Saddle Issues for Female Cyclist by Bianca Broadbent

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As I am a female bike fitter, we tend to get a lot of female cyclists come in for a bike fit, with their primary complaint being saddle comfort (with numbness and soreness being the top issues within this). It is unfortunately normal for cyclists to think that saddle discomfort is something that needs to be tolerated, but this is simply not the case. In extreme cases cyclists report pain or difficulty urinating for several days post ride! Of course the exception being long distance cyclists or cyclists whom may not have “acclimatised” to spending periods of time in the saddle.

The saddle is the one of the most fundamental things to get right on the bike, and without this all other adjustments will be less than optimal.

You might ask yourself, what signs and symptoms should I look out for which tell me that my current saddle choice or set up isn’t right for me? Some of these might be:

  • Numbness
  • Lack of sensation when passing urine during the ride or after the ride
  • Soreness, whether this is in the genitals themselves, the perineum or the tops of the thighs
  • Saddle sores
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Deformity to soft tissues

As a result, we have compiled a brief list of things to look out for and consider changing in order to make your cycling more comfortable and alleviate those unwanted pelvic symptoms.

 

 

Saddle

 

As we mentioned, some of the most common problems arise from the saddle itself. A decent saddle is worth its weight in gold. We have found that there are many factors that dictate which saddle will suit you best.

  • Saddle height – too high and you will rock on the saddle which will lead to possible chafing and friction
  • Saddle tilt – some saddles are actually designed to have a slight nose down tilt i.e. ISM. Others are supposed to be set up according to the middle third. As a result a lot of the saddles we see are often far too nose up!
  • Saddle fore/aft – too far forwards and too much anterior tilt can place a lot of pressure on soft tissues and thus shoulders. Consider moving the saddle further back to allow a neutral pelvic position and optimal load transfer through upper limbs
  • Riding style – if you adopt a more upright riding style you may want something slightly wider to support the contact points of your pelvis. Conversely, those who ride in a more aggressive position will need something that maximises pressure distribution otherwise soft tissues will take most of the weight
  • Sit bone width – this is more relevant for the recreational and upright riders, but women often have wider ischial tiberosities which may mean a wider saddle will help load bony prominences rather than soft tissue
  • Saddle “cutout” – many clients find relief from a small channel cut out which reduces pressure through the neural and soft tissues within the pelvis
  • Soft tissue anatomy – Cobb cycling have a very good article on “innies” or “outties”. It’s true that if you have more soft tissue exposed this will dictate what kind of saddle you will prefer.
  • Brands that we tend to find alleviate these problems are Cobb, Selle SMP, Specialized. It’s not that we don’t like other saddles, but when client’s have problems these tend to be the ones that resolve the issues

 

 

Pedals/cleats

If you have asymmetries in your pelvis (functional, leg length or you over pronate or supinate), this can lead to changes in how your hips and knees track. As a result this could cause chafing on one leg, or make you sit to one side. There are a variety of ways you can resolve these issues:

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  • Cleat wedges – these are small angular pieces of plastic which will change the angle of your foot. They can be stacked or layered to stop the foot over pronating or supinating, or to address small leg length discrepancies
  • Cleat shims – these are thicker pieces of plastic that can be stacked to reduce the severity of the leg length. Bikefit.com produce very good products
  • Insoles – to help the knee track and thus reduce compensatory strategies at the hip
  • Combination of in the shoe adaptations e.g. heel wedges and forefoot wedges – however these are space occupying so can be an issue
  • Cleats too far forward may also change your tipping point and cause you to come further forward on the saddle

 

 

Cranks

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Now the cranks are a widely overlooked aspect of bike fitting. It would be difficult to discuss them in great detail during this article, but what we do know is that the standard cranks that come on a bike aren’t always suitable for the rider on the bike. For example, we had a triathlete in recently who was approx 5ft 5 but running 175mm cranks! There are many reasons to pick cranks;

