profession in helping people to truly understand the role which physiotherapists can play in keeping people fit and healthy. Yes, some may be called upon to deliver remedial treatment following one-off injuries; but physiotherapists also work with people in order to mitigate life-limiting conditions or even to help individuals to stay supple, preventing injuries from occurring in the first instance.

Measures, such as those introduced by Liz at the games, can only help to improve the public perception of the role of physiotherapy within the health profession. But this in turn may bring fresh challenges to the profession. Once physiotherapists are seen as front-line first-contact health professionals rather than ‘when everything else has been tried’ last resorts the profession is going to become even busier.  When time is at a premium the last thing that should be affected is patient treatment.  After all, when you have spend years training to bring your skills to benefit others, the last thing you want to do is to see valuable time spent on routine administration. Time saving measures such as online booking, diary management, electronic patient records and appointment reminders can all help to reduce time spent on administration, thereby maximising patient treatment times.

If the remainder of the games match up to the excitement on Day 1, then we are in for a feast of sport.  Let’s hope that the medical team aren’t kept too busy and can enjoy some of the events which they have given up their time to support.