Going for gold: the medicine behind the medals 

04/08/2016 00:00 
The Olympic Games 2016 begins tomorrow, Friday 5 August. Rio will become the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics and with a record number of countries participating in a record number of sports, including first time entrants Kosovo and South Sudan, the Games are heralded to be one of the most exciting ever.
Mike Loosemore 

We know that the way athletes are cared for is constantly being refined but what does it take to be a doctor at the Olympic Games? Dr Mike Loosemore is consultant in sport and exercise medicine at the UCLH’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, lead sports physician for the English Institute of Sport and this year is deputy chief medical officer for the Great Britain (GB) Olympic team, primarily looking after the boxing team.

Dr Loosemore has experienced Olympic Games-level healthcare before having been involved in some capacity with no less than five Olympic Games and five Commonwealth Games.

“It’s been a real privilege working with the GB boxing team for the past four years after London 2012,” he said. “By the time the Games actually arrive, the athletes and all the support staff have done much of the hard work and we need to keep the momentum going to help them fulfil their gold medal dreams. It’s an exciting time.”

Athletes train for a lifetime to make it to the top of their game. Even then, the chance to attend the Olympic Games at their peak is rare. So when a simple injury or illness puts a stop to their aspirations, it can be devastating.

“Athletes are not like the rest of us,” added Dr Loosemore. “Whatever health problems they might have, they are desperate to participate and will want to play their sport even if they are unwell. As doctors, we need to have intimate knowledge of how our athletes tick and be involved in every aspect from what they’re eating, how they’re sleeping and how they’re feeling mentally. It’s a unique relationship. I helped to select doctors for the London 2012 Olympics and choosing people who were confident in their abilities and wanted to do their utmost for the athletes was by far the most important criteria.”

Asked what he was looking forward to most at the Games, Dr Loosemore said: “Just before I left for Rio, I had dinner with the GB boxing team and that feeling of camaraderie with the athletes is very special both socially and professionally. At the end of the day, it’s the greatest show on earth and we want to make it as joyful and successful as possible for them all.”

The Olympic Games 2016 runs from 5-21 August and Paralympics from 7-18 September. Visit the official website of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

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