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The team that supports our sporting greats

The amazing achievements of our top athletes is awe-inspiring. But behind every major sporting triumph there's a highly talented and dedicated team of vital support staff, including physiotherapists.

As we celebrate the phenomenal success of Team GB in Rio, it's time to spare a thought for the unsung heroes and heroines of the world of elite sport: the physiotherapists who provide vital care to everyone from sprinters to synchronised swimmers. Their contribution to our nation's sporting success is so often overlooked that British Olympics Association Bill Sweeney has called for them and other support staff to be recognised with official honours.

It may sound like a glamorous job. But being a sports physiotherapist is all about dedication and hard graft. Your contribution is valued by the athletes and their coaches, but largely goes unrecognised by the millions who watch them compete. What's more, you can forget those dreams you had of the best seats in the house for some of the world's top sporting events. "Often you will have no chance to see any of the competition," wrote GBR Bobsleigh Performance Director Gary Anderson in a blog for The Sports Physio website. "When travelling with teams, expect to work seven days a week and very long hours – first in last out type of hours."

Six official multi-sport physiotherapists travelled to Rio with Team GB, as part of a 44-strong medical support team which also included doctors, nurse practitioners and sports scientists. However, it's not just about the support they provide during the Games. They're involved in a huge amount of preparation, including pre-travel medical screenings and immunisations, day-to-day training and treatment plans, as well as making pre-event visits to the country to assess the facilities in the training and competition venues. 

Rio was Team GB's most successful Games for more than 100 years. But how do the physiotherapists measure their performance? "For us as a physio team, what I want to be saying on the plane home is that we have been professional, approachable, effective and consistent," explained Chief Physiotherapist Phil Glasgow in a pre-trip interview for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website. "We want to have been able to respond quickly and appropriately to the demands that have been placed upon us, and on a personal level I want people to feel they have been effective and had excellence in their clinical practice." 

With Team GB's medal haul bigger than they achieved on home soil in London 2012, it seems to be a case of 'job well done'.

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