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Elite Athletes Learn from Rugby Doctor and Paralympian

  • Paralympian Ayaz Bhuta & Old Boy Leeds Rhinos Doctor
  • Rugby Paralympian and OB Doctor
  • Rugby Paralympian and OB Doctor (1)
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  • Rugby Paralympian and OB Doctor (5)

Elite athletes from Bolton School’s Junior Boys’, Senior Boys’ and Senior Girls’ schools as well as the entirety of Year 5 girls from Hesketh House enjoyed an informative afternoon in the company of former pupil Dr Vasudevan Mani (1984-1998), who is Leeds Rhinos’ Team Doctor, and Ayaz Bhuta, GB Wheelchair Rugby athlete and Rio 2016 Paralympian.

Old Boy Vas Mani recapped his career to date, recalling his studies at the University of Leeds Medical School from 1999-2005 and then as a Junior Doctor in York and Hull before enjoying time in Australia where he learnt about emergency medicine. Returning to England, he became a GP trainee at Northallerton from 2008-11 and then a Civilian Medical Practitioner at RAF Leeming from 2011-14. Dr Mani then became a Salaried GP in Northallerton from 2014-16. He spoke about how he has found a happy balance between his GP work and that of being a rugby doctor; he was with Castleford Tigers from 2011-17 where he was Head of Medical Services for his last 2 years before joining Leeds rugby clubs (Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Carnegie) in 2017.

Explaining why being a GP is such an enjoyable career he spoke of the intellectually stimulating work, which involves you in a community, being a part of individuals’ and families’ lives as you administer holistic care. It also allows you to work or specialise in a range of areas including sports medicine, minor surgery, military practice and other specialities. He also spoke about his work at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, which trains all the British Army’s infantrymen. He said his time working with the Gurkha company is particularly enjoyable as their canteen offers the best Nepalese curries this side of Kathmandu! Dr Mani also expanded on his life as a rugby doctor, talking about the role that sees him offer primary healthcare and daily clinics, pitch-side emergency care (in training and on match day), including dealing with traumatic incidents such as head injuries, c-spine injuries and cardiac emergencies. He showed a number of short video clips illustrating some of the injuries that are incurred on a rugby pitch. Talking about concussion, he said less than 20% of these injuries involve a person being knocked out and players can be concussed even if they only experience a body impact; he also talked about how it can be difficult to get some players off the pitch, who think they can carry on even though they have been concussed!

Bolton-born Ayaz Bhuta delivered a similarly fascinating insight into sport at the highest level. Born with Roberts Syndrome, Ayaz spoke about how he had overcome an unhealthy lifestyle and depression in his late teens to drop from 55-60 kilos to 43 kilos as he started to get fit in order to take part in sport.  He initially competed in wheelchair basketball where, despite only being 3 foot 7 inches, he was an aggressive player often crashing into other players. In 2010 he was scouted into wheelchair rugby, formerly called murderball, to play for Southport, where he still plays. Whilst being smaller than many competitors Ayaz spoke of adapting his game and becoming more agile in order to avoid opposition players. He expanded on the rules of the game – it is 4-a-side (with 12 in the squad) and mixed gender and each match is played over four quarters of 8 minutes each. A volleyball is used, and a try is achieved by crossing the line with the ball and is worth one point. Video excerpts demonstrated the fast-moving nature of the game where wheelchair contact is allowed but not bodily contact. Ayaz spoke of the ups and downs of being an athlete and how he had won Bronze in the European Championships and taken part in the World Championships as well as working his way into the Team GB team that competed in the “group of death” in the Rio Olympics in 2016. However, he also spoke of the funding being cut for wheelchair rugby after Rio and how it puts in jeopardy his dream of entering the 2020 Tokyo games. All this he said and really he was “a football man” something he had enjoyed playing at school when he could run around more!

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