Physios join the nation's best parasport athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics

The 2020 Paralympic Games in Japan, postponed from last year due to the pandemic, have begun with physiotherapists playing a critical support role for Britain’s 221 parasport athletes. 

Speaking to Frontline on the eve of Tuesday's opening ceremony, ParalympicsGB lead physio Dawn Ibrahim outlined the outstanding work of the 27 physio clinicians:

Our highly experienced team of physiotherapists out in Tokyo are part of a wider interdisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, nutritionists and psychologists all working collaboratively to support and optimise the physical and mental health of athletes and staff to create the best environment for everyone to thrive in and for athletes to succeed.

The performance spaces created in the preparation camps in Keio and Yokahama and in the Paralympic Village are 'relaxed, purposeful, and professional' environments for the core sports science and medicine team and the individual sports physiotherapists to support and treat athletes, explained Ms Ibrahim. There are five ParalympicsGB core physiotherapists based within these three sites.

ParalympicsGB headquarters physios
Paralympic Village core team physiotherapists Tom Hignett, Rachel Carter and Catherine Smaill

The two ParalympicsGB preparation camp facilities are at the Keio University site and at the Intercontinental Hotel Yokahama during the pre-games period, and are fully equipped with performance treatment spaces and facilities. Physiotherapists Paul Martin and Hannah Llewellyn are based at these two sites. 

Hannah Llewellyn
Hannah Llewellyn

The ParalympicsGB performance centre in the Paralympic Village provides a treatment space for both core and individual sports physiotherapists to operate, an active recovery and rehabilitation space as well as private consultation rooms for the wider sports science and medicine clinicians.

Paras physios
Core preparation camp physio Paul Martin (left) and in the Paralympic Village Catherine Smaill (right) and lead physio ParalympicsGB Dawn Ibrahim (centre)

Ice bath facilities are available for heat illness management and recovery. Physiotherapists Tom Hignett, Catherine Smaill and Rachel Carter are based in the Paralympic Village throughout the Games period. 

The other 21 physiotherapists who have come to the Games are with the sports they are fully embedded in. They are:

  • archery - Matt McGovern
  • athletics - Gemma Jefferson, Jude Holmes, Lachlan Bromley, Leigh Halfteck, James Hedger (soft tissue therapist)
  • badminton - Sinead Chambers
  • boccia - Fran Lace
  • canoe - Charlie Wade
  • cycling - Katie Flatters 
  • equestrian - Lucy Bell
  • judo - John Prescott
  • powerlifting - Oly Freeman
  • rowing - Pat Dunleavy
  • shooting - Matt Papworth
  • swimming - Ritchie Barber
  • table tennis - Morag Sheridan
  • taekwondo - Tom Paine
  • triathlon - Dan Atkinson
  • wheelchair basketball - Charlie Steggles, Laura Heathcote
  • wheelchair tennis - Sam Williamson

The core physio team are providing support for both wheelchair rugby and fencing.

Physiotherapist Ritchie Barber
Physiotherapist Ritchie Barber

Record-busting Ritchie Barber

CSP member Ritchie Barber had a key role in the success of the TeamGB swimmers in the opening days of the Paralympics at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

On Wednesday Reece Dunn and Tully Kearney got silver medals and Toni Shaw a bronze while today world records were set by Maisie Summers-Newton and Kearney with golds.

Barber, their physio, took a break during his busy schedule to outline his responsibilities as TeamGB athlete health and physiotherapy lead as: 

  • optimising athlete health and well-being during the Games
  • optimising communication between external partners to enhance athlete healthcare
  • support athlete’s physical preparation for competition
  • provide athlete support services to enable optimal athlete independence during Games time

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