Events Osteopathy & Massage Therapy

Alongside working in general clinics, for the last 10 years, I have had the privilege to work on some physically and emotionally challenging events, as a sports therapist, and more recently as an osteopath.

These events have been in a race format, or for various charities events, striving to achieve a more positive future for patients suffering from life threatening diseases. Working in events is part of my passion, and has enabled me to witness what the human body is capable of when it is being pushed to the extreme – which only strengthens my love for the human body.

The Geoff Thomas 3 Tours Challenge, 2017

The 3 Tours Challenge team consisted of four amateur cyclists, including ex England footballer and Crystal Palace Captain Geoff Thomas, who cycled the 3 biggest grand tours in the world; the Giro D’Italia, Le Tour de France and La Vuelta España. They did this consecutively, one day ahead of the professional riders. Along with the organisers, the support team consisted of a prescribing paramedic, osteopath, sports therapist and bike mechanics.

The team works closely together to safely deliver the riders to their end destination each day. This means observing the riders on the bike, assessing the way their body moves functionally, and discussing their bike set up to correlate with the biomechanics of their body. By doing this, each night on the couch, the treatment becomes specific to individual needs, and in line with how their body is moving on the bike during the day.

The 6,348 mile challenge to ride all three grand tours in one year is one that even the professional cyclists avoid, yet all the riders embarked on the challenge that started in May 2017, and finished in September 2017 all to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia.

Paris to Monaco, 2017

Riding for Duchenne UK, 12 cyclists took on the DashMAX, a 7-day ride to the South of France from the Capital. They had already completed a 24-hour ride from London to Paris ahead of DashMAX so were suffering from fatigue and muscle soreness before they had even started day one. This meant assessments of muscles and joints needed to be adapted to take into account the trauma they had already experienced.

Essentially, the stresses and strains their musculoskeletal system had already endured and due to lack of sleep from the ferry crossing and previous 24 hour ride, meant that the physical state on day 1 was where I would have expected it to be on about day 4.

“Having a sports chiro background, and having worked with the best in cycling, it gives me unique insight into therapists and their skills. Anyone can rub muscles, but a top therapist knows which, and how to optimise recovery. Sarah Gray and her team supported me while traversing London-Monaco for Duchenne UK. They were highly professional, technically top notch, and a vital reason for everyone completing in great shape. I know I speak for the group when I say, without their valuable support, our ride would have been a misery on wheels, and unachievable by many. If you are running an event, and want the best support possible, I highly recommend you use Sarah Gray. Outstanding.”

Carlyle Jenkins, chiropractor and biomechanical specialist, one of the 12 riders.

Le Tour - One Day Ahead, 2015

In 2015 11 amateur cyclists took on the entire route of the Tour de France riding 1 day before the professional race. The event meant 26 days on the road dealing with all the issues that riding a grand tour entails. For many of the riders this was the first time they had been on a bike for such a sustained amount of time. The differing terrain along the route caused complications in different parts of the body. The cobbled stages created a stream of vibrations through the body oscillating the joints of the upper extremities.

This can send the muscles of the forearms into shock creating spasms in the hand, which affect the function of the hand to grip the bars and the ability to use the breaks effectively. Couple the physical effects in the body with the longs days and soaring temperatures up to 40 degrees, it was a huge challenge taken on by 11 ‘ordinary’ people raising money for Cure Leukaemia who we successfully delivered to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Pedal for Petrov, 2012

After Stilyan Petrov, captain of Aston Villa FC, was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2012, two of the sports therapists from AVFC wanted to raise money and awareness for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, now known as Bloodwise. Geoff Thomas, a fellow footballer but more importantly a survivor of the disease, joined them as an ambassador of the charity.

The 3 amateur cyclists rode from Celtic Park, the ground of Celtic FC (Petrovs’ former team) to Villa Park over 7 days with the route including some of the hardest ascents in the UK. This challenge attracted support from various stars of the footballing world along he journey.

London to Paris, 2008 - Present

Since 2008, I have been involved with several London to Paris challenges. The rides take place over 4 days and can have up to 300 riders on each event. I have led and supplied a team of therapists for the Royal British Legion, Bloodwise (formally Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research), Myeloma UK and Cure Leukaemia.

Riders take on an average of 80 miles a day and there is a huge range of abilities within the groups, from the hardened cyclist, to the people that have just bought a bike to take on the challenge. This individualises the needs of each participant, and brings a whole range of different issues and personal battles.

Treatment occurs at the prearranged stops (every 25 miles) during the route, where the riders can receive treatment to relieve symptoms they may be experiencing throughout the day. In many cases, it is the thought of getting on the couches at the upcoming stop that inspires the riders to keep pedalling for the next 25 miles!

The Grimreaper Ultramarathon, 2014 - Present

This ultra endurance race has a distance of 40, 70 or 100 miles consisting of 10-mile loops to be completed in 26 hours. Many of the runners continue to race throughout the night, trying to fuel the body on the move with very little rest, sleep or recovery and this puts huge strain on the musculoskeletal system.

These demands on the body can result in cramp, joint swelling, pain and loss of strength in the muscles. Treatment on events such as this can be performed along the route when a runner spots one of the event vehicles and flags them down for assistance or at the designated checkpoint at the completion of one of the many 10-mile loops. Treatment throughout the race varies and can consist of anything from hands on treatment to the taping or strapping of joints to take the pressure off compromised areas of the body.

Unless the injury is severe enough to stop the competitor from competing, treatment is focused around being a ‘quick fix’ in order to get them to the end of the race.

The Ocean Floor Race Ultramarathon, 2013

I worked with a team of 5, alongside a doctor and a physiotherapist, to support 12 runners in the 500km foot race across the White Desert in Egypt. Participants had 72 hours to complete the race whilst facing delights the desert had in store for them. The terrain ranged from the most beautiful scenery, sand dunes and night sky full of shooting stars to raging sand storms.

The race was supported and navigated by the Egyptian Bedouins with checkpoint tents every 15 miles. They provided the runners with food cooked on makeshift stoves in the sand to the accompaniment of music played on traditional instruments. Flexibility and versatility of treatment was essential here as the conditions and treatment areas were far from a usual clinic environment.

This event required our team to be on call 24 hours a day, treating competitors during the freezing evening temperatures by fires dug into the sand or clinging to the shade of a tent or support jeep throughout the intense heat of the day.

The London Marathon, 2008

I have been employed to provide a team of therapists to support the runners completing the marathon for both the Royal British Legion and Bloodwise. The main role on this event is to be at the charities post race reception to greet the runners on their arrival and release the tension built up in their muscles over the 26.2 mile route.

The combination of training and the gradual increase of mileage to complete the event results in a progressive effect in the state of the muscles. Post race, these aches and pains are worked through and advice is prescribed to individuals on how that runner should continue to customise their aftercare for optimum recovery.

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