November 15, 2022
Athletic Therapists with the BC Wildfire Service
The BC Wildfire Occupational Athlete Project began a few years ago to help prevent injuries for people who worked with the BC Wildfire Service. Last year was the busiest year on record for fires, placing more of a focus on the essential workers who help deal with them. Firefighters and behind-the-scenes workers need to be in top shape to help prevent wildfires, which is why the BC Wildfire Occupational Athlete Project was created.
The program provides all kinds of physical care to workers who deal with wildfires, including chiropractic care, physio, and care from skilled athletic therapists. They have about eight athletic therapists on staff supporting this program.
We got the chance to speak with two CAT(C)s working in this program, Mike Matthies and Alexandra Black. A key focus of their work is on injury prevention, performing both ergonomic assessments and injury assessment. Ergonomic assessments place an emphasis on observing employees in their space to see how they work in order to determine potential injuries. Through ergonomic assessments, athletic therapists are able to help give simple tips and tricks that can help prevent overuse injuries.
Mike and Alexandra work with both firefighters and admin staff who organize fire camps, some of whom are at a desk for up to 16 hours a day. Dealing with injuries from people who are extremely active as well as injuries from those who are more sedentary, they focus on helping these workers become more conscious of their movements to reduce the risk of injury. They ensure the BC Wildfire Service workers are performing their tasks in the safest, most efficient way possible.
When asked about their overall experience with the program, this is what they shared with us:
“It's been really positive, it's a really cool way to be an athletic therapist. You have a setup in a clinical sense, but sometimes you're camping out in the middle of the woods so you have field experience. It's a really great way to see a ton of patients every day… to get a lot of experience, see a lot of different bodies and conditions and hone your skills,” said CAT(C) Alexandra Black.
“It's been a really enjoyable and rewarding experience with a cool learning curve for me. I have never worked in something like with wildfire. I've done a lot of teamwork in the past with hockey teams and other sports. This has many similarities with a team atmosphere. You're seeing people one after another, who want to return to their job. I find it very rewarding to be part of it and learn from all of it; I think the program is just so phenomenal. The leaders of the program have done a tremendous job at exposing us to a lot of different things and getting us out in the community and getting our name out there. Another big thing is exposing so many people to what athletic therapists do and what they and what we are and what we can provide,” said CAT(C) Mike Matthies.
People often think of athletic therapists as those working on the sidelines of sports games, but Mike and Alexandra showcase how athletic therapists work in extremely interesting roles and are able to help people with all kinds of lifestyles.
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