Post-Olympic preparedness

Let’s start with the uncomfortable truth; even for highly trained Olympic athletes sport can be dangerous. Anyone who doubts that only look at some of the horrific crashes in the cycling road races, or the broken leg suffered by the unfortunate gymnast in the opening days of the Rio Olympics.

But because sport can be dangerous, the better the preparation the more that injuries can be avoided or at least reduced. So whilst pictures of bored lifeguards sitting at the side of the Olympic pool may have given rise to some comment, competitors who inadvertently inhale water or suffer from a sudden cramp may be very glad that there is someone on hand to haul them out.

No matter what the sport; whilst talent plays its part, the secret to success is in the preparation. So those participating in sport have to ensure that their training is carefully balanced and this includes managing the pre-and post training warm up and warm down phases. Coaches too play their part in ensuring safety, as do those who manage sports venues. And this is before we bring in the ancillary support team which may include physiotherapists and chiropractors, sports nutritionists and psychologists.

However, whilst our Olympians may have a significant retinue to call upon, everyday athletes may find that the responsibility for safe training and performance falls very much more on their shoulders. This is not to say that support staff aren’t available if required; it is just that for the majority of athletes, health professionals such as physiotherapists are far more likely to become involved once an injury has occurred rather than at the preparation and training stage.

This of itself can cause something of a problem for health professionals. Following every Olympic Games there is a resurgence in interest in sports participation, and it is expected that the Rio Olympics will be no different. Whilst this is great news for sports clubs and for the overall level of fitness within the country, with a revival of interest in sport comes an inevitable increase in injuries. This can result in a significant increase in demand for health professionals to provide physiotherapy or other treatments.

Coping with this sudden increase in demand requires preparation. From a societal point of view, health professionals may feel that it is beneficial to work with local sports clubs, helping them to help their athletes to understand the importance of preparation in reducing the chances of injury.

But whilst this may play some part in helping sportspeople to look after their bodies, health professionals also need to work to streamline their practice in order to reduce strain on their time. Yet, as with fitness training, simple steps can make a measurable difference. For example, switching telephones to a virtual assistant service instantly frees up time which would otherwise be taken in simply talking to people and booking appointments. Similarly, offering an online booking service can help clients to book appointments at a time which is convenient to them without the need for a long discussion.

And when appointments have been made, SMS text reminders help to ensure that people turn up on time today treatments, helping the day to run smoothly and reducing the incidence of missed appointments. Similarly, online filing patient notes means that patient details are available at the click of a button rather than following a lengthy search through filing cabinets.

With a little preparation comes the chance for success. The majority of sportspeople will never experience the Olympic Games as a competitor; but they still can push their own boundaries, challenging themselves to be the best that they can be. With health professionals on side, helping to keep people fit and to manage injuries, we all have chance to benefit from the Olympic legacy.