Case Study 8 - Bouncing Back
To reach the upper echelons of any sport is a lofty aspiration which takes focus, dedication and an iron will to achieve.
Yet as an elite athlete, despite meticulous preparation, there is still one thing which can stop you in your tracks without warning. So when an injury occurs, the experts at the institute of sport are on hand to get our best athletes back in track.
Injury is an accepted part of life in sport which can strike at any time. But with qualification points for a home games in London and a coveted spot on Team GB up for grabs, injury struck British badminton number one Susan Egelstaff at the worst possible time.
Last year, Susan’s performance throughout the season had been looking good to meet her objective of staying ahead of English badminton player and rival Liz Cann in the race to make Team GB.
Then, in October 2011 at a competition in Brazil, disaster struck. During a match, Susan ripped the cartilage in her right knee and chipped the end of her femur bone – a devastating blow to her Olympic preparation – but neither Susan nor the support team at the sportscotland institute of sport were willing to write off her chances.
Susan’s injury was successfully operated on at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow, but the prognosis was that it would be six months before she would be able to get back on court. With this in mind, the experts from the institute worked together intensely on a plan of action, with vital input and constant communication with Susan’s surgeon and her coaches at Badminton Scotland.
Senior Performance Nutritionist Irene Riach was part of the team of integrated service providers who took the opportunity to be ‘all hands on deck’ for the duration of Susan’s rehabilitation.
“The nutrition support kicked off right at the very beginning of the process, even before surgery, and because of that early involvement we were able help get Susan’s body ready to perform, aswell as giving her a positive role in her recovery. Many things are outside a patient’s influence as far as the healing process is concerned but Susan could manage the nutrition side which gave her a positive focus and an opportunity to regain some control.”
The theme of regaining control and positive energy was also a key factor in Sport Psychologist Misha Botting’s role throughout the process. Misha explains: “Rehabilitation of an injury can be a very frustrating and negative process for an athlete if they feel like they have little control over what is going on. With Susan, we wanted her to stay focused and be in charge. This was achieved by ensuring she had input into what was being proposed for each phase of her recovery.
“Psychologically, it was very important for Susan to take ownership and manage her progression which she did in an exemplary way. The ‘high performance’ attitude which she displayed, from following direction and programmes religiously, to timetabling every hour of her day so that she was always active, was fantastic. She was instrumental in the success of the process.”
The team worked with Susan around the clock, keeping in constant contact throughout her recovery. There was also a great deal of communication with the surgeon who performed the operation. Physiotherapist Craig More was the lynchpin of this communication and the team was able to keep the medical progress on track as well as ensuring that the surgeon understood the demands of the sport in order to enable him to give the best possible advice on her recovery. The team analysed her physical data to monitor progress but also to check for potential negative developments and eradicate them as soon as they appeared.
Electrotherapy was used in the early stages of recovery to simulate load and keep up Susan’s strength without damaging the knee further. Strength and Conditioning Coach Paul Coyle and Exercise Physiologists Laura Forrest and Helen Alfano ensured that her entire body, aside from her injured knee, was kept in tip-top condition. In this respect, the injury provided a unique opportunity for Susan to focus on addressing areas of physical weakness while also maintaining her strengths. Alternative training modes and practices were introduced to ensure Susan continued to train hard without compromising the healing process.
As a result of Susan’s determination and guidance from the support staff she made remarkable progress and has come out of rehabilitation feeling physically lighter, fitter and stronger than she had been pre-injury. With the use of Pilates and other flexibility interventions, Susan also reports being able to reach positions on court which she’d struggled with previously.
Susan said “The support of the team at the institute was amazing. There's no way I could have done it without their guidance and expertise. The service I’ve received around this injury has highlighted how big a role they have played in my career to date and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The outstanding work from Susan and the team meant that she was back on court a staggering three months before she could have been otherwise. The recovery time was effectively halved and she played her first competitive match post injury on 2 January 2012 in Korea.
The team’s hard work, focus and dedication really paid off. As we go to print, Susan is back in a strong position having made the qualifying standard for London and is several hundred points ahead of her closest competitor for the coveted spot on the team for London.