Rachel Dickens, of www.englishosteopath.com, recently told Rocktape about her work with Skiing with Heroes.
I work in Monaco and southern France, where, when not busy with our two clinics, I run the medical support team for ‘Skiing with Heroes’. A UK-based charity run solely by volunteers, Skiing with Heroes takes injured British ex-soldiers skiing and also offers the support and mentoring they need to secure careers once back in the civilian world.
Due to the extent of their injuries, all our skiers will have had hundreds of hours of physio from NHS or Armed Forces therapists. Excellent as those services are, it does mean the guys will never have seen Rocktape, so, this year, I asked Rocktape if they could give me some to trial on our wounded soldiers.
Luckily for us, they did, and the difference it made was significant.
Our skiers have many different types of war injuries, of which the most frequent are caused by:
IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) or homemade bombs, usually wired together in a ‘daisy chain’ for maximum devastation: these, if they haven’t killed you, will take off a leg or two. If you are lucky enough to not be hit directly, the blast can remove muscles from your legs, thighs, chest and/or arms.
RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade): designed as an anti-tank weapon, these were popular in Iraq. Many of our skiers have survived direct hits from these. The survivors’ injuries are severe and I’ve seen entire muscle groups and nerves, tendons and bones completely obliterated. One of our young skiers had both eyes blown out by one of these weapons.
Gunshot wounds: some of our skiers have been part or fully paralysed by close-range shots that destroy nerves, cut through arteries and leave complex and chronic pain injuries.
As horrible as the injuries are, most of the skiers are pretty happy that they are alive, given the alternative fate that befell so many of their colleagues. This attitude of thankfulness, acceptance and the will to live is what makes these young men and women so inspirational.
As much as the volunteers give, we always end up taking more as these ex-soldiers and their stories have changed our attitudes towards life.
This year, as we had metres and metres of Rocktape, we started with the obvious; taping quads, or whichever muscles on their changed anatomy were acting most like quads (N.B., you can’t tape over skin grafts) on leg amputees and novice-skiers, to reduce muscle fatigue. Our one-legged skiers had obviously overdeveloped thighs and skiing would overload this muscle group, eventually causing fatigue and the skier to fall over.
I figured that if we did this once, we would have a good three days before we saw them in our evening ‘mop up and mend’ clinic sessions. It worked well, however, by day three, we also taped around their knees to give extra support and stability, adding decompression tapings to tender areas where they had fallen.
For our sit-skiers (non-walkers), we used the same principal, but on their triceps, into scalenes and around their GH, as all their physical effort was upper-limb.
A few of our skiers suffered with chronic pain from complex injuries involving multiple regions of their body. With these I experimented and used a 100% stretch across all relevant movements in upper or lower body and this had really positive results.
Now this could be psychosomatic or the effects of something new, encouragement, a different environment, etc., but, when you have a man who is hunched in pain, doesn’t interact with the others and always looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders (he had already tried everything and nothing had worked) and then, after taping, he stands upright (I did a posture strapping on him too), smiles and says, “I feel that this has lifted my shoulder away from the pain”, it’s hard to not believe the lifting effect has made a significant difference.
Some of our skiers had significant imbalances in their musculo-skeletal system due to their changed anatomy and Rocktape worked well in supporting their underdeveloped muscles.
Our Skiing ambassador, who is part paralysed, was training for the Marathon des Sables and had walked to the South Pole, (with HRH Harry), had climbed Everest and is currently working through a World First of taking wounded soldiers up all the highest mountains in the world.
He had seen many physios, but never seen an osteo or Rocktape. Let’s just say the difference that it made to his training was so good that Rocktape are now tape sponsoring him and he is finding a local osteo to add to the team for his physical support.
Every single skier really liked the support given by the tape, so much so that as well as our evening clinic sessions we instigated an 8am taping session in the hotel lobby, so every morning we were on our knees taping legs, arms, necks and backs.
The charity founder, Mrs Gilly Norton, was taped before the skiers arrived and, a week later, when we next drew a breath, I redid the tape and she said that she couldn’t have skied the week without it.
Our ski week was a huge success. The med support team saw less injuries this year, with more skiers taking part. Rocktape was very well received and most skiers wanted to take some home with them or to find out where to buy some. Using the tape in our 15 min treatment slots gave us another quick way to treat our patients and we were very happy to have our free supply.
Thank you so much. I hope you can support us next year too?
Rachael Dickens BA BSc DO MROF