Into the Sport Science Lab with Mark Ormrod

Mark OrmodWe had a guest lecture from Mark Ormrod, an ex Royal Marines Commando who was injured during a tour of Afghanistan. Going into the lecture I didn’t really know what to expect, I had heard parts of Mark’s story before and I follow him on social media so understood some things that he has achieved. The lecture started with Mark telling us his story and explaining how he got to the place he is today. Mark explained that on Christmas Eve whilst on tour he was 2nd in command of a section of Royal Marines and they were undertaking an parameter foot patrol around the base. It was the last patrol before Christmas break. Mark and his section had completed the patrol and were about to go back into base. His half of the section were on protective lookout on high ground so the others could enter the base.

Mark put his knee down to get into his position and knelt on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). However, there wasn’t only an IED. There were also around 7 war heads surrounding the device, they were left over from previous conflicts and were detonated by the blast. The blast created a 12 foot wide, 8 foot deep crater that Mark now found himself lying in. He reported that initially there was no pain, just a lot of noise and dust. He couldn’t see anything. But as the dust cloud settled Mark looked down to discover his legs and one arm were missing. He closed his eyes and thought this was the end. The sound of an engine was coming from a distance and getting louder. This was the medic coming to try and help him. The medic applied tourniquets to Mark’s legs and got him to apply the one on his arm. The medic also administered some morphine. He needed life-saving treatment on the helicopter flight back to Camp Bastian and was ultimately taken back to the UK.

Back in the UK Mark was in a coma for some days and then moved to Intensive Care before being taken to the Burns & Plastics ward. He then began his rehabilitation, going to Headley Court Military Rehabilitation Hospital to further his rehab and to learn to walk again. Mark was determined to walk and live as normal as life as he could, even though the top doctors were telling him he would never be able to.

A major turning point in Mark’s recovery was taking the decision to go out to America for a three week prosthetic boot camp. Here Mark was told not to bring his wheel chair and was told do drive in a car with no adaptions. He was mentored throughout this process by someone with similar injuries to himself. Mark told us this was a massive help and motivation. When Mark returned home, he was able to do so much more than he could before he left; this was an experience that changed his life for the better.

Since then Mark has competed in two Invictus Games and won a heap of medals from Bronze all the way up to Gold. This was his first experience of adaptive sport though Mark came from a semi-professional martial arts background and was no stranger to training.

After the lecture Mark invited us to the Strength & Conditioning Suite in the Sports Science Lab where he and his trainer Ben showed us a shortened version of a typical session for Mark. This was fantastic to see and discover the ways they had got over Mark’s injuries to enable him to perform exercises we all take for granted. They also explained to us that a lot of the gym work Mark does is for ‘pre-hab’ purposes to allow him to continue using prosthetics for as long as possible and to make it easier for him to walk by keeping him strong.

During the lecture a point repeatedly highlighted is that anything is possible when you have great drive, determination and a great team of people around you. Mark mentioned how without the team of people he had around him when he was injured, he would most likely not be around to tell his story. If the team in the hospital wasn’t as good as they were, he might not be as healthy as he is today. If the rehab teams both in the UK and America weren’t as great as they are, he may have been wheelchair bound. If Mark’s training team didn’t adapt their training methods as well as they did, then Mark may not have achieved so much at the Invictus Games.

We normally think ‘having a good team’ refers to on the pitch or on the court. But Mark reminded us of the many different versions of a team. This is the biggest thing I will take away from the lecture, that working together to help improve someone else’s life or performance is what makes sports science a fantastic career. Another idea I’ll take forward into my career is that every individual, no matter if they are able bodied or disabled can do most things. Adaption is key, if you can adapt your ideas and theories to real world situations in a practical setting then you can achieve great things.

The session with Mark and Ben was very informative and inspirational. Mark was incredible, allowing us to ask any questions we had about him, his injury, his day-to-day life and training. He really is an amazing person who when you meet them passes on a passion for life and training. I and my course mates would like to thank Mark and Ben for coming in, sharing Mark’s story with us and showing us his rehabilitation and training. Mark said in the lecture that he might try to compete at an adaptive cross fit games and martial arts competition this year. We would like to wish him every success with this and if he keeps training has hard as he does, we are sure he will do very well! Also, thanks must go out to our lecturer Caroline Westwood for organising this lecture.

Adam studies BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Science at Plymouth Marjon University.

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