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The Ultimate - How small conversations end up big

Dr Alethea Beck, 11 Feb 2017

The Ultimate - How small conversations end up big

In 2014 I first heard about the sport Ultimate while volunteering at the commonwealth Games in Glasgow standing poolside at the dive training and talking to a physiotherapist who was already involved in the sport. Fast forward to 2015 and I was the team doctor for four squads (u17 and u20) travelling to the European Junior Championships and then two years to 2016 where I was appointed team doctor to the GB Junior Squads at the World Junior Championships in Wroclaw, Poland and being awarded a bronze medal on the podium as the GB Under 20 open squad won 3rd place. I now can say I know a lot about the sport of Ultimate.

The sport is often referred to as Ultimate Frisbee; a high paced, action filled, non- contact, self-officiating sport. The term Frisbee is a brand and hence the term ultimate is how the sport is usually referred to now. There are two teams with a similar set up to an American football field with an end zone and the main playing field. Teams try to score in the others end zone to gain points. Travelling with the disc is not allowed and a player has a maximum of ten seconds to make the next move hence the speed of play. One of the true amazing things about this sport is that it is self-officiating and the teams score each other on “spirit” at the end of each match. You could win a gold medal but have a poor spirit score or equally come last in the overall rankings but come top in spirit. I often got the impression that to many players gaining a high spirit score was more important than a high ranking. The Spirit score is formed from five areas teams are scored on including: Knowing the rules, enjoy playing, being fair minded, communicating respectfully and avoiding body contact.  

As with any sport there are injuries more likely to be incurred and in my experience of working with the Junior GB Squads these were mostly hand and ankle injuries. There were many challenges as medical staff out with acute injuries as both tournaments were in searing temperatures that the athletes were not used to and hydration, heat illness and nutrition were major factors that we as a team advised on. Through both the tournaments I learned a lot and had a very enjoyable experience and would recommend this sport to anyone. I made lots of new friends from both the UK and abroad and have kept in touch with them.

Often I have been asked how this sort of opportunity has arisen and how others could do something similar. This especially has come from medical students and junior doctors looking for a career in sports and exercise medicine.  Looking back on this experience it involves being open minded, a willingness to interact with other people and acting on the information you are given and showing an interest. It is not all about the money or the prestige of a position, it is about how you can gain or learn the most as an individual that will progress you and make you a more rounded clinician.

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