There is nothing more mentally or physically challenging than overcoming injury in high-performance sport. This is why the experts at the sportscotland institute of sport work tirelessly to support and rehabilitate athletes who have suffered injury or undergone operations.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang fast approaching the #TeamBehindTheTeam2018 have been working hard to get winter sport athletes primed and really for the biggest challenge of their careers.
It is true the path to success doesn’t always run smoothly, and injury in winter Olympic sport is often part of the territory. Three winter athletes who know all about the journey back from injury are Charlie Guest, Anna Vincenti and Matt McCormick.
British No.1 slalom skier Charlie broke her back while training in Sweden in 2014. She endured a 155-mile journey to hospital in Ostersund on a stretcher before returning to the Scotland for treatment. When Charlie returned to Scotland she was under the care of the medical team at the sportscotland institute of sport. Working with Dr Niall Elliott, Scott Crawford, Emma Hay and Maggie Hendry, Charlie received extensive medical support, physio and physical conditioning.
She said: "The support that I received from sportscotland institute of sport was incredible. There is no way that I could have managed to coordinate a rehabilitation programme on my own.
"I have learned so much from everyone that has helped me back to the top of competitive racing, skills and knowledge that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
"The journey in sport is never easy and the path is certainly bumpy, but the dedication from the sportscotland institute of sport has really made my return to sport much more manageable, and success in Pyeongchang will largely be down to the commitment of all the staff over the last four years."
The sportscotland institute team aim to provide a fast and efficient response following an injury in sport and they work closely with athletes to offer the best advice and support. The experts deliver individualised physical development support to all of Scotland's winter Olympic athletes, based on needs analysis and guided by technical, medical and scientific input. Charlie received a tailored programme to support her healing and meet her recovery goals.
Dr Niall Elliott, head of sports medicine at the sportscotland institute of sport, said: "In the event of injury or illness our network of specialists moves promptly to support athletes back to training and competition.
"If athletes are to perform they need to train effectively, and to train effectively they must be free from injury and illness - this is why we have a strong focus on preventative medicine and work very closely with the physiotherapy team on preventative measures for athletes. Injury prevention protocols are also implemented in day to day training programmes.
"In Charlie’s chase the emphasis was on repairing Charlie’s back and getting her back to full strength and fitness with the 2018 Olympics in her sights.”
Dedicated freestyle skier Anna Vincenti has undergone four operations in two years. She first tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2015 when competing at the World Championship in Austria. After surgery Anna had to undergo a tough nine-month period of rehab under the guidance and support of the sportscotland institute of sport.
She got back on her skis the following season and had her best season yet, yielding an impressive second-place finish in a Europa Cup event in St Anton, Austria, followed by a fourth place in the Silvaplana Europa Cup race in Switzerland.
In late 2016 Anna suffered another injury while training in Australia, separating the AC joint in her shoulder. This resulted in more surgery for Anna and three months of rehab. During the rehab for her shoulder injury, Oriam opened at Heriot Watt University and became a new home for the east regional institute team. Anna was put through lots of intense rehab and strength and conditioning for her shoulder, and even had access to the hydro pool.
Unfortunately for Anna, she damaged her ACL again in August 2017 in New Zealand and will need to wait a little longer to fulfill her Olympic dream.
During her treatment Anna said: “As this is my second ACL rehab I really don't know where I would be without the support of the sportscotland institute of sport. I use the facilities every single day of the week.
"They have also given me access to sports psychology and nutrition specialists which have been a massive help coming back from serious injuries. Having trust in your coach and physio plays a huge part in the psychological part of coming back from an injury, and I have built up a really good relationship with both of them.
"When it comes to the time when I am back on snow, we will have done everything necessary for me to be fully fit and ready.”
Glasgow-based freestyle snowboarder Matt McCormick has been riding since he was nine so he is no stranger to injury. Matt started out in the GB junior team then progressed to the elite junior team in 2012 before moving into the senior snowboard team in 2013. Most recently Matt has undergone an operation on his knee.
Matt recalled what happened: “During a practice for the Big Air contest in Moscow my knee locked up. I managed to loosen it off in time for the contest but I had an MRI [scan] when I got home which revealed a tear in my medial meniscus.”
Matt returned from Moscow and only had one day before flying to Austria for his first Slopestyle World Cup. In that day he was able to meet with an institute physio, Michael Clark, who referred him to see an institute of sport doctor, John McLean. He then had an MRI scan and from that scan the team were able to determine it was Matt’s medial meniscus causing problems.
The timing wasn’t ideal as it was in the middle of the competition season but thanks to his constant physio support Matt was able to ride to the end of the season. Despite being able to ride during the season, Matt had been unable to participate in regular training exercises such as trampolining, gymnastics or skateboarding, so over the summer these activities were added back into his schedule to see how his knee would react.
His knee did not react well, so after consultation with the GB Park and Pipe team, numerous institute physios and an institute surgeon, Gordon Mackay, it was decided that he should have surgery to mend his meniscus tear. After a successful operation to trim the tear, Matt was quickly on the road to recovery.
“A massive benefit of having the sportscotland institute of sport onboard was from the point of deciding to have the surgery it only took four days before I was able to go under the knife and have my meniscus trimmed. My surgery was on Friday and by Monday I was back in Institute West to start my rehab.”
The sportscotland institute of sport supported his rehab with physio and physical preparation. If it hadn’t been for their hard work and dedication and the fact Matt was militant with his exercises, he would never have been back on snow so quickly.
Matt said: “Ten weeks after my operation I returned to contest by competing in the NZ Winter Games World Cup. I have now returned to full health and have no problems from my knee at all.”
The institute team provide services to four GB winter sport programmes, with athletes travelling from across the UK to receive services in Scotland. The practitioners also travel with the teams throughout the world, including at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.