Wheelchair Curling made its Paralympic debut in Turin in 2006, and Canada has taken home every gold medal since! As the Canadian team physician during this quadrennial, it has been my privilege to work with and learn from this group of athletes, as well as the committed team that supports them.
The sport of Wheelchair Curling is open to male and female athletes with lower extremity impairments affecting gait, including spinal injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and limb loss. It differs from able-bodied curling in that the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping (although you may still hear the occasional ‘hurry hard’ from some countries, present company excluded!). Athletes typically push the rock with a delivery stick, which has a head component that applies the correct rotation.
Like all Paralympic athletes, wheelchair curlers are predisposed to illnesses and injuries related to their underlying medical conditions and the biomechanics of the sport. Injuries tend to affect the upper extremity, the shoulder being the most common, and illnesses often impact the respiratory and digestive systems, as well as the skin. Compared to other Paralympians, it is my experience that wheelchair curlers tend to be more mature in terms of their age. While partly related to sport perception, I believe this also stems from the time required to develop game and shot strategy – nothing trumps experience in this regard – it is quite literally a chess match on ice!
With the passage of time, however, comes the potential for more wear and tear on the body, whether it be related to sport or just life itself. That’s where we come in.
Over the past four years, our wheelchair curlers have benefited from the expertise of an integrated support team (IST) of coaches, practitioners and clinicians during their quest for another podium performance. The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSI Network) has contributed to the IST support the wheelchair curlers have received including dietician and strength and conditioning support from the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba, as well as sport medicine and sport science support from the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario. Our team also includes a physiotherapist with expertise in neurological rehabilitation, and a mental performance consultant with curling and Olympic experience. Working together, we hope to optimize the health and wellness of our athletes, ultimately helping them achieve their goal of a podium performance in PyeongChang.
It has been a four-year journey, and the time has come to represent Canada with pride on the Paralympic stage. It is my honour to be there as part of Team Canada and to support our athletes.
Go Canada Go!
About Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of excellence by providing world-class programs, services, and leadership to high performance athletes and coaches to enhance their ability to achieve international podium performances. CSIO offers athletes a range of sport science and sport medicine services including nutrition, physiology, biomechanics, strength & conditioning, mental performance, sport therapy and life services. CSIO also delivers programming and services to National and Provincial Sport Organizations and coaches to work towards building a stronger sport system in Ontario and Canada.
CSIO services approximately 700 high performance athletes and 250 coaches, at its main facility at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, its satellite location at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, and in daily training environments across Ontario. CSIO is part of a larger network of 4 institutes and 3 multi-sport centres across the country known as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee. CSIO is further supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Sport Canada, Own the Podium, and the Coaching Association of Canada, along with the National and Provincial Sport Organizations within the sector. www.csiontario.ca
Dr. Steven Dilkas, Sport Medicine Physician, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario