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(1 Jun 2012) LEADIN
The coming weeks will be vital to elite athletes battling for gold in the 2012 Olympics.
Their training regimes are at their toughest, but without medical treatment and physiotherapy a sudden injury can end hopes of Olympic medals and even curtail the most promising careers.
Iain Lewers has been playing hockey since the age of four and he’s talented, one of Britain’s best, and that’s why he’s a part of the British Olympic team this summer.
But a year and a half ago he suffered two groin injuries and was forced to undergo surgery.
He couldn’t play for at least five months, that’s long enough to have a serious impact on the condition and performance of a top flight athlete.
Lewers believes he’s back as an Olympic contender because of the treatment he gets from the medical specialists and importantly the regular physio he gets from experienced therapists like Laura Hanna here at the National Institute of Sport.
Hanna faces a daily stream of ankle injuries and groin strains which have to be sorted quickly if players like Lewers are to stay on the hockey field.
The aim of the team here is to reduce the overall number of injuries.
Hanna says: “We have worked along with the strength and conditioning coaches to make sure if there is an area where we are getting a lot of injuries that we add in to their rehab programmes and also their strength and conditioning programmes some exercises to prevent them getting a recurrence, or for those who’ve never had it, to prevent them getting (it again) in the future. So our athletes are a lot more robust than they used to be so our injury rate as a whole has stabilised.”
The British team are about to face a match with South Korea.
Hanna straps and binds the weakest areas to ensure the old injuries are supported.
Like any contact sport it’s virtually impossible to avoid some impact injury.
Hanna says: “We get our fair share of dead legs, sore backs, sore ankles, sore knees which we deal with. My most serious injury in hockey was, unfortunately in my first year, was a fractured Adam’s apple and cricoid cartlages in his throat, he got hit by a stick here (points to neck) and he ended up in intensive care and ended up having to have a reconstruction of the cartlages in his throat. They’re very, very rare.”
Another of Hanna’s pre-match patients is midfielder and striker Ashley Jackson, a serious abdominal injury kept him on the sidelines for eight months before he began his battle back to fitness.
Like their fellow internationals, Jackson and Lewers are focussed on producing their best performances for the Olympics, injuries are in the past, but Lewers admits: “It was obviously very serious and I had to undergo surgery on both groins thirteen and fourteen months ago and from that I was out five, six months.”
Sport at this level is played hard and fast.
Tactics from the coach can only give a limited advantage and by half time the stresses become more obvious.
Players push themselves as far as they can go, keen to ensure they’ll stay qualified for the international sports event of 2012, the Olympics.
Hanna and the designated doctor for the day hand out drinks to improve hydration and icepacks to alleviate bruises and swellings.
With victory ensured for this day at least Jackson is willing to admit just how devastating an injury can be for an athlete.
It’s not just the end of a dream to represent your country in the Olympics, Jackson has already done that in Beijing.
The greatest fear not knowing whether you have a career left.
For athletes in rehabilitation the physiotherapy is often what keeps them going that and the thought of playing again.
Jackson remembers his time in rehab.
Jackson believes it’s not just a tournament, but a future at stake.

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