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Monday 22 February 2021

How the power of sport helps wounded veterans recover post injury

Posted by: Help For Heroes

Dean is a Physical Development Coach, who uses the power of sport to help wounded veterans recover post injury.

Because Dean himself is a veteran, he has a unique understanding of the challenges many of them face. Dean was injured in Afghanistan in 2010, and it was his own experience of using exercise as part of his recovery that led to him wanting to help others in the same way.

“Because I’m a veteran myself, I know how to work with any limitations caused by physical injury,” explains Dean. “In my role, I help veterans understand that exercise is important – not just for physical health but also for mental health and boosting immunity.

“Sport and exercise are also great for building camaraderie and mutual support. A lot of veterans, when they leave the Armed Forces, really miss being part of a team. Sport is a way to bring them together. There’s a saying at Help for Heroes that those who serve together, recover better together, and that’s so true.”

Dean understands that for many of our wounded, exercise can be a way to let out anger and frustration and so part of his role is to make sure they do so in a healthy way. “Sometimes, I’ll see someone try to overtrain, and it’s my job to show them how to get the most out of exercise without overdoing it and, in the cases of those with physical injuries, make sure they don’t end up causing themselves more harm.”

Before the pandemic hit, Dean worked at our Catterick recovery centre, carrying out face-to-face personal training sessions in our specially adapted gym. 

But while the lockdowns continue Dean, like many of our recovery centre staff, has had to adapt the way he works. Along with many of our other Recovery team members, Dean now connects with veterans “virtually” and as he explains, the support he provides has become more crucial than ever since the start of the pandemic.

“My role feels even more vital. With many veterans feeling isolated and unable to access the gym, online exercise helps maintain both mental health and physical wellbeing,” he says. “It’s challenging not being able to help veterans face-to-face, but the pandemic has prompted me to engage with veterans in different ways and adapt and increase my knowledge and skills.

“And whether I’m supporting veterans face-to-face or virtually, for now, being able to make a difference to someone’s life – to watch them grow stronger both physically and mentally through exercise, means everything.”

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