The team behind the team

23 January 2012

For an athlete to even make it to a start gate at a Winter Olympics there is a huge team that has got them there. Often the unsung heroes of an Olympic Games, the medical team are responsible for keeping the athletes fit and healthy and helping them be the best they can be on the day of competition.

At the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, Australia’s 13 athletes were under the care and guidance of Dr Larissa Trease and physiotherapist Simon Ruse.

Between them, they have not only a wealth of education and training in their respective fields, but also a vast array of experience dealing specifically with athletes in winter sports.

“I have wanted to be a Winter Team doctor since I was 16 so this is a dream come true,” Dr Trease said. “As a teenager I was injured competing in cross country skiing. I realised my injuries would prevent me from ever competing in an Olympics, so I decided I’d like to try and get there another way, and being a doctor seemed pretty cool.”

After years of studying medicine and undertaking sports medicine specialty training, Dr Trease realised her teenage dream.

“For the last five years I have been working with different teams from different sorts of sports which has been great,” she said. “Each sport is different and it is really interesting to learn about the different medical challenges that are presented.”

Before coming to Innsbruck with the Winter Youth Team, Dr Trease worked for the Australian Paralympic Team in Beijing, the Paralympic swimming team and junior national teams for basketball and rowing, including four junior world championships campaigns. 

For Dr Trease, Innsbruck has been another fascinating leg in her journey as a leading young sports medicine practitioner.

“My aim coming in was to have an injury and illness free Games, and we have pretty much achieved that,” she said. “We gave all the athletes prevention packs to limit illness and the spread of illness. We also focused on educating the young athletes on recovery, nutrition and strength and injury rehabilitation.”

Education has also been a big focus for physiotherapist Simon Ruse, whose goal was not only to treat the athletes but to give them insight into how they can look after themselves to prevent injuries.

“Athletes walk a fine line between achieving the perfect amount of training and getting injuries,” Ruse said. “I’ve been really lucky at these Games to be spend time with each of the athletes and help them with techniques that will hopefully help them develop the ability to perform at the top of their sport with a healthy body.”

Ruse’s obvious passion for his occupation is matched by his fervour for winter sports, something which began on a school trip to the snow as a 16-year-old.

“I just loved it!” he said. “After school I studied physio, but also worked some ski seasons over in Canada which was great.

For the last three years Ruse has spent the Australian winters working at Thredbo Altitude Physiotherapy, through which he had the opportunity to work with some of Australia’s finest skiers such as Vancouver Olympians Ramone Cooper, Jono Brauer, Craig Branch and dual medallist Dale Begg-Smith.

Ruse has travelled with the Australian moguls team and more recently spent time with Australia’s world champion snowboarders Nate Johnstone and Holly Crawford.

“Being able to use that experience and bring it to the Youth Olympics has been great,” Ruse said. “It’s been a really good opportunity for some of these athletes to experience life as an elite sportsperson and it’s also been a great experience for me.

“As a physio, what I aim for is for people to not get injured. If they can achieve results without pain and injury and I have helped that, then I’ll be happy.”

With the competition now wrapped up, the Australian Team departs tomorrow with two medals and no injuries or illness – all in all a truly successful Games.

Alice Wheeler

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