Physiotherapists are most commonly known for their role in acute injury management and rehabilitation. Our services are generally sought out after an injury occurs to improve healing and re-establish function to get an individual back to their pre-injury status. As a physiotherapist working in high performance sport, I have had the opportunity to expand the areas in which I can impact athletes’ health and performance. In my role at Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO), I am fortunate that I get to see athletes in a healthy, non-injured state and work proactively to develop and implement injury prevention programs to optimize their training. Working with the athletes and monitoring them regularly also allows me to play a role in improving athletic performance by developing or correcting areas that could affect the athletes output.
Athletes at the provincial level that have been identified by their sport as having podium potential in the upcoming Olympic & Paralympic cycles are named to the Ontario High Performance Sport Initiative (OHPSI) program. These athletes will undergo a comprehensive, multidisciplinary pre-season assessment that includes musculoskeletal and functional movement testing. The goal of this evaluation is to ensure the athletes are healthy and have a solid physical foundation prior to imposing the demands of their sport on their maturing bodies. As a physiotherapist, the assessment findings help me to identify muscle imbalances and compensation patterns within the body that could lead to injury, and then implement corrective exercises to help prevent injury before it occurs. This is important as high-performance athletes are continually subjecting their bodies to intense training and pushing the envelope physically to achieve their full potential.
An athlete’s training schedule is mapped out along a yearly training plan and a 4-year training plan corresponding to an Olympic cycle. The purpose of this is to ensure that athletes are peaking at the appropriate time to reach their goals. Athletes that are forced to miss training time due to injury or illness often find themselves falling behind their targets. CSIO’s Sport Science and Sport Medicine Team, of which physiotherapy is a part of, can help to monitor the athlete’s training loads to ensure there is appropriate balance between training and recovery. Helping athletes manage the loads needed to develop and grow technically with appropriate rest and recovery strategies, will help to prevent the injuries, illnesses, and performance deficits that can arise from training imbalances. Sometimes, despite our best efforts managing the training loads and implementing injury prevention strategies such as warm-ups and recovery techniques, injuries are still a part of the athletes’ reality. As a physiotherapist, I can then assess these injured athletes and put them on a plan towards recovery and reintegration into their sport in a safe but timely manner.
As athletes advance along their sport’s podium pathway towards the top tier, the guidance provided by their physiotherapist ensures they have developed a strong physical base and smart training habits. It is then that the emphasis switches to improving performance. My assessment with athletes at this level focuses on optimizing strength and mobility as well as improving sport-specific movement patterns to achieve the performance gains that set the podium contenders apart from the rest of the field. Working within an Integrated Support Team (IST) at CSIO with other disciplines such as physiology, biomechanics, sport nutrition, mental performance and strength and conditioning, allows us to pool our expertise to help the athletes maximize their potential and achieve their Olympic & Paralympic goals.
My passion for sport developed early on as a competitive figure skater and I have now been involved with Skate Canada for over 28 years as an athlete, a coach at the grass-roots (CanSkate) level and a physiotherapist for Junior and Senior National Team athletes both while training at home, as well as at national and international competitions. I have had the opportunity to train alongside Olympic figure skaters, as well as worked with skaters that have progressed through the ranks towards realizing their Olympic dreams. I have been awarded the opportunity to travel with our Canadian Olympic Figure Skating team to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. After watching these skaters train over the last number of years to get to this point, it is an honour to be able to be at the Olympic Games with them and to see them fulfill their goal in person.
When I travel with Canadian athletes to international events around the world, I am always proud to wear my Canada jacket and am appreciative of everything that that Maple Leaf symbolizes. To be able to wear that Canada jacket at an Olympic Games surrounded by hundreds of other proud Canadians who have earned the opportunity to represent our country in PyeongChang is an experience I will cherish for years to come.
About Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of excellence by providing world-class programs, services, and leadership to high performance athletes and coaches to enhance their ability to achieve international podium performances. CSIO offers athletes a range of sport science and sport medicine services including nutrition, physiology, biomechanics, strength & conditioning, mental performance, sport therapy and life services. CSIO also delivers programming and services to National and Provincial Sport Organizations and coaches to work towards building a stronger sport system in Ontario and Canada.
CSIO services approximately 700 high performance athletes and 250 coaches, at its main facility at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, its satellite location at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, and in daily training environments across Ontario. CSIO is part of a larger network of 4 institutes and 3 multi-sport centres across the country known as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee. CSIO is further supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Sport Canada, Own the Podium, and the Coaching Association of Canada, along with the National and Provincial Sport Organizations within the sector. www.csiontario.ca
Meghan Buttle, Physiotherapist, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario