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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Don't Try This at Home

So you want to be the next Alexandre Bilodeau?  Word of advice, he didn't just strap on the skis one day and win 2 Olympic Gold medals the next.  Sure going down a ski hill at 40 km/hr sounds like fun, but remember they put speed bumps in the way and then ramps that launch you into the air.  Anyone who has tried moguls on a ski hill will tell you it is not a walk in the park.

One of the great benefits of the Olympic Games is that it inspires people to get more active and try something new.  How many little girls wanted to be Liz Manley after the 1988 Olympics in Calgary or skiers that were inspired by Jennifer Heil from 2006?  This is great but success like this does not come overnight.

No matter the sport that you decide to try you must first be realistic and take precautions.  Even what seems like a simple sport such as cross country skiing has its risks.  Taking on any exercise program must be done so gradually.  With many of the winter sports they are outside activities and the elements must be taken into consideration.  If you decide to start cross country skiing make sure you have appropriate clothing is key, as well as not to go to far at first. You will fatigue faster than you expect and my end up stranded on some trail.  Extreme sports like ski-slope, snowboarding and in my mind the sledding events, (who thought it would be a good idea to go sliding down a tube of ice head first) require lots of training and education.  These are not sports you should try without some coaching or supervision.

All sports come with risk and that needs to be remembered.  Do not go into any sport blindly, be aware of the physical demands that will be placed on the body, and enjoy finding something that gives you joy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

From the Heart - Who is Healing Who?

Apologies for the lateness of this post.  It should have been out on Thursday but as you will see while you continue reading life has been a hectic lately.

Being able to heal athletes and patients and getting them back to sport, work or their regular daily activities always brings me joy.  Being able to help my family and loved ones brings me even more.  I always want to be able to fix what is wrong with you.  Be it stretching and working out any tightness or providing exercises to ensure proper strength.  However for the last three years I have not been able to "fix" someone most dear to me.  Three years ago my dad was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer.  From day one we always knew it was terminal and were grateful for all the time we have been given since that day.  Watching him go through rounds and rounds of chemotherapy, trying to ensure that his quality of life remained at a level he wanted has been difficult.  In saying that, he was blessed for the majority of his treatment, he did not have many side effects and until the last year still golfed and helped out at the farm.  It has been in the last six months where I have felt useless.  During his final round of chemotherapy he became very tired and lost his appetite.  It finally came the time where he started to open up to different options.   I am very thankful for all my colleagues who have helped me grow as an athletic therapist.  For teaching me about nutrition, acupuncture, and all the medical stuff that I now know to help understand what is going on with him.  

Unfortunately two weeks ago my dad took a turn, his body just could no longer fight the cancer and handle the chemo going through his body.  He has spent the last two weeks between two hospitals, wanting to come home.  I live away from my parents and for the first week getting the information on his condition through phone calls and emails made it very hard, seeing and hearing the numbers and knowing what was going on in his body made me ache to help him more.  Knowing that he was in no condition to come home and not wanting to be the one to tell him that.

This is where I am not sure if he has given me a gift or I have given him one.  He has extremely swollen feet and legs.  The edema is putting lots of pressure on his nerves and causing phantom pain.  He describes it as though his feet are being drawn together like magnets.  So the man who never asks for treatment, or pain meds wants me to work on him.  The first treatment didn't go as well as I had hoped.  I thought he was sleeping and he was wanting me to use less pressure.  Compared to normal pressure I was going pretty light, so I thought that was that.  However, it helped a little and he wanted it more.  I need to send a huge thank you out to my cousin who helped guide me in regards to some better acupressure treatments.  So today was the fourth treatment.  I was able to do full leg flushing and moved a bunch of fluid out of his feet and ankles.  Being able to see noticeable results and having even the doctor notice was a huge goal for me.  What gave me even more was when he said he felt better and that the phantom sensation was gone.

