I have spent a good proportion of my Physiotherapy career working with individual and team athletes. I have worked with both amateur and professional athletes in many different disciplines.
In terms of Team Sports, Rugby Union has always been my number one passion. I played Rugby Union for many years and was able to play at a competitive level that allowed me to travel and play with some of the best players in Australia and the world. Since I finished my playing career, I have worked extensively with teams and Clubs as a Physiotherapist.
So, when the opportunity to work with a team like the Asia Pacific Dragons arrives, it’s one that I won’t turn down. The team is made up of a variety of international level players (Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand), professional provincial players and others on the door step of professional careers. All the players are of Pacific Island origin, with some players now residing and playing in Asia, hence the name!
So, for all those aspiring to work with a team of this stature, or those curious about what’s required to make a Medical Team come together in a short space of time, here is an outline of my week;
First contact made with the Team. They are currently in multiple different countries, set to converge on Perth. Some players have previously played together, for most, as is often the case with an invitational team, there are players who have not before met.
My initial contact is to determine
a) who is in the team
b) what injuries or potential injuries may be necessary to be aware of
c) what supplies and support staff are going to be involved with the team
d) what are the expectations of the team and the team management in terms of medical and physiotherapy support
e) an itinerary of events, training and locations for the team
Next, I needed to recruit the support staff needed at my end. This included 2 medical doctors with the appropriate experience and skill set, 1 other senior physiotherapist and 2 junior physiotherapists.
Further due diligence was required to learn more about player injury history and areas of concern that would be noteworthy for our preparation and ultimate care for the tour. This involved email, telephone, and online communications with the appropriate avenues and contact points to acquire the necessary information.
Further communication was made with the Team Management to confirm and elaborate on establishing the appropriate requirements in Perth.
The Medical support team met to plan and confirm requirements, communication strategies and game day planning. Further resource requirements were confirmed.
Monday, Tuesday 7am – 9pm
Still running and managing my two clinic commitments between 7am and 9pm, makes information reconnaissance a little more challenging. Further contact was made with suppliers and local based support to obtain medical, physiotherapy, training and other equipment requirements to service a squad of 25 players.
Contact was made with the Western Force (the game day opposition), to establish a better understanding of game day expectations, equipment and on field staff. Without acknowledging and understanding the existing platform for the game, planning for a touring team can be even more challenging, so this is a critical element of preparation.
Further contact and confirmation was made with the Team Management via email and telephone.
Supplier communication was necessary multiple times to confirm availability of the appropriate equipment, with further engagement of secondary suppliers for unique items.
Wednesday 7am – 9:30pm
Team Arrival. An 8pm meeting was held with the Senior Player Group, Coaches and Management to outline and confirm itineraries, player requirements and special considerations for particular players. A medical itinerary and plan was developed and confirmed with all parties.
Thursday 6:30am – 9pm
An early 6:30am start with the team to provide pre training management, strapping, diagnosis and treatment support at the team hotel.
I carried out my morning clinic and returned to the team hotel to review, assess and manage any issues that had been noted in the morning training sessions. Appropriate clinical management steps are required to ensure each outing for the team is as problem free as possible.
Further understanding of how the players have adapted to a new city, climate and training pattern is discussed with the coaching staff and further strategies and equipment considerations were engaged in preparation for the weekend.
A quick trip out to the medical supplier was required in between clinic shifts as well, to confirm and pick up the necessary equipment.
Following my afternoon clinic and the evening training session, further discussion, planning and communication with players, coaches and team management was necessary. Fortunately no injuries had been evident and hence the night was a little earlier!
Friday 7:30am – 10:00pm
As the team began to gel and the team management had finalised all game day requirements, further equipment and support staff were engaged. I spoke further with the game day medical team for the Western Force and clarified further last minute queries.
After completing my morning clinic, I met with the team for the afternoon training session, providing further treatment, diagnosis and strapping support for the players. Further discussion with team management was necessary once again for last minute preparation.
Medical team communication was finalised Friday evening to update all the parties on the player and team requirements for the game day.
2 physios were engaged for an evening session with the team at 7pm to manage soft tissue and low grade injury that had occurred in the preceding 3 days of training. All necessary treatment was completed by 9:30pm.
Saturday Game Day 7:30am – 10pm
An early rise to review and take inventory on the equipment for the day. A quick stop into the supermarket on the way to my clinic in the morning was necessary for some sundry items the team had requested the night before. I wrapped up my clinic based session before heading to meet the team at the hotel for 1pm.
16 players in total required some degree of taping, massage, treatment or diagnostic clearance before the game. The majority of which was completed at the hotel with the full medical and physiotherapy team to keep things efficient. A handy tip here – keep an ongoing inventory of your equipment and tape, these things seem to grow legs at times like this and you can be caught short if you haven’t kept a close eye on things.
2 hours later, a quick pack up, re-evaluation and final pre game medical planning was completed before getting to the field for further strapping and warm up support. Once our medical team had liaised with the game day medical team, it was game time and 95 minutes of intense monitoring and on field management. Fortunately, this went nice and smoothly with only a couple of notable injuries for the day.
Once the final whistle was blown, a post-match injury screen was completed and appropriate advice and management given, whilst the Team Doctor stitched up a few open wounds on players. With the team flying the following day, it was critical to ensure all factors were considered for the well-being of the players, which is difficult to say the least, when all they want to do is have a beer!
Final pack up and management debrief had us all wrapped up by 10pm. a massive, exciting and exhausting day.
So, the rule has always, and always will be, in these situations, preparation is King. There is nothing more intimidating than working at this level of sport and being under prepared when a serious incident occurs. Gaining trust from a player and management group of this stature requires a high degree of professionalism and you need to be prepared to do things out of the ordinary to ensure the job flows smoothly.
But, if you get it right, it will be one of the most exciting things you can be involved in as a physio or health professional.
Good Luck and get in touch if you have any queries