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BACK in the Game, Community, Youth Rehab
Building blocks: BACK in the Game is teaching Koby Dryden back health for her gymnastics present and future
September 27, 2019 | by Lucy Fox

With the return of the BACK in the Game program for the fall season, there is a group of fresh faces among the athletes. One new face is Koby Dryden, a 12-year-old dancer and high-level gymnast who trains 20 hours a week for her sport.

Koby has an unfused L5 vertebrae, which puts extra strain on her lower back to support her daily activities and adds physical challenges from pain post-practice to pain from standing too long.

They may not be challenges common among young athletes, but they are challenges many in the BACK in the Game program can relate to.

The 8-week, multidisciplinary program focuses on helping young athletes who experience back pain return to sport and activity. Fortius coaches use Pilates and movement principles to focus on spinal stability, motor control and regaining strength for participating athletes.

For Koby, it’s a chance to learn how to manage her back health today, but also going forward through her gymnastics career.

“We really wanted to get her into something that would be beneficial for now, particularly with her back issues because she is a high level gymnast and she trains many hours and she wanted to do dance … we just thought learning how to use her back properly in her sport and in future [would be beneficial],” Koby’s mom, Tina-Marie, said. “This will be with her for the rest of her life, so the exercises and the proper posture and stuff [will be important].”

The gymnast is also the first athlete through the BACK in the Game program to have the full financial support of the Fortius Foundation – a milestone in the program’s history as it continues to support each of its athletes as much as possible through its grant process.

That financial support is a unique and invaluable piece of the program according to BACK in the Game program lead and physiotherapist Dani Langford.

“To develop strength takes time and changing and learning new motor patterns can take more time; proper rehabilitation for a youth with back pain can be costly for families in a traditional physiotherapy setting,” she said. “The support of our Foundation is absolutely huge in making BACK in the Game accessible to all families.”

For the Fortius Foundation, supporting BACK in the Game participants and helping aspiring athletes return to play by subsidizing program costs has been one of its priorities since the program’s inception in 2016.

“The Fortius Foundation is so proud to support this innovative program that is helping young athletes to be pain free. We provide up to $1,000 of funding for each participant so that every child who can benefit from this life changing program can participate,” Fortius Foundation Executive Director Andy Price said.

For Tina-Marie, it’s a program that only adds to the continued pursuit of an extended gymnastics career for her daughter.

“She’s only 12,” she said. “I’m hoping she doesn’t have to leave gymnastics and this is something that could really help her moving forward.”