  • Leg length – it is suitable to pick cranks that roughly match the leg length of the rider NOT the height
  • Hip/knee flexibility –If this is lacking (or albeit even if it is not!) it is best to look for shorter cranks which allow you to pedal in a smooth motion, otherwise this movement often tracks back to the pelvis, where excessive rocking can cause shearing forces through soft tissue and thus pain!
  • Closed hip flexion positions lead to strains through pelvic floor musculature which can also impact on negative sensations and experiences

 

 

Handlebars

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The handlebar position can have a HUGE impact on symptoms at the pelvis.  If the reach is too short you may round your pelvis and put yourself in an suboptimal position, too long and you may put too much pressure through soft tissues. Too low and you will end up with the same problem, it might not be an issue for 30-60 minutes but over the course of a long ride this is when problems can manifest. You might also want to consider shallow drop handlebars to reduce the pressure when riding on the drops.

 

 

Other

  • Seatpost – Believe it or not, changing the seatpost can be a VERY good way to help reduce pressures through the saddle. If you are especially sensitive consider a carbon seatpost or something with shock absorption to help dissipate the energy that would otherwise end up in your pelvis

 

Specialized CG-R
Specialized CG-R. Cyclocross Magazine
  • Chamois cream – anecdotally clients whom have had pelvic pains report that chamois cream helps immensely, particularly when their mileage has significantly increased or they have started doing longer riders

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  • Decent chamois – do not underestimate the benefits of a decent pair of shorts! A well designed chamois will help reduce friction and pressure through sensitive areas. Personally I find something with a little extra padding more comfortable, but less padding suits others. It’s worth spending the extra money, believe me! (Just made sure you put them on the right way round!!!!)

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As this is just a basic outline on bike issues, we will be publishing articles that address each bike component separately.

If you have any questions for us feel free to email info@fityourbike.co.uk or contact us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fityourbikeuk

If you are interested in booking a bike fit, we operate clinics in Birmingham and Essex, and our fitter is female so perfectly placed to empathise with any pelvic issues you may be having!

London to Paris – How To Survive

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In May 2013 a friend emailed a small group of us and outlined his plans to cycle from London to Paris, with or without us. In the spirit of naivety four of us agreed to do it, and so the date was set for October 2013.

One would think this is plenty of time to prepare for such an event, and it is, as long as you do the preparation and don’t leave it to the last minute. The journey was planned and mapped out according to Donald Hirsch’s back road route via Newhaven and Dieppe (the route maps are available to print here).

The team consisted of four riderswiggins_2270877b; Oli, Alex, Hamish and myself. It was a simple plan – as are most things in theory – start on Thursday evening and finish on Sunday morning, a grand total of 220 miles. We even allocated roles within the team; Oli was to be the mechanic, Hamish was on map reading duties, Alex was our GPS reader and guide whilst I was to take on medical duties.

In preparation for the event we each undertook individual training regimes, but we all did one long ride (100 miles) together to gauge each other’s riding abilities and work on communication. On this ride it became apparent that we had different levels of fitness within the team, which meant we had to adopt our daily mileage to Paris according to the ‘weakest’ rider.

This is important in order to avoid over exhaustion early in the journey, and for everyone to be able to keep the pace for the duration of the 220 miles. The main training involved in preparing for the event was time spent on the bike getting plenty of miles under our belts. It sounds so obvious to say it, but if you want to be a good rider, you have to put in the mileage.

The other piece of advice I’d give relates to consecutive days of riding. Its vital that your body adapts to being in the saddle for consecutive days and pedalling the bike for consecutive days, in our case four days.

The Hirsch London-to-Paris route is a peaceful and enjoyable route which, once in Dieppe, consists mainly of riding Route Verte (disused railway), but it still takes three days to do it. We split the days into the following mileage:

– Thursday: London to Haywoods Heath (60 miles)

– Friday: Haywoods Heath to Newhaven (20 miles)

– Friday: Dieppe to Forges les Eaux (34 miles)

– Saturday: Forge les Eaux to Forete de St Germain (72 miles)

– Sunday: Forete de St Germain to Paris (35 miles)

The key to our journey being a success, in my opinion, was down to a few factors. First was using both the map and GPS tracker set up to navigate our way. Second was preparing our bikes to do touring distances; changing tyres, adding mud guards and adding saddle bags. Most of all we made the trip fun, because when you are covering those sorts of distances you have got to enjoy it, otherwise it soon becomes a chore and you start to resent doing it.

