Jamaica’s sporting prowess cannot be denied. We have four of the fastest men in history and three of the fastest women of all time. We have championship-calibre boxers, world class swimmers, exceptional cricketers, and talented football players.
With such a strong sporting culture, keeping athletes healthy is very crucial to maintaining a high level of success. Therefore, understanding the nature of and managing and effectively treating injuries will play a major role in sustaining the country’s reputation as a sporting giant. Thus, research is paramount in any such pursuit. The University of the West Indies is presently researching the factors that contribute to our athleticism and a big part of that is examining the things that cause injuries and how to mitigate against them.
Sprint icon Merlene Ottey has, for years, been involved in bio-mechanic research. Even today she still actively engages in work that has yielded valuable information on muscle response to fatigue, what improves muscle performance and how to prevent injury. Using her own body as a ‘guinea pig’, Merlene, wearing bio-sensors that measure her muscle fatigue transmits valuable information to a team of scientists and coaches. That information is used to help her train in accordance to what her 52-year-old body can handle to make it as efficient and as effective as possible.
Professor Rachel Irving from UWI, who is part of the team that leads sports-related research, complained recently that funding for such research is hard to come by. The private sector is yet to buy into what can be achieved by the research hence they are not lining up to fund such research. This is yet another example of how limited the vision is in this country.
Over time, the research will eventually yield conclusive information that will benefit athletes all over the world. It is this fact, above all else that makes whatever information comes forth very valuable. This is especially true if there is any breakthrough in how to help athletes recover from potential career-ending injuries. Should such a breakthrough become reality, coaches and doctors from all over the world would be lining up to pay good money to have access to the research data and findings.
On a different scale, such a foundation could give rise to a sports medicine facility where athletes from the United States, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean could access the best treatment in the world. Right now, Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and many of the world’s top sportsmen fly all the way to Germany and to Ireland for the best treatment money can buy. Why would they need to do that if they could take a short flight to Jamaica to do the same?
It is why I feel it prudent for the UWI or UTech and Ottey to join forces, pooling their data and experience to take the research to a higher level. Ottey’s name can help to attract the funding and with the knowledge that she brings coupled with the ongoing research at the UWI, Jamaica could find itself on the verge of developing a new source of valuable revenue.
A sports medicine clinic and a research facility creates opportunities for employment for doctors, research assistants, physiotherapists, coaches, lab technicians, concessionaires and many more people. They could also help re-brand Jamaica as not just a tourist destination but a place where great minds have come together to offer the world’s best athletes the very best health care that will help them prolong or rescue their illustrious careers.