Please enjoy the daily journal Jamila kept during her experience at the 2012 Olympics and be sure to check out videos and pictures at https://www.facebook.com/lemaksports
So my first day was on Friday, it was an awesome experience. The sports medicine facilities are nice at the Polyclinic in the Olympic Village. There are 4 levels. On the ground floor there is a pharmacy and emergency emergency room; 1st floor: physiotherapists and orthopedic doctors, on the 2nd floor: Sports Massage and Specimen lab; 3rd floor: Optometry and dental. They also have an area for Xray, MRI and CT Scan.
Day 1: I massaged 3 athletes from South Africa, Belgium, and a middle eastern country. I've seen many hockey players so far. The patient load was slow due to the athletes getting ready for Opening Ceremonies. That was very exciting to see, especially our USA Team. I saw various athletes out in the courtyard which brought upon a sense of patriotism. They all looked great in their opening ceremonies attire. Check out some of the pics to get a glimpse at the Village.
Day 2: There was a different feel to the atmosphere of the Village. I could tell that everyone was in competition mode as the Games began. Not as much socializing and more training and focus. Now, the attitude is, "Go hard or go home." Literally! So everyone is very serious about competing and their treatments. They want to make sure they are receiving the best care to compete at their optimal level. That's where the medical staff plays a huge role.
Now, athletes are coming in with legitimate injuries and need critical attention. I massaged a gymnast that is performing today with a low back injury. I pray that my work, along with other personnel, will only help her reach her goal. We shall see tonight!
It is such a rewarding feeling to be able to make a difference in their lives!
Day 3: I'm really into the swing of things now. I know where I'm going and how long it takes me to get there...kind of getting comfortable with the whole British lifestyle... It was a bit of a challenge navigating my way around the tube (that's what the train is called here.) But I'm catching on quickly.
Massaged a Moroccan Taekwondo athlete wearing a scarf around her head for the entire massage. I wonder if she wears it to compete.... I'm sure it's for religious reasons. There is definitely a cultural/religious vibe present. I heard that the Saudi Arabia and Australian women flew economy class while the men flew first class! Inequality at its finest. Apparently it's a cultural thing, but I don't see that happening in USA. We, as in most women in the USA, won't stand for that! Especially in the day of the independent and successful woman. Sitting in economy while the men are eating caviar and sipping on champagne in first class?! No way!!! LOL. But it's a way of life in different cultures and I can respect that.
Another good day! Still can't believe I'm walking amongst elite athletes. I can get used to this! :)
Day 4: I was sent out to one of the track and field training venues, which is called "athletics" at the Olympics. I was excited to be at an actual sporting venue and hoping to get work on some world class sprinters, etc.
When I got to the stadium, not many athletes were there. I figured out that most of the teams practice at the warm up track in Olympic Park. The venue I was sent to was about 15 minutes away from everything. So I guess it was a matter of convenience. Didn't massage anyone that day, but it gave me a day to recover for the next couple of weeks.
I haven't seen any USA athletes come for treatment mainly because they have a personal massage therapist that travels with them. His name is Hal Richardson. BSM (Birmingham School of Massage) people know who Hal is, but he was a teacher of mine for sports massage. Hopefully I'll get to see him while I'm out here.
Anyhow, day 4 was very low key and looking forward to more action in the next few days...
Day 5: I went to the Handball training venue in Mayesbrook. Handball is not really a sport that I know much about or have been curious about. However, by watching the men of the Korean and Croatian Team practice, I have a new appreciation for the sport. The sport is very physical and the men are mostly tall and burly. To me, it reminds me of a mix between basketball and soccer without the use of feet...if follow you me :)
Anyhow, not really much action on the sports medicine side while I was there, but I did have interesting conversations with the physiotherapists that were there. Physiotherapists in Europe are a cross between an athletic trainer and a physical therapist, meaning they do all the things that I do as an athletic trainer and the duties of a physical therapist. So Physios tape, cover games and practices, rehab athletes and clinical patients, and also treat patients that may have suffered from a stroke or cardiovascular disease, etc. Whereas in the states or at least where I practice in Alabama, athletic trainers do most of the game and practice coverage, taping, etc. But we don't normally treat stroke patients, etc... unless we're in a clinical setting. They do have sports therapists here which are primarily like athletic trainers but they don't usually have the opportunity to cover sports team because that's a physio's role here.
But the stigma is almost similar to the views between athletic trainers and PT's in the states. PT's in the states are recognized by Medicare to bill insurance for the patients they treat, and most insurance companies mirror what medicare does. However, Athletic trainers (ATCs) cannot. So in a clinical setting, a PT has an increased value. In the UK, sports therapist are really not recognized as the most fitting personnel to take care of sports team. So job opportunities are scarce for sports therapists and they usually find work doing other things. With their degree, they would transition well into an athletic training career. So there's still a tug of war between the 2 professions.
Just thought I'd share some knowledge about the sports medicine world across the pond.
Day 6: Back to the Polyclinic. I wasn't getting that much action at the training venues so I was glad to be back. However, it was great to see the different venues. I massaged a Pakistani Hockey Player that gave me great reviews afterwards. He said I gave him the best massage he's had since he's been there! I was smiling ear to ear :) Kool-Aid smile. But it was good to hear that and it gave me reassurance that I was definitely making a difference and working my magic. I also massaged a Nigerian basketball player that was 6'10"!!! He barely fit on the table and his body almost covered the entire table. His calf was as big as my thigh! Not kidding! LOL. His whole body was massive. I guess that's what it feels like to massage an NBA player... NBA here I come! :) But he was asleep in 5 min! He had to compete that evening so he wanted to relax and loosen up. He also gave great reviews as well. This experience is definitely making me a better clinician and increasing my confidence to keep excelling to the top. I'm very grateful to have this opportunity! I feel like I'm dreaming sometimes.
