View from the road

Today on the Powerhouse blog, we’re posting a blog written by Suzie on the road during her recent tour to Malaysia as Team Physio for the Kookaburras. 

The Touring Physio

My friends often tell me that I have one of the best jobs ever. I get to travel all over the world, see some spectacular places and meet amazing people, oh and I get paid to do it! It does sound appealing doesn’t it? So I got to thinking about how people view touring Sports Physios. Do they imagine it to be as glamorous as my friends do?

I write this as I find myself with a rare quiet and private moment sitting in my hotel room in Ipoh Malaysia. As I look up from my laptop, I can see the rain moving in over the great expanse of mountains. It looks amazing but it also probably means our game will be delayed again.

I use the term ‘my’ hotel room loosely as I have come to learn that ‘The Physio Room’ is another word for ‘Team Common room’; A place where people like to congregate. Not only do athletes come and go for treatment throughout the day and night, but it can house up to 5 laptops for game viewing, a printer, treatment table, first aid kit, GPS units, scales, spectrometer, recovery bags full with food, buckets, wet hand towels slung all around the room drying, drink bottles, drink containers, multitudes of hand sanitiser and Dettol, left over water bottles, random coffee mugs and FINALLY…my clothes line with all my unmentionables attached.

For some, this might sound quite overwhelming; players and equipment everywhere, your room open to one and all, and privacy something not easy to come by. But this is the one thing I absolutely love about being on tour! Being right in the middle of all the action and seeing the processes this Band of Brothers go through in order to bring their best game each and every time.

Glamorous is not a word that I would use to describe my role as team Physio although ‘Jack of all Trades’ is by far more descriptive. This is exactly what a ‘team’ is all about.  One in all in, get your hands dirty and do whatever needs to be done at the time, whether you think it’s your role or not.  The athletes are often told that they need to be versatile on the field and be able to play in any position. I think that’s also appropriate for the off field staff. It was really quite refreshing to see our team Sports Physician help me wash out sweaty towels and drink bottles; Totally over qualified but none the less a true team player.

A lot of time spent on tour is usually waiting at the airport due to missed, delayed, cancelled flights, or waiting for your next mode of transportation to arrive, waiting at the hotel or gearing up on the sidelines of the local hockey pitch. I’m an active sideliner, and by that I mean I fill water bottles, mix Aqualyte/Powerade, walk the bottles out to the athletes around the field during training, organise towels in ice cold water slurry to cool the boys down (depending on current temp), collect balls and (of course!) rise to the occasion should an injury occur. Post training or games, I organise protein shakes, foam rollers and ice baths, and once back at the hotel, the boys are straight into the ‘common room/treatment room’ for a debrief, video footage and treatment.

When I do have to rise to the occasion for injuries, it can be both exhilarating and heart breaking. Some injuries can be as simple as a small cork or contusion where the athlete is able to play on without any further damage but for others it can be tournament ending, perhaps into the next tournament as well. This was recently the case for one of our athletes. Whilst chasing an opponent, he hyperextended his leg and flexed his trunk in unison causing his hamstring to pull right off the bone. A sudden screech of pain followed by collapsing to the ground grabbing his leg. He had to be carried off and was taken to the change room where the realisation of what had just happened started to sink in. A moment that neither the athlete nor myself will forget, it was truly a sombre moment. (Continued below)

As for general sightseeing (my friends would say this is all I do), it is usually along the road from the airport to the hotel, hotel to the hockey pitch and back. All jokes aside, this can be quite interesting and sometimes entertaining, especially when you are in a different country and have motorcycle police escorts attempting to pave the way. On occasion team outings are arranged depending on where you are and whether the timetable permits. Even more occasionally, I can escape for a couple of hours to take in some local sights with some of the team or just on my own. It is important to note though that the ‘rest day’ is often the physio’s busiest day with ensuring all athletes are fit and well, but nonetheless it is important to find some down time for yourself.

There is something special about being involved with a sporting team, especially when you travel abroad with them to foreign countries; Living in each others pockets for weeks on end, experiencing all the highs and lows that come with sport, winning versus losing, the good and bad food, the gastro, the turf burn, the dehydration, the poor room service, no towels, forgetting to take toilet paper to the ground because God knows you don’t want to use the water squirter, keeping your mouth shut in the shower, brushing your teeth with bottled water and the myriad of other challenges that you can be faced with.  But at the end of the day, there is absolutely no greater feeling than knowing that you are part of an Australian Sporting team as their Physio. Bring on the next tour!

Life is so subtle sometimes that you barely notice yourself walking through the doors you once prayed would open.

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