Dr Noel Pollock ISEHNoel joined the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH), part of HCA Healthcare UK, in January 2021 as a Consultant in Sports and Exercise Medicine. Formed in 2013 as a major legacy project of 2012 London Olympic Games, ISEH brings together a renowned team of highly skilled and experienced sports medicine experts, to deliver the highest standards of sports and exercise medicine to elite sportspeople and amateur and recreational athletes. 

Here, Noel discusses what made him want to be involved in sports and exercise medicine, the kinds of sports injuries he most commonly treats, and why ISEH is unrivalled in the treatment of these injuries. 

What made you want to specialise in sports and exercise medicine?

I became interested in sport at an early age, and was always a keen runner. As I got older, this passion developed and I became an endurance runner, winning national titles and honours for Northern Ireland in cross country, 500m and 1,500m. In tandem with this, I was also studying for my degree in Medicine. It was only when I became familiar with Sports and Exercise Medicine through one of my training consultants in Musgrave Park Hospital, Dr Michael Cullen, that I became aware of the fact that I could combine two passions in life – being an athlete and providing medical care to people. After my medical training, I completed a Post Graduate Degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine at Bath University while training with the endurance team at St Mary’s University in London.

Since then, I am proud to say that I’ve worked at some of the world’s biggest sporting events, including on the athletics track at the London 2012 Olympics. I've had some fantastic experiences as British Athletics Team Doctor at numerous Olympic, Paralympic, World and European Championships, and was proud to lead a brilliant medical team of colleagues as Chief Medical Officer between 2016 and 2021.

My move to ISEH is a real change for me, as it means less travelling to training camps and competitions, while still allowing me to support elite athletes, weekend warriors and people who have injuries holding them back from being more active.

What conditions do you commonly treat – and what are the difference between endurance and sprint injuries?

The injuries I see in clinic are incredibly diverse and can vary according to the exercise or sport that patient does. For example, the injuries or conditions I’ll see for runners are often related to overload injuries such as bone stress injuries, Achilles’ tendon injuries or shin or joint pain. For sprint or team sport athletes, acute muscle injuries or tendon and ligament tears tend to be more common.

I also find that certain conditions or injuries will spike depending on the time of year or what sporting events are happening – whether that is ski season or around the time of the London Marathon.

Do you just see elite athletes?

There is sometimes an assumption that we solely treat elite athletes, however we’re here to treat anyone who is struggling with an exercise-related injury, condition or concern. We might see an Olympic athlete in one consultation and then someone who enjoys regular running or someone who wants to walk or cycle to work in the next consultation. The treatment plan we provide, including rehabilitation and management, is just adapted depending on the sporting desires and requirements of the patient.

What makes ISEH a good choice for patients?

At ISEH we really do have everything you need if you have an ongoing or acute injury that is limiting you completing sport or exercise. You can access specialists across many areas or medicine, from sports and exercise medicine specialists such as myself, concussion and neurology specialists and orthopaedic surgeons, to respiratory physicians, cardiologists and physiotherapists. We also have excellent diagnostic facilities on site, including 3T MRI, ultrasound scanning and cardio-pulmonary exercise testing. 

Our connection to University College London Hospital (UCLH) and University College London (UCL) means that many of the consultants who are practising privately at ISEH are connected to world-leading research projects that are changing the way we understand sports medicine and performance. 

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