Athletes given green and gold treatment

When the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games concluded on 15 April, Australia swaggered away with an impressive haul of medals. 

Our nation celebrated the prowess and performance of our athletes, but the ‘team behind the team’ are just as worthy of our praise – people like UQ Medicine alumnus Dr Anita Green.

As the Chief Medical Officer for the 21st Commonwealth Games, Dr Green worked with the Commonwealth Games Federation Medical Commission and local and regional health services to develop and coordinate medical and anti-doping programs.

Having spent more than 20 years working with elite, aspiring and recreational athletes, Dr Green has held sports medicine roles with a number of national and international competitions, including the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, National A League Soccer, and the Brisbane and Gold Coast Marathons.

“While all of these experiences were rewarding, working at a home Games is really special,” Dr Green explains. “Welcoming athletes from 71 countries to Queensland was such a unique experience.

“I love the international feel of the Games Village, meeting athletes from different cultures and then watching them competing at such an elite level. The drive and incredible focus of the athletes is something to behold – they can teach us a lot about goal-setting, discipline and teamwork.”

Working with key staff and highly-skilled volunteer clinicians, Dr Green was charged with keeping 6000 elite athletes, team officials, technical officials, visiting dignitaries and spectators healthy.

“Providing athletes with medical care to ensure a safe and successful event was a daunting task and a wonderful challenge.

“Australia has some of the best trained and most experienced sports medicine professionals, with more than 1400 medical volunteers taking part in GC2018 – including doctors with sports medicine, emergency medicine and general practice experience, sports physiotherapists and podiatrists, registered nurses, pharmacists and optometrists.

“I loved being part of a huge multidisciplinary team and that’s also what I love about sports medicine – the team approach to medicine.”

Dr Green and her team dispensed healthcare to athletes from smaller nations who had little to no medical support, in addition to caring for athletes from very well-resourced countries who travel with their own medical teams.

“Well-resourced teams bring their own sports physicians and sports physiotherapists,” she explains. “While they provide medical care to their athletes, they need access to high-level imaging like ultrasound and MRI scans, some additional physiotherapy services and access to specialist medical advice.

“For less well-resourced countries, we become their medical team. It's amazing to see what athletes with so little access to a sports physiotherapist or doctor can achieve. I believe that’s what the spirit of the Commonwealth Games is all about – bringing together a group of wonderful athletes regardless of the wealth and resources of their country."

Medical services at the Games were predominantly administered through the Polyclinic, a multidisciplinary clinic set up in the Games Village.

While musculoskeletal injuries constituted around 70 per cent of treatments in the Polyclinic, Dr Green said it was critical that Games Organisers ensured illness and acute infections were properly managed and contained.

“At any large sporting event, there’s a risk of infectious diseases like influenza, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal diseases and some illnesses that are vaccine-preventable, as not all competitors may have adequate vaccination or immunity.

“We had a responsibility to protect athletes and the public. We communicated with teams about infectious disease and infection control, and undertook extensive planning with our public health colleagues to ensure there were rapid testing procedures available and coordinated infection control, quarantine and treatment responses in place when illness occurred in the village.”

With the Games finished, Dr Green is looking forward to returning to clinical work, and channelling her post-GC2018 high to inspire the next generation of sports doctors – in her role as a part-time Senior Lecturer at UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Dr Green is also a General Practitioner at UQ Health Centre.



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