Dr Rossiter is a highly renowned Consultant in Sport, Exercise and Musculoskeletal Medicine, currently offering his services at Healthshare Clinic Winchester. He has vast experience of working with both elite and amateur sportspeople, and supporting individuals with any joint or soft tissue issues. Dr Rossiter has also worked with a variety of professional sports for over 20 years, including Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for GB Hockey, attending four Commonwealth and three Olympic Games (most recently as Deputy CMO Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games).
He has also been club doctor at London Irish, Southampton FC and CMO for GB Synchronised Swimming and worked as a Sports Physician for the English Institute of Sport.
We caught up with him to find out more about his work as Chief Medical Officer for Team England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, a role he also held previously in 2018.
As CMO for Team England, what responsibilities does your role involve?
My role is to co-ordinate the medical care and facilities for Team England (around 800 athletes and staff). This involves liaising with each individual sport’s team doctor and/or Physio (if they have one), the athlete and support staff to ensure that known medical problems are being managed, medication is available and a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) certificate has been done for anything that is otherwise banned for use in training and/or competition. A TUE ensures that athletes can be treated for medical conditions – even if the treatment involves using a prohibited substance or method – while avoiding the risk of being sanctioned.
The role also includes regular meetings with the Chief Medical Officers – my counterparts – from other nations to compare and contrast preparations, but also to try and work together on the wider issues affecting all delegates. This can include things such as COVID-19.
Other responsibilities are to ensure emergency equipment and planning is in place in the event of any individual or mass emergency situation, and liaising with the Organising Committee on how to access diagnostic imaging, pharmacy or secondary care for the athletes.
I am also the COVID-19 Medical Lead for Team England. This means that I’m responsible for the testing of the team, putting measures in place to mitigate and manage COVID-19 including positive cases and close contacts.
How far ahead of the Commonwealth Games do you start preparing?
A lot of preparation goes into each Commonwealth Games. Work actually begins about two years beforehand, and gets very busy three months before. We usually move into the athlete villages one week before any athletes, to set up the medical areas and also be a spare pair of hands for the rest of the team in setting up the Team England Village area.
At the games, what team set up do you have working with you?
Usually at a Commonwealth or Olympic Games, we have one Preparation Camp location and one Athlete Village. This time, we have Athlete Villages at Birmingham University, the NEC, Warwick University, Leamington Spa, London (Track cycling) and Edgbaston. I therefore have an HQ team of 5 doctors and 8 Physios, including a Chief Physio. All have experience of working in a major multi-sport Games. We also have a team Psychologist, Nutritionist and Strength and Conditioning Coach – again, all will work across all teams and with each sports’ medical teams. There are also numerous support staff to help with admin, transport, IT etc
What are the challenges of working with such a diverse group of athletes?
The Commonwealth Games in unique, as it is currently the only multi-sport Games that has abled and disabled athletes competing at the same time. This has several logistical challenges including access, transport and complex medical issues.
All of the medical team are very used to working with different sports, as each one has their own injury-risk profile, ways of working and athlete personalities! Team sports operate very differently to individual sports. Although some regard it as a challenge, I always see it as unique and exciting to work with so many different sports and individuals at the same time
Some people, new to athletics or returning to it, may feel inspired by the games to up their physical activity. What is your advice for them to avoid injury?
Don’t try to be an elite athlete! Be inspired but start slow and train sensibly. If you’re new to regular physical activity then it is always sensible to seek medical screening of your heart, chest and blood pressure – especially if you’re over the age of 45.
Exercise is always hard work to start with but if you stick at it, then it will become much easier and more enjoyable. If you take sport seriously, then think about getting some sort of medical insurance as you may pick up an injury and you will want to get it investigated and treated as soon as you can.
Sadly, the NHS is under massive pressure and so without insurance, you may be injured a long time before you get seen and treated.
How does your work with pro athletes enhance your offering for non-professionals? What transferable lessons are there?
I believe that anyone can take their sport/hobby seriously and therefore deserve the same service of medical service, investigation and rehabilitation. Working in elite sport allows you to learn the most cutting-edge ways of managing illness and injury, many of which are transferable to non-elite individuals.