Sports Therapy students in action at IronMan Dublin.
Our Sports Therapy students spent 3 days working in the Athlete Village at the recent Dublin IronMan event. This event provides a fantastic example of the complex care and preparation involved in multi-discipline events. Triathletes, together with Decathletes, are probably among the most versatile and robust athletes that we as sports support professionals work with. Triathletes have to be conditioned for a sport that taxes endurance systems (both aerobic and anaerobic) as well as combining demands from sports-specific skills that vary profoundly (swimming, cycling and running). Hence the conditions that may affect triathletes vary widely and the Sports Therapist must be suitably prepared to account for a wide variety of issues when preparing Triathletes for competition.
Preparing for the Event
In terms of preparation, the Sports Therapist may work with triathletes either short term (at the event) or longer term (during training) or both, either way the Sports Therapist must be equipped with knowledge of the sports discipline demands and variations (depending on triathlete level, environmental conditions etc.). As well as having a broad knowledge of triathlon physiological, biomechanical, physical and mental demands, the sports therapist must be prepared to work in challenging conditions. Often at Triathlon events Sports Therapist will have to set-up their support stations outdoors depending on what stage or level of competition they are supporting. Events such as the Triathlon can be extremely busy so Sports Therapist must be able to work autonomously, efficiently and often with limited space and resources.
Working with Triathletes
From a therapeutic perspective, providing pre and post event support at competition is usually geared towards increasing tissue perfusions, maximising oxygen delivery and increasing musculoskeletal tissue temperature to prepare for or recover from the high metabolic demands placed on the triathlete. For individuals, this may include specific injury-prevention or rehabilitation requirements, like additional mobilisation on a previously-injured shoulder or providing additional support for a weak ankle. However, when providing longer term support for triathletes there are wider considerations that the Sports Therapist must factor in. For example, decreased immunity. Due to their extreme and intense training schedules, burn-out and over training is a concern for triathletes, Sports Therapist can play an important role in decreasing risk of burn-out and overtraining by promoting recovery but also by red-flagging athletes who are presenting with high risk indications of over training (like persistent muscular breakdown, impaired tissue healing etc.). In addition to the physical and physiological presentations, Sports Therapist often become an important confidant for Triathletes who often report fatigue or injury concern to their Sports Therapist before reporting to coaches.
The IronMan event gave Portobello Sports Therapy students invaluble hands on experience and also a great insight to the role of sports therapists at major sporting events. Shannon Byrne was one of our BSc Sports Therapy students who attended the event;
“I have received many great opportunities since starting in Portobello, I was asked to volunteer at the most recent Iron Man event in Dun Laoghaire which I really enjoyed being part of. Some other volunteers from the college and I preformed pre and post- event massage to the athletes who were competing. The event consisted of a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21.1km run. The aim of the pre/post even massage is to aid in the athlete’s recovery as many athletes I had treated travel around the world to take part in events, some even weekly in peak season. I loved meeting a huge array of people at the event, some who were doing their first ever Iron Man and some who had been doing them for many years and had tattoos to show their dedication to the events.” Read Shannon’s story here.
If you are interested in becoming a qualified Sports Therapist and supporting athletes from a wide range of sports and extreme sports (like the IronMan events) take a look at our Society of Sports Therapists accredited BSc Sports Therapy Course.