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Having the right equipment meant we were able to limit tyre changes (not fun) and took time to enjoy long lunches, as well as coffee breaks, ensuring moral was maintained throughout. Overall, the experience of riding a bike from London to Paris was amazing, and without doubt one of the best experiences I have had in life. I strongly recommend it to others, but remember; plan for it, prepare for it, do it and enjoy it.

Tom graduated from UWIC with a degree in science, health, exercise and sport, and then specialised in Physiotherapy and graduated Coventry University in 2008. He has worked in musculoskeletal clinics and community based falls prevention rehabilitation, both for the NHS, and is currently clinical director at TA Physiotherapy. Outside of work, he enjoys staying fit and healthy by attending the gym, completing triathlons and road cycling.

Pregnancy: To exercise or not to exercise?

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Advocate for fun and accessible fitness for all. Get in touch @rachael_PT

Rachael Field Roddis – Personal Trainer, pre & post-natal qualified trainer and mom of one has taken the time to write a piece for Tom Astley Physiotherapy blog. So sit back and relax with a cup of brew before making those plans for returning to exercise:

 

The mentality of eating for two and giving up exercise during pregnancy has thankfully waned in recent years. If a pregnancy is without complications and the mum-to-be is clear of injury and/or medical conditions there should be no reason to prevent safe, appropriate and modified exercise all the way to full-term. Like any fitness programme it should be prescribed to suit the woman’s own health, lifestyle and fitness levels, we are unique and so is each pregnancy. Using my own pregnancy as an example, you can see from the first to the third trimester different physiological and biochemical changes just require exercise adaptations to workout safely.

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In the first trimester (0-12 weeks) training was hampered by sickness. Being sick on the gym floor was not going to make me any friends and so I trained less frequently due to the nausea and fatigue. One of the first valuable lessons I learnt about pre-natal exercise: “Listen to your body and don’t exercise to exhaustion.”

 

Changes in hormone levels require more care and attention to be taken when exercising. Asking the mum-to-be to look out for the signs and verbally screening before you start each training session is crucial. The hormone relaxin softens ligaments and connective tissues throughout the whole body, but is meant to primarily prepare the pelvis for delivery and cervix dilation. When I reached the second trimester (13-26 weeks) my joints started to feel unstable when running on a treadmill. To prevent injury I lowered the impact and used a cross-trainer. My flexibility increased and I had to be mindful of this when stretching and not taking exercises past the usual range of motion. Each woman will be different and some don’t feel these major changes but err on the side of caution at all times.

 

aerobics.jpgOn the homestretch, the third trimester (27-40 weeks) and more than anything the size of a woman’s bump will now probably dictate what exercise can and cannot be performed. For me it wasn’t the size of my bump but a change to my centre of gravity that forced me to adapt exercises. A lack of balance made it more difficult to perform exercises I’d usually find easy. To continue executing them I made modifications, for example by working unilaterally and using an inclined bench or wall for support.

 

Resuming exercise after the birth depends on the type of delivery and what happens during labour. At present it is suggested that after a vaginal delivery it should be at least six weeks and for a caesarean section it’s twelve weeks, to allow for post-operative healing. A medical professional must give the post-natal client the ‘all-clear’ before she starts exercising. I was grateful to receive an exercise sheet from a physiotherapist after the birth, which had safe gentle abdominal and pelvic floor exercises that I could do straight away. After the ‘all-clear’ from the GP it was a case of me creating time for fitness while adapting to motherhood and breastfeeding too.