Dad I hope that me being able to help relieve your discomfort while you are still with us is a gift.  I do know that you have given me a great gift, being able to help you feel better while I can.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Athletic Therapist in an Occupational Setting

We would like to thank Mat Bonneau, Certified Athletic Therapist for giving us this insight as to what it is like to work in an occupational setting. 

So I’ve been working in occupational testing for 2 years now, and it’s something I never thought that I’d be working in coming out of school. The opportunity has been good thus far although the job definitely comes with its own set of challenges.

As an athletic therapist, I am responsible for assessing a person’s medical history to help make a determination if they are able to complete our lifting test. We hold our clients to pretty strict standards to help ensure that they do not injure themselves while doing the test or something that could be potentially harmful on the job site. Occasionally we also run the physical portion of the test depending on how busily our day gets booked up. We see everybody from the lean 18 year old heading out for his first job on the rigs who’s never had so much as a cold to the overweight 55 year old type 2 diabetic, hypertensive operator who’s looking for a job to take them to retirement. We get quite a range of characters coming through. For the most part things run smoothly but occasionally we run into people who are more difficult to deal with. Like any service type job, how our day goes depends a large part on who companies send us each day.

Typically, a client goes through a brief pre-medical screen before coming to see us. We take a few measurements such as height, weight and blood-pressure to make sure there are no concerns with a client taking the test. We then go over their medical history with them, making sure to highlight and talk more in depth about any health conditions that may be red flags. Every once in a while I’ll come across a condition which I’m not as familiar with. We have a medical review team of medical doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists and athletic therapists that help us to discern what may need to be looked at by another health professional or can continue through our testing without any restrictions. All of our files are reviewed by this team to make sure that everything is covered. Any type of medical clearances or restrictions are take care of by this department.

After going through a client’s medical history, we typically review their injury history looking for dislocations, fractures, sprains and strains. This can be challenging because clients may try to hide or not disclose information that they feel may hinder their opportunity to find a job. We check a client’s joint range of motion, muscle strength and ligament laxity to determine if a candidate is fit enough to not only complete the test, but also safely work at the job site without putting them at risk of further injury. We tend to focus on problem areas such as shoulders, low backs, knees and ankles throughout our assessment, while also keeping in mind common workplace injuries such as medial/lateral epicondylitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The most difficult part of the job comes when you have to stop somebody from performing the lifting portion of the exam. Sometimes a person understands why we have a concern about the injury or medical condition in question and sometimes they don’t. We see people who have had a rotator cuff tendonitis for years but feel it is just part of getting old and don’t ever seek treatment for it. Other times they've had surgery and we just want proof that a surgeon feels that they are safe to go back to work without any restrictions. It can be a very touchy subject because a person feels if they don’t get through all their testing on the first day that they won’t get the job. It does put us in an awkward situation sometimes but we do our best to try and explain everything to our clients to the best of our ability.

Each physical test is set for a company based on a site analysis done by one of our assessors. The test doesn't change much from company to company but we vary the weight of the test based on what the person will be doing on the job site. The test is always run by a person with an exercise background, whether it’s a PFT, Kinesiologist or one of our assessors to ensure client safety. The test takes about 30 min to run for each group. We start with a brief cardiovascular test and proceed to a lifting test. Throughout the physical test, we are looking for a person’s ability to safely perform the lifting portion of the test using proper lifting technique for each lift. Clients are closely monitored to ensure that we are not putting them in danger throughout the testing. People will try and push themselves past their limits sometimes in order to attempt to secure a position within a particular company, so we do our best to prevent them from causing any injuries throughout our testing.

Overall it’s been an enjoyable experience working in occupational testing. It’s a really good chance to be exposed to different medical conditions and it’s a good chance to work on your assessment skills. On a busy day you can assess 25-30 people so it’s a good opportunity to be hands on with your muscle testing and special tests. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in this field and appreciate being stretched outside the box of a typical athletic therapy setting.

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