Protect our junior athletes, says Edwards - Bolt's sports therapist calls for greater support in transitioning youth stars
Well-respected sports therapist Everald 'Eddie' Edwards is calling on local track and field authorities to better protect junior athletes and prepare them for future competition at major international senior championships.
Edwards, who, since 2007, has worked side-by-side with iconic Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt as his exclusive sports therapist, recently opened a new treatment facility - Fast Recovery Human Tecar Treatment Centre - at the New Kingston Shopping Centre.
From his vantage point as a professional at several Olympics and World Championships, Edwards weighed in on the island's youth programme, specifically speaking to his experiences with injured young Jamaican athletes.
Widely regarded as one of the island's most gifted sports therapist, Edwards, who has also worked with a large number of international sporting stars such as Britain's Mo Farah and cricketer Chris Gayle, believes that Jamaica's top talent at the age-group level are not being properly protected or prepared for transitioning into the senior ranks.
"I have seen, over the years, junior athletes coming to us as injured athletes at Racers Track Club, and also at other clubs, and that is one of the biggest problems in the transitioning to the senior levels. Most of the time, it's injuries that happened to them in high school and the lack of proper treatment for those. In some cases, some of the treatments are expensive, plus the know-how in terms of dealing with some of these injuries is also an issue," Edwards told The Sunday Gleaner. "I have come across athletes in the past, that when they make it to the professional level, they can't transition because they have injuries that did not get the proper treatment, and, sometimes, we have to send them as far as Germany to get back, and sometimes, they simply cannot come back."
FILLING A VOID
Fast Recovery, he hopes, will fill a void in the local space and provide well-researched and experienced service in areas such as biomechanics assessment, post-surgical rehabilitation, sports massage, and therapeutic treatments such as its signature Human Tecar Synergistic Health-care Methodology, which is an electromagnetic stimulator application that greatly aids in musculoskeletal injuries, articular diseases, inflammation, ageing, and a myriad other situations.
On the subject of junior athletes and their development, Edwards believes that the sport's gatekeepers such as the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association, as well as coaches, school administrations, and parents should all work together in this regard.
Edwards's recommendations include the identification of a pool of elite junior athletes and the establishment of a holistic islandwide support network of doctors, physios, tutors, and massage therapists, along with nutritional and sports psychology interventions.
"You have three counties in Jamaica. You can select, say, 50 of our top athletes and put them in a system. You have doctors, physios, massage therapists in each county who will be available to the athletes based on their location, and once those athletes are injured, they know they can go to these specialists and get top-class treatment," Edwards elaborated.
"On one of two weekends each month, let them come together and bond. Then you have top coaches. You're not taking them away from their regular coaches, but some coaches can come, observe, and make recommendations. Bring in motivational speakers. Talk to them so that they can build their confidence. Engage tutors to help them in areas where they are weak. Get training for them in media relations, and so on. When you have a junior programme like that, then they will better matriculate into the senior programme," added Edwards, who also noted the need to ensure that these elite juniors are also provided with proper gears.
"In my estimation, the young athletes are doing too much work. The powers that be need to protect them. Yes, I know schools recruit them and spend their money for Champs, and so on, but if you as an administration can step in and offset some of those costs, you will be in control. Sit down with the parents, coaches, and all parties and underline that these are our national treasures and point out the need to protect them. Help to limit the meets that they compete in, and so on," Edwards said.
The sports therapist, on her invitation, has submitted his suggestions to Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, who will be looking into the recommendations.
It should be noted that some of these elements were major campaigning points for current JAAA president Dr Warren Blake during his 2012 manifesto presentation. However, his administration has so far failed to deliver on its promises in this area.
Jamaica, with four medals (three bronze, one gold), suffered its worst performance at a major international championship since the 1988 Olympic Games at this summer's World Championships in London, leading to calls for greater focus on better preparing youth talent for senior transition.