Our Faculty and Graduate Physical Therapists Help Athletes Compete at Invictus

At the University of Toronto, in 1917, Enid Graham launched Physical Therapy as an approach to provide rehabilitation to the wounded soldiers, returning from the war.  One hundred years later and University of Toronto, Department of Physical Therapy faculty and graduate physical therapists continue to play a vital role in their rehabilitation as evidenced by the recent Invictus games held in Toronto.

Toronto hosted over 550 athletes with disabilities, participating in Invictus, an event founded and supported by Prince Harry to help men and women wounded in war to overcome physical and mental challenges through sport to become “master of their fate.”

University of Toronto, Department of Physical Therapy faculty, and graduates were on hand as rehabilitation volunteers helping the participants stay on top of their game during the competitions.

Dr. Sharon Switzer-McIntrye, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy volunteered for the week. She was asked to be Co-Medical Lead for Archery and reported that it was“ a unique opportunity to work with incredible individuals who were both inspiring and humbling.”

Movement is key foundational principle of physical therapy and perhaps the fastest moving sport at the Invictus games was the wheelchair basketball events.

Agnes Makowski, Lecturer in the Department of Physical Therapy, was Medical Lead for the popular sport of Wheelchair Basketball. “I think Enid Graham would be proud that so many Canadian physios contributed to the Invictus Games as host medical/therapy volunteers, as well as dedicated physios working with the specific Canadian Invictus teams”.

These volunteers included Physical Therapy graduates from University of Toronto – Daniel Carter (Canadian Armed Forces), and Giacomo Silvestri.

Professor Switzer-McIntrye noted that, “The athletes, families and friends who participated in the Invictus games have inspired me to ensure that all physiotherapists consider the importance of movement, functional goals and mental health in every interaction with a patient”

Prince Harry and others raised the importance of supporting and rehabilitating physical injuries and the invisible mental health conditions such as depression and posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). The Canadian athletes who were profiled spoke candidly of the challenges that they faced, and powerful impact that sports and physical activity had on their lives. Agnes Makowski reflected, “There has been tremendous innovation in sport and exercise medicine. Physiotherapists are often the first health care providers in contact with injured individuals. We can continue to open the doors of ability for individuals of diverse abilities.”

The spirit of the games was about the raw determination of the individual athletes and the support of their families. Prince Harry – the patron and founder of the games summed it up in his speech at the Closing Ceremonies. “You have moved and inspired us.”

Congratulations to the University of Toronto Department of Physical Therapy faculty and graduates for their contributions in making the games a success.