Promoting physical activity

Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

embed-in-article.pngStanding rinkside with the maple leaf on his chest and his family in the stands alongside dozens of cheering Canadian fans, Dr. Steven Macaluso felt enormously proud. 

Affectionately known as Doctor Mac, he was in Scotland with the national wheelchair curling team, serving as their doctor for the entire world championship tournament. 

It wasn’t the first time Dr. Macaluso was supporting and working in partnership with a team of athletes. In the past number of years, he has also participated in the Para Pan Am Games as a lead physician and was previously involved with para hockey and wheelchair rugby events. 

A physiatrist and consultant at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, as well as a sports aficionado, Dr. Macaluso jumped at the opportunity to participate with the Canadian team when he was approached.  

His work with the team began with a pre-camp where the athletes underwent physicals. While in Scotland for the seven-day tournament, he covered all aspects of providing care to the athletes. 

“While I was in Scotland, I was serving as a sport medicine physician and a general practitioner, looking after any regular health issues such as lumps, bumps, colds, or other health problems that could arise,” he said. 

Because all the athletes have spinal cord injuries, their health care needs are more complex, and the health care team also supported any bowel and bladder issues, as well as pain management. 

He also worked closely with Sari Shatil, the team physiotherapist on any sports-related injuries that arose.  

The Canadian team came on strong in the middle of the tournament, but the competition amongst the 12 teams was intense. Although the Canadian team didn’t make it to the finals, it didn’t dampen the experience for any of the athletes or Dr. Macaluso. 

“It was a great experience both personally and professionally,” he said. “I had an opportunity to work with a fabulous group of athletes who accepted me and made me feel like part of the team. I was able to collaborate with Sari and really understand the incredible work physiotherapists do in much more detail, and I really came to appreciate the trials and tribulations of someone with a wheelchair, and what they go through even just to travel - it really hit home to me.” 

embed-in-article-1.pngTraveling with his family, including his two young children, meant the Macaluso family was also able to create a number of personal memories that will last a lifetime. 

An Associate Professor and Program Director for the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation residency program, Dr. Macaluso is committed to building awareness and promoting physical activity through his teaching and delivery of care. It’s one of the reasons he continues to work with sports teams. 

“Part of the reason I became involved is so that I can promote physical activity in general but also to my patients,” he said. “We know that there is such benefit to exercise and it can be as good as medication for people.” 

This commitment to raising awareness is also why Dr. Macaluso documented the trip to Scotland in a blog and stayed active on social media throughout the entire tournament. 

Now that he is back in the clinic with his trainees, he is sharing his experiences with the resident physicians and considering new ways to enrich their learning and engagement with their patients. 

He also encourages anyone interested in getting involved with para teams to reach out to a team – he guarantees they will have a rewarding experience.