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UCLan Sports Therapy Students to Support 2019 Island Games in Gibraltar

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gibraltar Island Games 2019 Ltd. UCLan BSc Sports Therapy students, who are all Student Members of The Society of Sports Therapists, and MSc Sports Medicine students and staff will provide a range of medical services to support the International Island Games.*

The Games will take place between the 6th and 12th July 2019 and events will be held across the island of Gibraltar, with students and staff providing both a poly-clinic and pitch side care throughout the week for 1800 amateur athletes and 300 members of staff.

This exciting opportunity arose when Andy Cunningham, Society Member and Principal Lecturer at UCLan’s School of Health Sciences, had travelled to Gibraltar on a completely different mission. He said:

‘I went to Gibraltar on a recruitment exercise and had seen online that the Games were going to be held there in 2019. So I thought I’d make an appointment to see the Chief Executive of the Games just to see if there would be any placements or other opportunities for students.’

By the end of the conversation, the Chief Executive had asked if UCLan would provide cover for the whole of the Games, so Andy said; ‘yes, we’ll do everything.’

In total, 30 students and 8 members of staff from UCLan will be attending the Games in Gibraltar. To be selected to be part of the medical team, the students had to submit an application and then went through a selection process, which involved role plays of different scenarios. UCLan’s team will mainly be made up of First and Second Year Sports Therapy students, with MSc Sports Medicine students acting as their mentors throughout the week.

In previous years, the Games had not had any official medical services. While some islands have managed individual support - indeed UCLan Sports Therapy graduate Kirry Joughin has supported the Isle of Man teams on a number of occasions - many of the athletes and staff have relied on goodwill and St John Ambulance volunteers. However, for the 2019 Games, Andy’s previous experience in medical management at elite sporting events makes UCLan’s School of Health Sciences the ideal team to provide medical cover in July. He said:

‘I was the Venue Medical Manager at the Riverside Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games, where the hockey took place. I coordinated all the medical services on the site for both athletes and spectators.

‘From that, I picked up a lot of skills in terms of organising Emergency Action Plans, getting teams to work together, getting medics to work together. I’ve just taken that experience and expanded it to the whole of the International Island Games.’

It is an exciting opportunity for both the students and staff, as they will be experiencing a large scale sporting event in state of the art facilities. The Government has invested £50 million in the Games, which means that a new 50m swimming pool has been built, as well as a new running track and new squash and badminton courts.

There will be a total of 12 different sports at the Games, including athletics, cycling, triathlon and sailing to name just a few, which means both students and staff will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to a variety of different injuries and needs. The team will be based in a poly-clinic next to the Athlete’s Village at the University of Gibraltar, which athletes and staff will be able to visit, as well as providing pitchside cover to all of the sports, gaining experience in responding to emergencies and dealing with injuries as they happen.

The Gibraltar Island Games 2019 Ltd is providing the team with accommodation, meals and medical kit and equipment while there. UCLan has also been very supportive of the project and has funded the flights for the medical team, who will be flying out to Gibraltar on the 3rd July, three days before the Games begin.

During these initial few days, the students will be given some additional specific training, provided free of charge by St John Ambulance, and they will receive a certificate once the course has been completed. Additionally, before leaving the UK, the students will be given workshops about recognising the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and what to do if it occurs, as conditions are going to be very hot while the Games are taking place, particularly for outdoor events such as the cycling road races.

While the Games will be an exciting learning experience in terms of Sports Therapy and medical care for both students and staff, Andy also feels it will have some other benefits for the students too. He said:

‘The students are going to be mixing with people from lots of different backgrounds, people from islands thousands of miles away, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falklands, Greenland and the Finish island Åland, so they’ll be interacting with people from different cultures which I think will be important.

‘It’s also about all of the other stuff that goes around the treatment of the athletes. It’s about liaising with St John’s Ambulance volunteers, liaising with the event officials, the pre-organisation and communication between all of the different people and organisations who are putting on the Games. I think that’s one of the big skills that the students will get out of the experience.’

Once the 2019 Games have finished, the brand new, purpose-built facilities means there is potential for legacy projects in Gibraltar, which Andy hopes UCLan could be a part of in the future. The next International Island Games will be held in Guernsey in 2021, which would provide another great opportunity for students and staff at UCLan to volunteer their knowledge and skills, while gaining valuable practical experience.

*The International Island Games began in 1980 on the Isle of Man during its ‘Year of Sports.’ The idea was originally to spend the year celebrating sport, with the biggest even of the year being the Island Games. It was to give athletes from the different islands a chance to compete internationally, while also forging links between the islands and bringing them together through sport.

Although the Games were initially only supposed to be held once, it was decided that they would be held again in 1987 in Guernsey. Now, the Games are held every two years and the islands which are members of the International Island Games Association take turns to host.

The participating islands are:

Alderney, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Froya, Gibraltar, Gotland, Guernsey, Greenland, Hitra, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Jersey, Menorca, Orkney, Rhodes, Saaremaa, St. Helena, Sark, Shetland, Western Isle, Ynys Mon and Åland.

The Games have grown since 1980, starting with 700 participants from 15 islands taking part in 7 different sports, to 1800 participants from 24 islands taking part in 14 sports.

The host island can choose to put on between 12 and 14 different sports and, in order to compete, athletes must be born to a member island or have lived there for at least a year before the Games.

Editor’s Note:

Good luck to Andy, staff and students and congratulations Andy on creating this opportunity; it promises to be a brilliant experience for your team. We look forward to following the Games and hearing all about it.

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