A BALLINEEN woman has just been appointed the country’s first, and only, sports physiotherapist certified by the International Olympic Council.
Mary Gleasure Hennigan, who runs Carbery Physiotherapy was one of just 24 physiotherapists from all over the world to graduate from the prestigious Swiss based council’s post-grad in sports-physiotherapy.
Mary is originally from North Cork, and is married to husband Denis and mum to Jack (11), Donnchadh (9) and Patrick (6).
She said: ‘This course is unique, as our lecturers were gurus in sports medicine and surgery from the medical and scientific advisers of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) worldwide.
‘I am not the only physiotherapist qualified to treat Olympians by any means. But the IOC want to have an individual with this qualification eventually in each country to standardise the care of athletes.
‘Our athletes give their lives to their sport and they deserve the best from us, that’s why the IOC wants to see a uniformed level of care and a standard in sports medicine that is replicated across the globe.’
Mary got involved helping athlete care during her teenage years in North Cork.
‘I have always been passionate about physiotherapy,’ Mary continued. ‘I used to volunteer in my local hospital, as well as with the Special Olympics and Paralympics during my teenage years and also played ladies football with my home team Glanworth and Cork underage.’
After her training Mary worked with some very well-known Irish stars of track and field as well as with the Munster rugby team.
‘I worked with Irish Olympic and Paralympic Athletes for 10 years prior to commencing the course with IOC. I was honoured to have worked with great athletes such as world champions Olive Loughnane, Rob Heffernan and now currently, with endurance athlete Alex O’Shea. Previous to that I worked with backroom staff with Munster Rugby and remember when great players such as Donncha O’Callaghan joined the Munster squad.’
As part of the IOC’s commitment to supporting the health and performance of athletes and to the continuing professional development of those who care for them, the IOC Medical Commission created this postgraduate-level program in Sports Physical Therapies.
Studying for the programme involved a variety of teaching methods, including lectures in electronic format, web-based materials, paper-based reading, an on-line ‘chat room’ as well as other internet-based activities.
Studying for her IOC certification at home in Ballineen, Mary was amazed at the experience and the qualifications her lecturers, the international sports medicine experts, or ‘gurus’ as Mary called them, brought to the IOC course.
‘There were top experts from every field,’ Mary said. ‘Doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists and more. The course was extremely intense, It was all conducted online with students from countries around the world. Then came the final 24 hour exam, and I was relieved and delighted to have made the grade as there is a very high failure rate.
‘I only travelled to IOC headquarters Lausanne, Switzerland for the graduation and the ceremony was hosted in the amazing Olympic Museum,’ Mary said. ‘All the medical and physiotherapy graduates travelled from all over the world for the special occasion. Back in Ballineen, I work in Carbery physiotherapy Ballineen and with CIT sports and medical departments.’
As for the future Mary is looking forward to helping many more West Cork athletes reach their potential.
‘I am volunteering with Athletic Ireland to set up an injury prevention youth initiative in Cork for high-performance athletes,’ Mary said. ‘On a local level, I am looking forward to using the knowledge I gained to help the people of West Cork to recover from their injuries and maybe even become the next generation of athletes.’