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Olympics dream could begin in London 2012

Students wanting to treat athletes at future Olympic games should try to play some part in London 2012, Team GB chief physiotherapist Nicola Phillips told the Students Conference.

Ms Phillips said current students would not have sufficient experience to work directly with athletes in the London event, but the fact that the Olympics were being held on home soil gave young physiotherapists a golden opportunity to gain experience that could be vital in years to come.

Six general physios went to Beijing this summer with Team GB, along with 20 sport-specific physios.

The physiotherapist with the least experience in Ms Phillips’ team of six had been to five major games, including Olympic student games and Commonwealth games, and all the team had MScs, a postgraduate qualification in sports massage, and held the gold medal in the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine career pathway.

Gaining a place with the Olympic team was enormously tough, because even those qualifications were only a precursor before physios were selected on their other qualities, Ms Phillips said.

An ability to gain trust among the athletes quickly, but remain unobtrusive, was a key skill, as was an ability to work enormously hard for long periods.

None of the GB physios at the Olympics had a day off during the whole duration, and every working day was at least 12 hours, reaching 16 hours during peak periods.

Physio students were unlikely to be selected even to work in the London polyclinic team of up to 500, providing physiotherapy for teams with no physiotherapists of their own, Ms Phillips added, but she recommended students volunteered to work as drugs test chaperones or to carry out sports massage.

‘London won’t be the last Olympics. There will be plenty more, and this kind of experience will help you in the future,’ Ms Phillips said.  

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