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Pre and post-natal exercise has so many psychological and physiological benefits, why would we not promote it? As fitness professionals we have the ability to support, encourage and provide knowledge for risk-free enjoyable exercise during this remarkable period.

At Tom Astley Physiotherapy we advocate exercise participation through pregnancy and post-pregnancy, we can offer you pre & post natal Pilates classes in small groups lead by a qualified Physiotherapist – Anna Meggitt at Project: Me (N8 8JQ).

Contact us on 0203 659 3545 or info@taphysio.co.uk

 

The author and contributor to the blog, Rachael, also works in North London and is available for private personal training.

Contact Rachael on rachael_pt@yahoo.co.uk

 

Upper Limb Deep Vein Thrombosis

The Sports Physio

A few months ago I had patient with a suspected Deep Vein Thrombosis but unusually of the upper limb. As this was a rare case and as I have only ever come across this potentially serious complication once before, I thought it would be a good idea to write the case up and and take a look at the literature around upper limb DVTs.

What is a DVT?

A thrombosis is blood clot that occludes or blocks the normal flow of blood through an artery or vein. The risks of a DVT are not just the restriction of blood circulation causing conditions such a compartment syndrome, but more seriously there is a risk of life threatening conditions such as heart failure, stroke and pulmonary embolisms.

DVTs can occur anywhere (I had a patient a few years ago who had one just in the tip of her thumb) however, they usually…

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The long and short of… Leg Length Differences

The Sports Physio

I must hear at least once a day a therapist, or a patient discussing the issue of one leg being shorter, or longer than the other, what’s called leg length discrepancy or difference (LLD) or to give it it’s technical term ‘Anisomelia’. I also hear many therapists using this diagnosis to explain pain and movement dysfunction and so justify their treatment approaches!

However, I question LLD, I question what it is, I question how it’s diagnosed, but most importantly I question does LLD actually cause any significant biomechanical issues that can create pain and dysfunction, and so do we really need to correct them?

What is LLD?

There are two classifications of LLD, Functional LLD, sometimes referred to as ‘apparent LLD‘ and Anatomical LLD,sometimes referred to as a ‘true LLD.

Anatomical or true leg-length discrepancies are when there is actual skeletal…

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A Tiger’s Tale… or rather its Sacrum!

The Sports Physio

You may have seen over the last few days the news about Tiger Woods and his Sacrum ‘popping out’ during the Bridgestone Championships and how it was ‘popped’ back in to place, and how this quick, miraculous ‘fix’ had Tiger ready for the US PGA tournament five days later, only to see him grimace and wince his way around the first two rounds looking uncomfortable and off form and eventually not making the cut.

Now in a game like golf I’m well aware there are a myraid of other reasons why a golfer doesn’t make the cut, but to me it looked like his back was a major factor.

So was Tigers miracle sacrum ‘popping in’ cure that miraculous?

Well lets not sugar coat it, of course it bloody wasn’t, and I’m not the only one who thinks so, many on twitter have voiced their concern and dismay at the…

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Commonwealth Day #10 – Refection #5

Well the end is in sight for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and I’ve had a blast so much so I might go to Rio.

Working in the poly clinic as a physio to the athletes has been a once in a lifetime experience and taught me so much about the world of elite multi-sport events.

I have had the opportunity to work under a great physiotherapy in Lynne Booth and a fantastic team of physio’s from across the UK.

The next goal for me is to get My Physio in sport bronze award and then continue multi-sport event physiotherapy through UK Athletics and BUCS pathways.

Thanks for reading my previous blogs.

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Commonwealth Day #9 – Reflection 4

XX Commonwealth Games
XX Commonwealth Games

 

The 2014 commonwealth games is coming to a close within the next few days. The Glasgow platform has provided some amazing sporting outcomes and a great experience for athletes, team officials, and Clydesiders alike. As part of the medical services, working in the polyclinic has given me a taste of the multi-sport elite level competition, and whilst it is hard work, it’s certainly something I have thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The What?

