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Birmingham City University Lecturer Peter Thain Gets Commonwealth Games Medical Team Call Up

Society of Sports Therapists Member Peter Thain has been appointed to the Medical Team for Team England - Commonwealth Games Senior Men’s Basketball Programme and it promises to be a busy time for him as he is also the Programme Lead at Birmingham City University. We caught up with Peter to hear what he had to say about his journey en route to The Commonwealth Games in Australia next April.

How did you first get into working in sport?

It was all due to a statistics test. Seriously! The Head of Sports Medicine for Colchester United FC, Tony Flynn, was looking for some help with a project he was running. Tony contacted Joel Harris at the University of Hertfordshire, who in turn asked me if I could help. After a few days on SPSS, Tony then kindly offered me the opportunity to gain work experience with the club, which I gladly accepted. At the end of the year, Tony knew of an opening at AFC Hornchurch, and that was my first job in football where I stayed for 4 seasons.

How did you get involved with Basketball?

I first started working for Basketball England in September 2013 after I applied for a job which had been advertised on Twitter. At the time, there were already therapists (Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists) working with the national teams (U15, U16, U17, U18), and my role was to be a ‘bank therapist.’ If I’m honest, I remember thinking that it would be great to have national level sport on my CV, but I didn’t think I would be called up. However, within a few months, I was working at the Regional Performance Centre (RPC) Tournaments and covering National Camps at Lilleshall. This was an inspiring place to work as I was surrounded by fantastic facilities, as well as national level athletes from a variety of sports.

In the summer of 2014, I found myself flying out to Croatia and Portugal with the U16 and U18 National Teams respectively. These teams compete in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) European Championships each year and there are many overseas camps in the build up to the Championship. I was covering the permanent therapists who were unable to make the respective overseas camps as they were running their own injury clinics as their full time employment, and therefore were often unable to fulfil all the commitments with Basketball England. This was great experience for me, as it was my first overseas assignment with a team. On these trips you are usually the only member of medical staff and therefore you are responsible for everything.

As time progressed I was receiving more offers to travel with the teams, but I was unable to commit as I was a full time lecturer. However, I was fortunate to be offered the permanent role with the U15 squad. As this is the youngest National Team, the camps are limited to 3 times per year, finishing with a tournament in Denmark, each June. This is a role that I still hold today, as it fits in well with my full time employment at Birmingham City University.

How has Basketball England changed?

The Sport and Exercise Medicine support at Basketball England has changed dramatically since I started. At my first camp, there was minimal medical and musculoskeletal screening, and there was no strength and conditioning support. Paul Fisher, the Head of Sports Medicine for Basketball England has progressed the provision dramatically over the past few years. Now we are in a situation where all players are medically screened by the Great Britain Doctor prior to the first National Camp, as well as SCAT5 concussion assessments, and musculoskeletal screening. All therapists must be trained in trauma management to ensure we can deal with complex situations that may arise. We have a Strength and Conditioning Coach assigned to each National Team, with all players given bespoke programmes based on the findings of the screening and performance testing we carry out.

Basketball England continually looks to improve and this is evident by the latest work being carried out by the Basketball Development Model (BDM). This review process aims to strengthen all parts of the game, to ultimately enhance the country’s chances of competing – and winning – on the global stage. As the Lead for the Research Group, we are currently monitoring injuries and loading at Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) sites across the UK. The aim of the initial research is to study the epidemiology of English Basketball injuries, and to identify any relationship between loading (training and match) and injury in basketball. This is an exciting project as we look to lay the foundations for a research culture within basketball.

How did you find out that you had been selected to go with Team England? Was it a surprise?

I was recently invited to apply for the position with the Senior Men’s Commonwealth Games Team. The therapists working within Basketball England are excellent, and it was an honour to be invited to apply. When I received the telephone call offering me the position I was elated and it was a great surprise. It is not often such opportunities present and I am incredibly honoured and excited to work at such a global event.

What are the plans leading up to the Games – are the players now on special schedules? Tell us a bit about training/where that happens and what your role is.

We had our first camp back in November at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester. Here all players were medically screened by the doctor as well as SCAT5 concussion assessments, and musculoskeletal screening taking place. The majority of the players play in the British Basketball League (BBL) or overseas, and it is the middle of their season. Therefore we have to be careful with prescription of strength and condition work and we are in constant contact with their respective clubs. Our main focus is to monitor the players’ daily loading and wellness scores from a distance, via a custom built online platform, and to offer any support to the clubs and players who may require it. These baseline measures are fundamental, as they will give us a good insight into each player’s wellness scoring behaviour, and allow us to better prescribe loading once in competition in Australia.

Do you have an MDT approach or are you doing most things?

When in camps and in the lead up to competition, we have a Strength and Conditioning Coach who I work closely with. We also have access to the GB Basketball Doctor should we need medical advice. However, when we travel to the Commonwealth Games, it will just be me on the plane. Although, once we reach the athletes’ village, we will be assigned a Doctor and also be joined by Commonwealth Games England support staff.

What equipment do you need to take? How do you organise the medical kit and medicines?

The tricky part is working out logistics of medical supplies. As we shall be away for a month, I will need to take a few suitcases full of athletic tape! It is a serious consideration, and we have a member of Basketball England over in Australia now working out logistics, as it will most likely will be cheaper to source some supplies in Australia, rather than shipping across. We are also playing in many venues across Australia, so we are currently mapping out Emergency Action Plans, and identifying local Emergency Departments to ensure we have all situations covered as best we can. It is also important that any over the counter medications I may take are all conforming to the AntiDoping Regulations.

What would be your top tips for a student or new Graduate Sports Therapist wanting to work in sport?

Watch Jim Carrey in ‘Yes Man’. Sports Therapy is a tough profession, and if anyone offers you an opportunity, no matter how small or far, do your very best to say, ‘Yes’!

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