Canberra’s doctor provides first class service to first class team

Published on LEUT Emily Kennedy (author)

Location(s): Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Rugby Union

Lieutenant Commander Richard Loizou, team physiotherapist, Flight Lieutenant Emma Lewis, and Team Strapper, Mr Fred Cantlon at one of the Tongan schools that the team visited to conduct a rugby camp. (photo: )
Lieutenant Commander Richard Loizou, team physiotherapist, Flight Lieutenant Emma Lewis, and Team Strapper, Mr Fred Cantlon at one of the Tongan schools that the team visited to conduct a rugby camp.

NUSHIP Canberra’s Medical Officer has provided a full and varied range of medical services as the Team Doctor for the recent Australian Services Rugby Union (ASRU) Men’s Team Tour of Tonga.

While Lieutenant Commander Richard Loizou said it was fun, he outlined the great breadth of responsibility that comes with being the team doctor for a tour like this.

“As the team doctor I was responsible for looking after 40 people for any injury or sickness that happened either on or off the field in a remote location that has little medical resources at hand,” said Lieutenant Commander Loizou.

“I also had a key role in maximising the fitness of players of they can perform to the best of their ability.

“One of the most challenging aspects is knowing what equipment and medicines to take to cover any contingency – I carried over 50 kilograms of medical supplies with me.

The position of Team Doctor is a sought after role and medical skill and competence needs to be of the highest order.

“It was a great privilege to be selected for this. You need to be competent and work quickly when necessary – for example one player cut his head open and it was essential to get the required stitches in within a matter of minutes so he could get back on the field and continue playing.

Lieutenant Commander Richard Loizou at one of the Tongan schools that the team visited to conduct a rugby camp.

Lieutenant Commander Richard Loizou at one of the Tongan schools that the team visited to conduct a rugby camp.

Lieutenant Commander Loizou said there were a number of reasons why he volunteered for this role.

“This was an opportunity to practice medicine at a very high level in a remote and underprivileged location. To provide support to high performing Australian Defence Force athletes is a big responsibility and a professional highlight as well as being fun.”

Far more than just being about rugby, the team participated in a range of community development activities.

“Tongans live and breathe rugby. The ASRU tour greatly reinforced a great friendship between not only the Tongan and ASRU rugby teams but more broadly between our communities,’ Lieutenant Commander Loizou said.

“We ran training camps at two different schools, which the kids loved. The kids are underprivileged and really appreciated us visiting and conducting camps.

“We also provided health care to entire Tongan rugby team and took the opportunity to teach them some basic medical skills such as how to strap joints properly for example.

“During the visit we also treated ADF personnel and their families based in Tonga who rarely get the opportunity to see doctors as they would have to travel to Auckland” said Lieutenant Commander Loizou.

The ASRU team also participated in a charity activity assisting in the painting and repairs of safe houses in the Tongan community.

The appointment was over four weeks – the first two weeks was preparation and training in the ACT, Melbourne and Sydney. The second two weeks was the tour of Tonga, the team returning to Australia on 12 November.

The medical team consisted of a medical officer, a physiotherapist and a team strapper.