A Weekend in the Life of a Sports Physio...

Already this year has been filled with work, sporting trips away, tutoring, the Sports Level 3 course in Canberra and more work (read Rayner & Smale in 2015). A lot of people (physios, physio students, friends and patients) ask what happens "on tour", and with cricket starting again next week, I wanted to write a blog outlining what is involved when travelling with a sports team. It is an amazing experience, challenging in various ways and completely the opposite to private practice.

In December, I was in Sydney with the Melbourne Stars women’s BBL (big bash 20/20 cricket) team. The 72 hours spent there perfectly sums up a standard “sports physio trip". I will write another blog about “the do’s and don’ts on trips away”, but for now I’ll just give you a rundown of a normal weekend on the road.

Waiting for the taxi outside the clinic.

Waiting for the taxi outside the clinic.

Thursday 17th December 2015

  • 7:45am – 12:15pm: Worked at City Baths Spinal & Sports Medicine Clinic, treated 9 patients with varying musculoskeletal complaints.
  • 12:30 – 1:00pm: Completed notes, handovers, cleaned my treatment room.
  • 1:00 – 1:30pm: Caught taxi to airport with my suitcase, a massage table and equipment bag (size of a cricket bag), ate lunch in the taxi.
  • 3:00 - 4:30pm: Flight to Sydney, plane delayed by 30 minutes waiting for ground clearance, grabbed equipment and bags.
  • 4:30 - 5:00pm: Waited at car rental place, packed the vans with bags, luggage.
  • 5:30 - 6:45pm: Struggled through Sydney traffic, I drove a minivan with 6 players in the car, had no say in the music choices, learnt the words to Justin Beiber's entire album. 
  • 7:00pm: Arrived at hotel, allocated rooms, ensured the physio room was accessible for all players (some hotels don't allow access to different floors).
  • 7:45pm - Met coaches downstairs for dinner.
  • 10:00pm: Bedtime
Batters warming up in the nets.

Batters warming up in the nets.

Friday 18th December 2015

  • 6:10am: One of the players messaged me complaining of vomiting and fever/chills. I made her message me every time she vomited until 8:00am, checked on her at 8:00am and gave her medication, food and Hydralyte, after speaking to our Doctor. Called the coach & informed him of her condition. Quickly drank a coffee.
  • 8:30 - 9:15am: Team meeting in my apartment discussing the opposition and game tactics. Ate breakfast during the meeting.
  • 9:15 - 11:00am: Treatment on individual players.
  • 11:00 - 12:00pm: Eat lunch, write treatment notes on individual players, call doctor & coach again regarding the vomiting player, pack equipment bag, be downstairs at van at 12 to drive to cricket ground.
  • 12:00 - 1:00pm: Drove van to cricket ground, again not allowed to choose the music!
  • 1:00 - 1:45pm: Taping and pre-game treatment (massage, mobilisations & taping).
  • 1:45 - 2:30pm: Conduct warm up (stretching regime, dynamic stretching, mobility run-throughs, shoulder activation exercises, small games). Run through medical protocol for the ground with opposition team physio & match day manager.
  • 2:30 - 5:00pm: Game starts, the easiest part of my day! Eat afternoon tea while watching the game, watch for injuries, run on for any acute injuries, treat any players sitting on bench. Keep in phone contact with sick player back at hotel, keep doctor updated on her status. When fielding, I just watch the game. When we're batting, I usually treat the bowlers or any batters who have already been given out.
  • 5:00 - 6:00pm: Game finished, organise ice baths & recovery stretching/foam rollers etc. Quick triage of any injuries, ensure players are eating adequately, treat any ongoing injuries.
  • 6:00 - 7:00pm: Drive back to hotel.
  • 7:00 - 7:30pm: Shower
  • 7:30 - 9:00pm: Dinner & debrief with coaches. Check on all injured players & unwell player.
  • 9:00pm onwards: Own time. Put icypoles in freezer and packed equipment bag for following day.
Fielding warm-up at MCG.

Fielding warm-up at MCG.

Saturday 20th December 2015

  • 7:30 - 8:00am: Did a 30 minute yoga session in my room.
  • 8:00 - 8:30am: Shower & breakfast.
  • 8:30 - 9:15am: Team meeting in my apartment, same as previous day.
  • 9:15 - 10:30am: Treatment on individual players, as previous day.
  • 10:30 - 12:00pm: Get coffee, write player notes, speak to coach about injuries, check emails, eat early lunch, call my mum! Pack equipment bag, get icypoles, be downstairs ready to leave at 12:00pm.
  • 12:00 - 1:00pm: Drive to the ground.
  • 1:00 - 6:00pm: Taping, pre-game management, conduct warm up, watch game for injuries, treat players when batting, eat afternoon tea, conduct cool down, organise & conduct ice baths, endure eating appropriately & consuming protein powders for recovery, triage any injuries.
  • 6:00 - 7:00pm: Drive back to hotel, try to beat the other vans.
  • 7:30pm: Dinner with coaches, debrief from the game, follow-up any injuries.
  • 9:00pm: Free time. Put icypoles in freezer. Watched Big Bash on tv, called my mum.
Shoulder/scapular release on a bowler.

Shoulder/scapular release on a bowler.

Sunday 21st December 2015

  • 6:30 - 7:30am: Get ready for day, organise equipment bag, pack everything, check out of hotel.
  • 7:30 - 8:30am: Drive to ground.
  • 8:30 - 2:00pm: Same game day regime as previous days.
  • 2:00 - 3:00pm: Players/staff shower at the grounds, bag up bags & prepare for airport.
  • 3:00 - 4:00pm: Drive to Sydney airport.
  • 5:00 - 9:30pm: Fly home to Perth for Christmas, while rest of the team returns home to Melbourne..
  • 9:30pm - 12:30am: drive back to parent's farm, have 4 days off before returning back to Perth by 5pm on Christmas Day, ready for the Boxing Day game at the WACA.
  • Normally, I would arrive back in Melbourne at 7:00pm, eat dinner, finish any notes from the weekend, do my washing and get ready for work at 8:00am Monday morning.
Scapular stabiliser activation exercises.

Scapular stabiliser activation exercises.

As you can see, there's not much free time while you're away! You are constantly on call, and things are always changing, there is no set routine, and the expected schedule will always change at the last minute. But that's the exciting bit, there is no regular day in sports physio, some days your biggest issue is hot weather, other days it's blisters. 

I will write another blog in more detail on "tips for sports physio's", however some things I have learnt since travelling with sports teams...

  1. Be organised - always expect something to happen unexpectedly, so be as organised as possible. Have your bag packed the night before, so it only takes 2 minutes the next morning to zip it, rather than be rushing and then forget something.
  2. Be punctual - I always set my phone alarm for 15 minutes before I have to be at our van, once it alarms, I grab everything and go (usually about 5 minutes of double-checking everything and repacking), then having 10 minutes to get to the van. I can guarantee if you're running late, the elevator will take twice as long, if you're early, the lift will be empty! And you never want to be the one person everyone is waiting for.
  3. Be chilled - you are around 20 people for 4 days straight, in a sometimes very tense, emotionally charged environment. Players and staff get grumpy, sleep-deprived, upset over a loss, annoyed at teammates, you have to stay relaxed and consistent throughout. It's my job to assist in easing the tension or, at least, not exacerbate the tension, so let the little things slide.