I have learnt a lot from being in the polyclinic environment and working alongside some fantastic physiotherapists over the past two weeks. When an athlete is injured, they usually transferred to the polyclinic, from the field of play, to receive world-class treatment. However, what happens when the athletes doesn’t listen?

 

So What?

A netball player presented to the polyclinic with an acute ankle sprain, 2 days previously, she sprained her ankle competing. Treatment was provided to aid recovery but as part of my assessment, I enquired as to when she was competing next, the reply I received was ‘5pm today’.

As physiotherapists, we naturally want to promote activity and sports participation, but sometimes the body needs time to heal. The athlete always wants to play and the coach always wants their best players fit for action. The difficulty comes when the coach is present to hear your opinion about an injury or doesn’t choose to hear it.

I advised the netball player that should not play on her ankle in its current state, despite the fact that she had a game that afternoon, and this is why.

The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis
The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis

The tissues within the body are maintained in homeostasis through training and competing. The tissues and structures in the body are pushed into ‘supraphysiological overload zone’ when competing, which means that are optimised within the ‘Envelope of Function’. When these tissues are overloaded beyond the ‘Envelope of Function’, i.e an injury occurs, then tissues fail and break or rupture. due to injury, the envelope of function is reduced and tissue homeostasis is disrupted.

 

What this means in the context of the athlete competing, is that they have a reduced physiological ability to perform to their highest level, which would be needed at an international event like the Commonwealth Games. If the athletes does compete with a reduced ‘Envelope of Function’, then they risk further injury as the tissues get overloaded beyond the envelope sooner. The cycle of boom and bust can re-occur until the tissue is given sufficient time to heal and repair to restore tissue homeostasis.

 

Now What?

1) Communicating the importance of tissue healing to athletes is difficult but needs to be emphasised to avoid boom and bust cycle of injury.

2) Communicating the outcomes of clinical assessments to the athletes medical team should be done immediately to discuss return to competition but athletes want to play and coaches want their best players available for selection, so getting this message through can be difficult.

3) Treatment of injuries should be looked at in the short-term and long-term outcomes with the athlete at the centre of the treatment goals

 

Reference

1) Dye SF. The pathophysiology of patellofemoral pain: a tissue homeostasis perspective. Clin Orthop Relat Res 2005; 436:100-110.

 

Commonwealth Day #3 – Refelection 3

XX Commonwealth Games
XX Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Reflection #3;

The Glasgow 2014 commonwealth games are now well and truly underway with Saturday 26th July promising to be a busy schedule of competition across various sports including netball, Judo, and tracking cycling. The athletes are in full swing and the medals are coming thick and fast with this in mind I undertook my third shift at the Games Village Polyclinic.

 

The What?

The poly clinic environment, as I’ve previously mentioned, is a fast paced and exciting environment but requires a cool and collected approach to ensure the athlete gets 1005 the elite care they deserve.  But sometimes the system can be slowed down with bureaucracy  with a classic example of this coming when SEM doctors require ultrasound scans for soft tissue damage. SEM had to refer to radiography for U/S and were unable to perform U/S sans themselves. So SEM referred to radiography but radiography would only do MRI scans due to higher sensitivity rates (1) (2).

 

 

Courtesy of Shoulderdoc.co.uk
Courtesy of Shoulderdoc.co.uk

So What?

The systems clearly works within the polyclinic with this clinic seeing upwards of 400 contacts in a day, but the system can be slowed down. Ideally, the SEM doctor would like to use U/S as part of the assessment process but this may not be time efficient. HCP’s need to carry out a full and thorough assessment of the presenting condition and provide appropriate care, which in this case involved using U/S scans for soft tissue injury. However the radiography preferred MRI scans for diagnostics which cost a lot more money to provide. The resolution came when SEM were finally able to use the diagnostic U/S scans for the athletes. This is by no way a criticism of the current system but goes to show with the best laid systems they need to be flexible to provide a high level of care within a high-octane environment.

 

Now What?

