Heart of the Matter

By Dr Frank Dunn

Herald columnist Dr Frank Dunn is President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Herald columnist Dr Frank Dunn is President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The success of the Commonwealth Games came as no surprise to me. Glasgow has a long record of success as a host city.

I well remember the Garden Festival and Glasgow as City of Culture. We now have an international reputation from events such as the Celtic Connections and hosting the Champions League Final.

The Commonwealth Games was by far our biggest challenge and the whole event surpassed even my expectations.

There is an opportunity for a health legacy from such an event and to this end we have been involved in a project with the Health Board involving patients with type 2 diabetes who are overweight.

They have received motivational talks from elite athletes and access to gymnasium facilities. We are hopeful that we will demonstrate benefits for the patients in terms of weight, blood pressure and diabetic control. The longer term objectives are to maintain improvement and to cause a ripple effect for other similar patients to sign up to this health initiative.

I was fortunate to be on the Medical Advisory Committee and to witness at close hand the dedication of the medical volunteers and the excellence of organisation, which provided the best care for athletes and attendees alike.

There are so many issues to consider. First is the care of the athletes. There were over 8,000 attendances at the polyclinic within the games village.

Many of these related to physiotherapy, but some of the athletes required more intensive support.

The help needed by Lynsey Sharp has been well documented and may have helped in her gaining the silver medal.

In addition, support was there for the sports with a higher risk of injury, such as hockey, boxing, rugby, mountain biking and squash.

Secondly, there was the major challenge of providing health cover for the substantial number of visitors to the games.

Thirdly, there was the need to provide a robust programme to ensure no breaches of doping control.

In all of these areas the medical support team performed to the highest degree and deserve great credit.

Many of the issues involved in sports medicine and doping control were pioneered by my colleague and friend Professor Stewart Hillis, who died the night before the games started. He was, of course, well-known at Stobhill where he worked as a Consultant from 1977-1991. He completely overhauled cardiac services at Stobhill and worked tirelessly in key research which benefitted so many heart attack patients.

However, it was also in the area of sport and exercise medicine that he excelled. He was appointed Professor in this area in 1997.

He was the Scotland International team doctor for 228 games - a world record.

He set up degrees in sport and exercise medicine at the University of Glasgow and oversaw the facility at Hampden Park for sports injuries.

He was also involved in screening young adults who might be at risk of sudden death during sport. And he was a senior advisor to UEFA in regard to doping control.

He, with Sir Alex Ferguson, was present in Cardiff when Jock Stein died. Sir Alex took over as manager and remained a close friend of Professor Hillis ever since. Sir Alex delivered one of the tributes at the memorial service last week.

I have no doubt Professor Hillis would have rejoiced in the success of the Commonwealth Games and also in a victory by Scotland in their next competitive match against the world champions in Dortmund later this year. Hope springs eternal.