Rod Jaques: British athletes are receiving unique medical support in build-up to London 2012 thanks to EIS

Thursday, 08 March 2012
Rod Jaques_head_and_shouldersWhilst many facets of the promise of sporting legacy are debated and discussed, one area which is already proving to have been positively impacted by the Games and offers a legacy beyond it is that of Sports Medicine.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) being established as a network of experts across the country - ie so not new - but there's no denying that London 2012 and the increased funding commitment into high performance sport as a result has served as a catalyst to the development of infrastructure around high performance sport in terms of the elite sport science and medical expertise available.

When considering the non-elite population, in January, Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, announced £30 million funding for a National Centre of Excellence for Sport and Exercise Medicine, as part of the London 2012 legacy.

The aim of this is to help more people to be more active, treat injuries caused by exercise and conditions associated with lack of exercise as well use exercise for those with ongoing conditions.   

Having been a part of discussions for this new centre since its inception in 2009, it highlights just how far the whole area of sports medicine has come since it began being practiced in the UK 20 years ago. Dealing with elite athletes at the EIS, we employ a team of 19 Sport and Exercise Medicine Doctors, 12 of which are on the GMC register in SEM, more than any other organisation in the UK.

Regionally, the links to investigative teams offering X-rays, MRI's and surgeons at the end of the line are a key element to the support we offer to athletes; quickly diagnosing and understanding issues, offering leading expertise to address them and a comprehensive support team to get athletes back on form, which uniquely at the EIS will be a mesh of sport science and medical support- such as psychology, nutrition, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy etc.

EIS medical_treatment

As sports have had increased performance funding through UK Sport Lottery funding, they have had the capacity to invest in the sport medicine and sport science support at the EIS as well as independently.

Through regular sessions held by the EIS with not only our own medical team but others from the high performance system, we've discussed current and future treatments and performance medicine issues to ensure the network is working together to deliver the best support to elite athletes. The National Centre of Excellence for Sport and Exercise Medicine, will hopefully further extend our reach and provide leading expertise in all sorts of areas which may benefit athletes –such as orthotics for example.

Solving problems around injuries or a particular condition, sourcing the best expertise to diagnose and treat them and most of all learning from them so we can prevent them in future is what we are all striving to achieve.

When an athlete faces an injury or condition, more than anyone else in society they have to deal with things very publicly and often their injuries and recovery is discussed very openly in the media. Ensuring athletes have the best support around them to get them back on their feet is vital and recent examples of the blend of expertise working to achieve that include Serita Shone, the bobsleigh athlete who suffered a serious spinal injury and is now back at home working with both EIS physiotherapy and psychology support; British diver Monique Gladding, who is back on the high board after a terrible accident in Russia; and Jessica Ennis (pictured) who returned to form after a fractured foot meant she needed biomechanical support to learn to jump off her other foot.

Jessica Ennish_being_treated_for_injury
Recent high profile injuries such as taekwondo's Sarah Stevenson and triathlon's Alistair Brownlee, are involving support teams from both the EIS and their national governing bodies to ensure they have the best opportunity for recovery ahead of London 2012.

It's not unusual for our team to receive texts with images of X-rays or rashes from athletes overseas and, within the limits of modern technology, we are able to work with athletes both domestically and overseas and uniquely, often when time pressures exist, address the whole support team along with the athlete to get the treatments and solutions up and running as soon as possible. I don't know of anywhere else where this exists in medicine, as it's such a unique way of working.

Already we are seeing sports medicine integrating with a whole breadth of support services at the EIS to get athletes back on form. This, along with the new centre of excellence as well as the experience and lessons to learn from the breadth of EIS staff who will work directly with sports or as part of Team GB at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, what we will be left with in the UK is a enviable network to provide athletes with enhanced care when they need it most.

The English Institute of Sport (EIS) works as the "Team Behind The Team", delivering 4000 hours of Sport Science and Sport Medicine to Olympic and Paralympic sports every week. For more information click here
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