  1. Multi-disciplinary healthcare provision is idealistic and can work with clear and concise communication as well as team work to overcome problems.
  2. Systems and approaches to care provision need to flexible to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment are provided
  3. The athletes are the main priority and excellent care needs to be provided to ensure the best outcome for the athlete

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Tom

 

 

Reference:

1) B Hamilton, R Whiteley, E Almusa, B Roger, C Geertsema1, Johannes L Tol (2013); Excellent reliability for MRI grading and prognostic parameters in acute hamstring injuries; Br J Sports Med.

2) K M Khan, B B Forster, J Robinson, Y Cheong, L Louis, L Maclean, J E Taunton (2003); Are ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging of value in assessment of Achilles tendon disorders? A two year prospective study; Br J Sports Med

 

 

'prehab not rehab'
‘prehab not rehab’

 

Commonwealth Day #2 – Refelection 2

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XX Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Reflection #2:

Hello and welcome back. Thank you for reading my first reflection on my experiences in the Glasgow 2014 commonwealth games. After completing my first poly clinic shift, I was excited to get back in clinic and enjoy shift number two on Wednesday 23rd July, OPENING CEREMONY NIGHT

A little wiser from previous shift, I was feeling more confident in my new surroundings and raring to go one day before competition began.

The What?

So Wednesday turned out to be a quieter shift in the polyclinic due to preparation for the opening ceremony. Naturally, most the attendees were either competing the following day or an acute injury needing attention in preparation for the games.  The team scheduled to cover the evening shift was the same team I worked with the previous day, so I was glad to have some familiar faces in the clinic.

 

So What?

A number of athletes came to the polyclinic seeking intervention for strapping and taping, this is something that is usually undertaken by the national team medical staff but as some nations have differing budgets, not all nations have a full medical team at the games and so they optimised the services at the polyclinic.

Over the course my shift I assessed and treated athletes from sports including Judo, weightlifting, hockey and long jump. these four examples demonstrated a good variety of stage of injury and the appropriate treatment undertaken, difference in teams and the medical support available to prevent such injuries, and expectations from treatment.

– A Judo athlete attended clinic requesting strapping and taping for bilateral posterolateral corner of the knees. No pain upon assessment and so I taped the knees. I think there are many properties to tape and differences between tape and strapping but one underlying factor is the psychological impact it has. I believe that it gives competitors confidence to push their bodies to the highest level despite the absence of injury. In the injured athlete it can be high effective to stabilise a joint (i.e subluxed shoulder).

 

Patellar Femoral Compartment Stress
Patellar Femoral Compartment Stress

– I saw another weightlifter with acute patella tendon tendinopathy and high irritability, why is this a common occurrence? I could only assume it was due to an increased volume of training in preparation for the games. In an ideal world I would love to sit down with the athlete and analyse the training volumes to cross-correlate it to the onset of injury but in a fast paced environment like a polyclinic as well as communication limitations, this is unrealistic. If I were set within a national medical team I would use those skills to monitor injuries within training regimes and highlight these impacts on injury rates thus enabling a team to improve training and performance. These guys would benefit from some eccentric tendinopathy rehabilitation.

– I saw an acute adductor strain (Grade I – MRI confirmed) from one of the larger commonwealth teams and experienced first interaction with national teams doctor requesting treatment. As part of the immediate management, the athlete was put on cryotherapy in the shape of ‘game ready’. This device works by pumping ice cold water into a cuff that is attached to the athlete. The machine setting mean temperature, length of time and compression can be regulated by the clinician. Its a marvellous piece of kit to have especially as it addresses two of the five P.R.I.C.E principles for the immediate management of soft tissue injuries.

Now What?

  1. Its important as a clinician that all patient are thoroughly assessed especially if we have not assessed or don’t know anything about the athlete
  2. Don’t just do what the athlete thinks will help. Clinically reason the problem and take suitable action in the form of treatment
  3. Taking treatment requests from medical teams is acceptable but again question the reasons behind the intervention.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy the blog, watch this blog for more Commonwealth games posts

 

Tom

Enjoying Games Life
Enjoying Games Life