Keith Gladstone is an osteopath and sport scientist. He is consultant osteopath to the England Rugby team and his company Athletic Health Ltd supply the medical team at the Worlds strongest man competition each year. Here is a short blog of his experiences at this years competition:
For many, Christmas and new years are synonymous with three things; Presents, Turkey and the worlds strongest man competition being aired on TV. Each year, 30 of the strongest men on the planet gather in an exotic location, in the ultimate battle of strength. Its the World Cup or the Olympic final of Strength Sport, and one man a year walks away with the title of “The Worlds Strongest Man”. The competition takes place over 2 weeks and is actually filmed in April/May and then aired at various times throughout the year across the world. The competition comprises multiple events which test not only strength and power but also stamina, skill, strategy and fitness. The 30 athletes are split into 5 heats of 6 people. Each heat compete over 6 events in 4 days and the top 2 athletes from each event then progress onto the final. The athletes don’t know what events they will be competing in until about 2 weeks before the competition so they are not able to prep too specifically. There are some events that are always present…the atlas stones, a vehicle pull, a carry and load event, but the specifics are only identified very close to the event. This means the athletes have to prepare for everything and can’t specialise in one particular lift or event.
This year the host nation was Manilla in the Philippines, a busy, bustling and sweltering location. Temperatures of 40 degrees and humidity of close to 80% made the conditions very tough. The athletes weigh on average around 160kg, with the heaviest around 200kg and keeping cool is a challenge at the best of times. Ice, limitless water and air-conditioned tents where essential.
The medical team, 4 in total, are there to look after all the athletes. Pre event medicals, strapping and taping, injury diagnosis and treatment, sports massage and recovery and emergency cover are some of the responsibilities. We have an experienced team who have worked at the sharp end of sports injury management. Good clinical skills are key but we also look for people who are resilient, adaptable and crucially team players.
Its a logistical challenge providing medical care in often remote and unfamiliar environments. We have to ensure that we have all the right equipment and supplies with us, from medications and emergency kit to treatment tables, massage cream and rock tape.
The injury risk is high. The athletes are pushing the boundaries of human physiology and the events get heavier and tougher each year. Muscle and tendon injuries are common as well as callus tears and abrasions and contusions.
Its a tough event to work on but also a great experience and lots of fun.
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