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Team spirit prevails at the Games

Behind the scenes of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, more than 1500 medical volunteers—part of a 15,000 strong volunteer workforce—were in action. The medical team was spread over the field of play, in medical facilities at each competition site, and with individual teams, undertaking athlete care and spectator care to ensure events ran smoothly for all athletes, officials and spectators.

The application process for the medical teams started early in 2017 and was extensive, and sought prior experience with sporting teams and previous sporting events to ensure the needs of each medical and sporting site were met. Volunteers were placed in areas of experience where possible.

Physiotherapists with titling in sports and musculoskeletal and with experience in sporting teams were given priority for team and athlete care roles, particularly for sites with sports with higher likelihood of medical needs. All medical volunteers attended role-specific training together in the lead up to the event and then venue-specific training for familiarity of venue and sport.

For the duration of the Games, lecturer at The University of Queensland’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Dr Roma Forbes, APAM, was placed at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre and at the Oxenford precinct, which hosted boxing, table tennis and squash.

‘The application process allowed me to outline my previous experience in physiotherapy in hockey and squash, and my availability over the Games period. The university mid-semester break fell with the timing of the Games, which meant it was a great opportunity for staff to be involved and our students from The University of Queensland to take on other volunteer roles,’ Roma says.

Doctors, sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapists, nurses, emergency staff, massage therapists, optometrists, dentists and other healthcare professionals provided more than 84,000 medical volunteer hours within 50 medical facilities and 24 sporting venues, as well as training venues in the weeks leading up to the Games.

‘As a lecturer, this was a great change of scene for me to be on the frontline, helping athletes who had spent months, if not years, preparing for this event, working in a large dynamic team and getting to experience the atmosphere of the Games first-hand,’ Roma says.

‘The organisation required for managing these multiple medical teams rostered over the days with different roles at each site took months of preparation. Physiotherapists were just one part of the large medical teams located at each site.

‘Our team consisted of at least two doctors at any one time—one on the field of play, one within the medical facility onsite, and often another on roving duties with emergency personnel volunteers across the venue,’ Roma says.

‘A physiotherapist on the field of play across the day and one within the medical facility also meant both athletes and spectators could always seek medical assistance. Nursing and paramedic volunteers were also onsite at all times within the spectator first aid tent and roving around the venue. Radio access between all medical volunteers, coordinated by a communications volunteer, ensured everyone had immediate help.’

As for emergencies, there were a few. ‘The doctors were certainly kept busy with suturing from ball-versus-head incidences,’ Roma says. ‘And the ball boys and girls caught their fair share, too.’


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