This year being an Olympic and Paralympic year has become even more exciting than usual because:
1. The games are closer than ever in London, UK a city where I completed University and lived in for 5 years
2. Because I will be actually attending the event in person in the thick of the action as Physiotherapist to The Irish Paralympic Team on behalf of Paralympics Ireland. Exciting stuff!
I originally was introduced to disability sport in 2009 when I attended the 2009 Deaflympic games in Tapei, Taiwan as Physiotherapist to Ireland’s Deaf Men’s Football team which was a crash course in all aspects of disability sport especially communication! – to learn the alphabet and all the swear words was the challenge on a 20 hour set of flights to the other side of the world, I did pretty well on both fronts which I suppose is important when working for a football team and I managed to work without an interpreter for most of the 3 weeks we were away!
After returning home the team were on a break period so in early 2010 I was asked down to Football Association of Ireland HQ in Abbotstown to meet with another disability team manager and after an hour of talking with the manager, Paul Cassin, I agreed to take on a role with the Ireland Cerebral Palsy Football team (Cerebral Palsy is Brain injury sustained at birth affecting muscle function and often causing weakness to one side of the body and often other difficulties relating to brain injury) and I you could say since then I have been out of the frying pan into the fire then back into the frying pan again.
Moving from working with a sensory disability like deafness to an all encompassing physical disability like cerebral Palsy was quite a step and worlds apart in terms of working as a physiotherapist within a football team. Since that point myself and the team have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs both professionally and as a team.
We developed a great structure around the team as a team of support staff including coaching staff, medical staff, sports nutritionists, physiologists and in summer 2010 went on to come 3rd in the European Championships; a great feat for a country with few footballers and even fewer footballers with brain injury!
We fell down at the last hurdle in the world championships in summer 2011 and narrowly missed out on the Paralympic games, this was both a blessing and a curse on a personal and professional basis giving so much time to the team setting up injury prevention schemes: individual rehabilitation programmes for ongoing injuries that players had, core training programmes, joint set up of the strength and condition programmes in conjunction with our Conditioning coach and modern warm up protocols.
All seemed wasted but my work had been noted by the Performance director Nancy Chillingworth at Paralympics Ireland and in August I was asked to begin working with the whole paralympic squad comprised of all sports and disabilities.