Author: Earle Abrahamson

Date: 08 08 2022

Earle Abrahamson, CNHC Registrant Board Member and Chair of the GCMT reflects on his experience of volunteering at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games which took place from 28 July to 8 August:

When asked to volunteer at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as a soft tissue therapist, I recall the excitement, trepidation and promises of experiential learning that would ensue. I was not disappointed!

I applied to work at the Games having previously enjoyed the work etiquette and opportunities for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games and the 2017 World Athletic Championships. For me, the Games epitomise the coming together of disciplines, the shared learning experiences within the medical team, and the importance of demonstrating professionalism at all times. Within my discipline of sports massage therapy, I recognise how working synergistically with others opens opportunities for personal and professional developments.

The 2022 Games provided fantastic sporting entertainment but equally the integration of ideas, the openness of conversation, and the support and motivation to try new strategies and develop new skills. As a CNHC Registrant and proud member of the CNHC Board, I actively work to promote professional values in practice. I am reminded, and remind others of, the value and benefits of joining professional associations that promote and support these values. CNHC has afforded me the opportunity to connect policy with practice and work collegiately with colleagues to define standards, develop curricula, and enhance practice standards. These lived and learned experiences enabled me to flourish during the Games and support colleagues new to the Games experience.

During the build up to the Games I was placed at the velodrome inside the 2012 Olympic Park. Here, I was part of a small musculoskeletal team (which included two sports massage therapists, two physiotherapists and one track-side doctor) supporting track cyclists. I used the opportunity to network with colleagues, speak to athletes and managers, and build an awareness of how soft tissue therapy is used within the sport. I was impressed to see how many athletes requested massage as an integral and integrated component of their training.

Athletes reported the benefits of the massage they received and were grateful to have received therapy from professional therapists. In addition to the provision of the soft tissue therapy service, I ably supported the medical team in sharing my experiences of working at major Games and helping them to define theirs. One key moment was the revision and CPD session. This involved removing an athlete from the field of play area using the spine board and stretchers. I led this exercise and carefully explained each critical component of the process. Many of the physiotherapists had not previously used the equipment so were eager to learn. We then exchanged ideas on different learning components necessary for successful practice within soft tissue therapy. I was silently excited to note that much of what I demonstrated and shared with colleagues were key components of the CNHC core curriculum for massage and sports massage therapies.

This informal learning session summarised the reason why I engaged with the Games. For me, Birmingham 2022 was more than just sport and human endurance. It was about culture, community, connection, curiosity, and curriculum. It provided informal spaces to learn with and from colleagues, to understand practice from a global perspective, and to realise the importance of being part of an event greater than the sum of my own knowledge and experience. This is equally reflected in the reasons why I am proud to be a member of the CNHC Board. Members of the Board provide the community, curiosity and culture to challenge assumption and direct impactful growth and development within the broader complementary healthcare sector.

Due to personal reasons, I sadly had to withdraw from the Games mid-way through. The time I did spend at the Games will remain special as it connected my personal with my professional development and gave me an opportunity to give back to others.

I learned it is not so much about what lies between us, but rather what lies in front of us, that truly defines the boundaries of our endeavours. I strongly encourage CNHC Registrants to volunteer for future Games opportunities. The learning and development that these opportunities bring provides a unique and extended CPD activity.