What does physiotherapy entail?
I prepare athletes for practice and matches, which involves helping them with stretches and applying KT sports tape. I treated many household names through working at the last three Olympics with Team GB, where as the HQ physiotherapist I worked with rowers, track athletes, gymnasts and tennis players. Now working in professional tennis, I work with all the men on the ATP World Tour from Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, to some of the lesser-ranked doubles players.
What is your typical working day like on the tour?
I get up, eat breakfast and meet with players – often at 8am. I then go to the site and prepare players for practice and early matches. In the meantime, I also have a long list of players with injuries requiring attention. Those playing on the day of course have priority but there is usually a queue. Once play starts (usually at about 11am) I am then on duty for all court calls. When called, I usually have to stop treatment or player preparation and run fast to get to court on time – this can be busy if I have three to four court calls one after another. This busy day continues until close of play. Then I usually have to wait for a player to come back from media duties before I can treat them and we can both leave the site, often in the early hours of the morning.
What are the common injuries you see?
Well, it’s like any of us who play tennis. It’s the usual back pain, neck pain. These top players push themselves so far they all stress their hips (usually on the non-dominant side), elbows, knees and, of course, the shoulders. That’s not including the odd sprained ankle – we get through a heck of an amount of KT tape.
What are the most enjoyable (and not so enjoyable) parts of the job?
If you’re talking about the ATP, my dislike has to be the travel (well, the aeroplanes and airports) – although it’s the travel that brings me in touch with so many fantastic people from all walks of life, and even in my older years I am still able to learn each day from other therapists from around the world.
Why is physiotherapy important for amateurs as well as elite athletes?
This is a strange question because both get the same injuries and both want to win. The injuries may be due to the intensity and the goal to win is definitely more financial with one group.
What are the long-term health benefits for people who have regular physiotherapy treatment throughout their life?
My belief is that physiotherapy is not a role for repair only. In fact, I get fed up with patching the same people up sometimes. Prevention is the cure; that’s why the ATP physio team, including myself, are continually educating elite athletes to self-help from recurrent injury. Speaking with the coaches can also highlight technical and technique errors. All these points are with the aim to seeing us physios less. But, when you slip up, fall, fracture, sprain, bruise or tire, we will be there to help pick you up and get you on the court again.
Graham Anderson is the clinical director at Balance Performance, which provides medically orientated multi-disciplinary sports physiotherapy and well-being for both the elite and amateur athletes. For more information, visit www.balancephysio.com or see www.facebook.com/BalancePerformanceLondon or www.twitter.com/BalancePhysio
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