The new year has got off to a strong start for LOC’s partnership with Paralympian Jonathan Adams, thanks to a new bespoke brace that could help transform the way the athlete performs.
Top team: close friend Matthew, Jonathan, agent Django Fung, Jonathan's Dad Bob, clinician David Williams
Diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy at the age of 18 months, Jonathan went on to win two silvers at the 2011 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Junior Championships in shotput and discus and a spot in Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, this time in the F34 shot put.
Following a difficult 2013 on and off the track, Jonathan and his support team at the time made the decision to switch classification to allow him to throw from a standing position. Within 12 months of this change and having relearned how to throw standing for the first time in four years, Jonathan's debut season saw him secure a place at the IPC European Championships, reaching fourth place in the F35 shot put and securing a season ending ranking of World No 3.
Splint malfunctions and a tendinitis set back
But 2015 brought further setback when splint malfunctions that left him with a severe tendinitis injury and meant him missing the World Athletics Championships in Doha. But, like any professional athlete, Jonathan was determined to overcome the challenge and approached LOC in 2016 to see if its clinicians could help him.
Just a few months after an initial meeting, Jonathan is now about to test a brand new bespoke carbon orthotic specifically designed to support him as a standing thrower.
LOC clinician David Williams designed the orthotic and has made a series of modifications over a number of meetings with Jonathan in order to tailor the fit. “We’ve been able to give him more knee support because of the way the brace is designed,” says David. “essentially we are stabilising the knee in the coronal plane with the medial and lateral extensions of the ankle foot orthosis (AFO), negating the need for a knee ankle foot orthosis (KAFO). When I first met him, he wasn’t able to take any significant weight on his left leg - but now he can fully support his body weight on the braced limb in a static and dynamic scenario and is not experiencing any pain.”
David says he has been most impressed with Jonathan’s determination. “Jonathan has been working incredibly hard on his training and I think the brace has given him confidence that he can take his throwing to the limit without fear of falling.”
Jonathan himself is very pleased with the new brace. “Our last meeting was very successful, in my view,” he explains. “The splint is performing well, the structure is solid and we’re confident, based on testing, that it will survive the rigours of training.”
New team, new technique, same goals
In many ways, though, this is just the start of Jonathan’s journey. Now the hard work really starts with tough conditioning training and the need to develop a new throwing technique. “The brace allows me to use my left leg as much as possible when transferring weight. Now it’s the tricky stage of finding the most functional way to get there. That’s something that will take months and years to perfect. Ideally, I would love to be in a position to qualify for the World Para Athletics Championships later this year, but I'm staying firmly grounded and just focusing on doing the small things right before looking too far ahead.”
The good news is Jonathan also has a new strength and conditioning coach – Daniel Taylor – and technical coach – Emeka Udechuku – who are set to put him through his paces. Daniel explains: “We started off the season developing Jonathan’s physical strength for the season ahead. His training has now transferred into a combination of strength, power and speed. We’re continuing to build on the foundations laid prior to and over Christmas. From a physiological point of view, Jonathan is adapting to the training well, he is no novice to training so gives 100% each session knowing he will see the results into the season. This is no easy task may I add.”
He adds: “The last meeting with LOC was hugely important to Jonathan and his throwing career. This brace has the potential to put Jonny back in the mix for titles, and that's something we all want him to achieve. I'm excited for the months ahead, combining Jonathan's developed speed, a stable brace and good technique, I'm confident he will excel in his throws.”
A strong relationship between clinician and wearer
Support is so important for any athlete and as well as Daniel and his family, Jonathan’s agent, Django Fung, has been by his side every step of the way. He, too, is pleased with Jonathan’s progress: “Particularly the way he speaks now with huge confidence about his training and outlook. We would like to thank everyone involved so far for getting him to where he is today.”
Of Django’s support Jonathan says: “I can’t say enough about the change he has brought in me in the past 12 months and that’s reflected in my attitude towards my team, my sport and my general approach to the way I have approached setbacks and professional sport generally.”
Creating a tailormade orthotic is a painstaking process. It has to become an extension of the body rather than a hindrance. That requires good communication and a strong relationship between clinician and the wearer so that each tiny modification improves the fit. “LOC has made an invaluable difference,” says Jonathan of that relationship. “For me, everyone is just as important as one another. We're a team and we must work to the same goals to achieve things together. That’s something I'm confident of more now than ever before.”