Day 7: Up bright and early at 5:30 am to get ready to head to the Village. I still have not gotten adjusted to the time difference. In my time zone, it's 11:30 pm. Nevertheless, groggy and still half sleep, I made my seven minute walk to the train station to make it to the Polyclinic by 6:30 am. We were rather busy that day with a steady influx of athletes wanting treatment.
I met an athlete that is a citizen of the USA but is competing for the Philippines. His parents were born in the Philippines so somehow he is able to compete with that country. He's a college student in Kentucky and said that it was very competitive to qualify in the USA for his event. I have met several athletes that live in the USA but compete for other countries. America has a vast pool of amazing athletes to be selected and sometimes it's easier to compete for another country because you may be the only one representing that particular sport. Americans are very competitive and we breed amazing athletes.
However, we are in a back and forth battle with China to collect the most medals. We always seem to compete with China in many ways... We can't avoid them... Many things that we possess are manufactured there...from clothes to shoes to electronics to dinnerware...and the list goes on. I know you've seen the "MADE IN CHINA" tag in most of your clothes LOL. I know I have. With that said, I still believe America is a country with vast opportunities and many desire to experience the American dream.
Day 8: I am working the night shift until 11pm. I seem to do great with the evening shift because I get to sleep in. I made my way down to the USA building in the village in hopes of seeing Hal. Still no Hal but I met a few of their massage therapists for Track & Field. He was out at the Olympic Village treating athletes that were to compete that night. There are actually two people that are athletic trainers and massage therapists like myself that perform dual roles. That's definitely a role I would like to hold. So I briefly chatted with them about their experience.
The USA set-up a treatment room down in the basement of their building with treatment tables, a cold tub, supply room, and a small lounge. Not too bad for a basement area. A few athletes were receiving treatments as they were preparing for their upcoming races. Duties continue as normal.
Day 9: Finally caught up with Hal, which is one of the Massage Therapists for USA Track & Field and a former teacher of mine at BSM. This is his first Olympics and I wanted to find out how his experience was going. He said that he was enjoying it but days are long and he's been gone from his family for about a month. There were a few veterans on the Medical Team for T&F. There was an ATC/LMT like myself that has been with the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) for about 10 years. She's the athletic trainer for track and field at a university in Texas. When needed for competitions and training camps, she is offered the opportunity to travel with USA T&F. I found out that when the therapists and athletic trainers travel with the national teams, they are not paid any wages. However, all their expenses while traveling are absorbed by the USOC and they have the opportunity to travel with our elite athletes. It's such an honor and high esteem to be a member of the USOC in any capacity. I was even honored to be a volunteer!!!
There was also another veteran named Benny Vaughn that was present. He's a highly respected athletic trainer and massage therapist that has been to 4 Olympics and other world games in between. He's been in the business for over 25 years! I actually spoke with him earlier this year to ask for a perspective on working elite and international events. So it was great to actually meet a living legend. Meeting everyone was very insightful and enlightening. I'm a woman on a mission.
Day 10: The vibe around Olympic Village is becoming more mellow. You can tell that the competitive aura is not as bold as the Games are winding down. Many athletes have packed up and went back to their home countries to be celebrated for being a global representative. I've noticed more athletes mingling and exploring the local areas. Several have been spotted in the local mall nearby. In a sense, I'm sure they are relieved to have competed and somewhat of a burden has been removed from their shoulders. But on the other hand this is an experience that all the athletes will cherish forever...bittersweet... After a rest period, many will go on to begin training for upcoming competitions.
It is also bittersweet for me... I'm so privileged to have this opportunity that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. There's nothing like experiencing something for the first time. It will always be the most special. However, I am looking forward to setting foot back on US soil! My body is screaming for some adequate rest! I need a massage now! Any volunteers? :) My legs have been so stiff and fatigued from standing most of the day and hiking to the train stations everyday. I feel like I climb a thousands steps and walk several miles throughout the day. Can't wait to get back to my car! :) As my days in London are quickly coming to an end...
Day 11: My last day at the Village and in London. The Polyclinic was very slow and I got a chance to walk around Olympic Park. On my way out, I ran into Gabby Douglas, the gymnastic gold medalist. I congratulated her on her amazing accomplishment. Many others were were departing the Village as well. It was said that only about 200 athletes were still competing. Hundreds have headed home already.
I walked around the enormous Olympic Park. It took me an hour to see all the venues. I actually got a chance to go into the stadium and watch a couple events. The stadium is huge! Unlike in past years, the torch is actually inside the stadium not visible to those outside. Many people were complaining about not being able to have their picture taken with the torch. It gives people who are not able to attend the events a piece of the Games.
I reflected on my time here in London as I hiked to the train station. I absorbed the scenery and the atmosphere knowing that I would be heading home to good ole Alabama. Being in London was definitely an adventure that I'm glad I had a chance to experience. I was definitely a long way from home. It reminds me of New York with it's diversity, fast pace, and primary use of public transportation. Less than 24hrs in the UK...