Paralympic GB wheelchair rugby team backed by Cornwall GP

A GP from Cornwall has taken time off from her day job to work full time with the GB wheelchair rugby team for the duration of the Paralympics.

Dr Atkinson said that patients at her practice in Cornwall were were very proud
Dr Atkinson said that patients at her practice in Cornwall were were very proud

Cornwall GP Dr Penny Atkinson told GP magazine: ‘I’m with the squad day and night preparing for their games.'

Dr Atkinson will deal with the day to day primary care needs of the team, as well as treating injuries suffered during matches.

‘There are a lot of upper limb injuries from overuse of their wheelchairs such as shoulder problems,’ she said. ‘We also manage any doping issues and complete therapeutic drug exemption forms.’

Dr Atkinson said another key aspect of her role was preparing athletes for classification. 

Paralympic athletes are given a sport classification to group them according to how much their impairment impacts on their sport-specific performance.

The work involves compiling medical evidence, such as X-ray, or proof of congenital problems, to show what the athletes can and can't do, Dr Atkinson said.

‘I make sure everything is there for their classification process. That’s one of my biggest roles,’ she said.

Watch the team in action

Dr Atkinson, who has a diploma in sports exercise, has been working in wheelchair rugby for the last two years. Prior to that, she worked with able-bodied rugby teams.

She admitted that she was ‘slightly daunted’ by the prospect of caring for disabled athletes before she started, but now relished the role.

‘I suppose just working with people like this - it’s incredibly inspiring.’

Dr Atkinson said that patients at her practice in Cornwall were aware of her role in the Paralympics and were very proud.

‘They’re very proud although some were worried that I wouldn’t come back. They’re really getting behind it and get excited by it,’ she said.

Dr Atkinson said she was looking forward to going back to general practice after taking time off to be at the games.

‘It just keeps you fresh. I know I’ll go back ready to work,’ she said.

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