July 15, 2021
This summer, sports lovers will rejoice with the return of the Olympic Games! Postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Games will open on July 23 in Tokyo, Japan. With limitations on who will be in attendance, having the right team on hand for support is even more critical this year. Certified Athletic Therapist (CAT(C)) Andrea Prieur sat down with us to share her perspective about being on the front lines with our athletes to help maximize their performance.
Introduced to the field through an ACL tear injury of her own, Andrea has now attended three of the past Summer Olympics to work with Canadian athletes. Her journey to the games included a rigorous application process and a month-long commitment to attend from the opening ceremony to the close of the Games.
Athletic Therapy at the Games
Attending the Games will bring a drastic change to the volume of work for Andrea and the other Athletic Therapists, especially in comparison to working at home. Many Athletic Therapists have been working from home due to COVID-19 and offering remote services. But the Olympics requires Athletic Therapists to be on the sidelines with our athletes, working longer days to support the athletes before, after and during their games. Being able to travel with Canada’s top athletes and cheer them on is an important part of their role in Tokyo, especially during practice as family and friends can’t attend. This means ATs will have a bigger role with more responsibility, but Andrea knows it will be worth it to motivate athletes and provide on-site care.
Role as Core Health Services
Team Canada’s Athletic Therapists are the core health service team available to athletes during the Olympics and set their own playbook to ensure everyone’s safety. The pandemic hasn’t affected the roles of the health services team; however, a number of the mission staff roles will be working from home. Although the number of healthcare practitioners required to attend the games has not changed, fewer athletes will be travelling to compete. Compared to previous years, only 70% of the usual number of athletes are qualified to join the games. This smaller number of teams has allowed those healthcare providers who need access to athletes, such as Athletic Therapists, to stay in the village with them, which wasn’t the case in the years before.
First Responders and Emergency Care
Canada ensures a comprehensive team is available to support the athletes so they don’t rely on host medical services in case of injury, unlike some other countries. When an injury does occur, the athlete will first see a Canadian physician to check for any diagnostics within their scope of practice. An Athletic Therapist may be the first one to respond to injuries that occur on the field or during an event.
The treatment plans Athletic Therapists put in place align with the athlete’s needs, such as restoration to help meet an upcoming competition, and are dependent on when the injury occurred and the upcoming schedule of events. Team Canada also ensures to bring all the same common modalities and recovery aids they use in Canada so athletes get the same treatment they would back home with no surprises.
Advice from a CAT(C)
For all future Athletic Therapists who hope to attend the Olympic Games, Andrea says volunteer in the field! Offering time and expertise is essential to building depth on a resume and, more importantly, networking to discover great opportunities. She also recommends focusing on one area of Athletic Therapy to build specialization or one team to build relationships. It’s important to go the extra mile, levelling up on communication and skill delivery as it would enhance your ability to share your knowledge and skill. Finally, she recommends surrounding yourself with “colleagues that become your friends that won’t be afraid to give you candid advice.”
Andrea has received great advice throughout her own career that included getting involved in the Athletic Therapy community as much as possible, applying to everything to learn more about what they’re looking for and what’s out there, and finally, working in as many different settings early enough to determine your area of focus.
As someone who has been in the Athletic Therapy field for a long time, Andrea tries to promote the profession with positive conversations about its strengths and the great work people have done within it. She also acts as a mentor to connect people within the profession to foster connections, and her past involvement on the CATA and OATA Boards helped her advocate for the work of the Associations and all things continuing education.
Andrea hopes CATA and Athletic Therapy will have more of a presence among the general population. By showcasing more of the work done by Athletic Therapists, future Athletic Therapists will be encouraged and motivated through the endless possibilities in the field.
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