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Marvin Lee’s death must not be in vain
The team approach to healthcare when working with athletes cannot be overstated. As a matter of fact, it can be, and often is, underestimated.
The importance of ensuring that formal relationships and clearly identified communication lines exist between outsourced therapists and the club, as simple as this may seem, carries numerous benefits.
By taking the time to put protocols in place there becomes a heightened sense of accountability by both therapist and club and minimizes the chances of miscommunication.
Miscommunication. The number of ways that this can happen is countless. From misconstrued information over the details surrounding the injury to cost structure, miscommunication can often end professional relationships.
Direct updates from the therapist allow her an opportunity to explain the athlete’s condition and progress.
For the club, it can provide the opportunity to better understand the process of injury management and a sense of control over how money is being spent or rather, invested, on athlete care. It also creates the opportunity to ask questions, understand the challenges, and gauge the athlete’s return to full play.
Parents can also be problematic in this area, regardless of how good their intentions may be. It must always be remembered that issues addressed and recommendations made in a treatment setting, are not meant to be taken as general recommendations to be applied to an entire team or club.
While it is only natural to want to blame someone for injury to your child, particularly in T&T where the programs struggle to provide all that is required to produce a well-rounded athlete; to not just treat but to prevent injuries. However, the truth is, it is not always the appropriate response.
Therapists speak from a position of authority as it relates to injury prevention and injury rehabilitation.
As a team of professionals working together to create a strong and highly competitive athlete, strength and technical coaches can work with the therapist to adjust the athlete’s program in order to avoid aggravating an injury.
Injury does not always require the assignment of blame. It does not always require the complete removal of the athlete from the program. Injury is a part of playing sports. They should be expected.
In the local environment, because therapists exist as a separate entity from the sports team, some ways that I have found helpful in reducing the chances of miscommunication and unnecessary tension include:
Putting written contracts in place detailing the terms and expectations for its duration.
Detail the cost structure for services. Negotiate long-term contracts that will serve to reduce the overall cost in comparison to short-term arrangements. Insist on weekly reports.
Ensure that one-on-one meetings or phone conversations are held once there are athletes receiving therapy. Athletes that are aware that this is happening are often more disciplined about attending their treatment sessions.
Ensure that the athlete is not involved in any of the negotiations, financial issues, or possible conflicts that may arise.
The same sort of guidelines can be applied to the parental relationship, the general idea being to understand the expectations in the therapist/client relationship and keeping the athlete completely separate from the financial issues.
I have found that the athlete-child will oftentimes hide their injury or their pain, to avoid being a source of additional financial strain on their parent—a heroic but misplaced expression of love.
As we come up on the tenth anniversary of Marvin Lee’s untimely sports-related death, I conclude this column with the reminder that every experience gained every day while working in this industry is a lesson learned and a call to improve the sports industry.
For those of us who carry roles and hold positions in the sports industry, there must always be a sense of obligation to act on these lessons, to remain diligent about ensuring that repeat errors are minimized.
Lee’s death is an extreme example of the risks that surround competitive sport but it is not the only example of this nature. Much credit is due to clubs and parents who take heed of such lessons and properly commit themselves to provide the best care to their athlete/child in both prevention and management of injuries.
It is these simple practices that ensure a better quality of health and well-being for them in both their athletic careers and daily life.
May the lesson of Marvin Lee’s life never fade. May his death not be in vain. R.I.P. Marvin Lee.
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