New episode in my series of interviews to discover the job of people who are working around the professionnal tennis players. After the jobs of PR manager and chair umpire, I decided to focus my attention on the profession of physiotherapist. Often forgotten, these people are making an exciting and really important work behind the scenes to help athletes to achieve optimal performance. And to learn more about the profession of physiotherapist, I would like to express my warmest thanks to the WTA and Erin Cubick, Manager at Sport Sciences & Medicine, Athlete Care at the WTA, to have taken the time to answer my questions to let you discover this dream job.
What are the missions of a WTA physiotherapist?
Within the Sport Sciences & Medicine Department, we offer all our athletes the highest quality and most state-of-the-art comprehensive care with emphasis on prevention. We strive to minimize injuries, promote overall safety, health, and well-being, and help the athlete achieve optimal performance. Guided by this philosophy, the Sport Sciences & Medicine Department contributes to the WTA’s position as the leading global sport for women.
What is involved in an average day away on tour?
In the morning, the Sport Sciences & Medicine staff meet to discuss all the athletes playing a match on that particular day. We also talk about any players who have pertinent medical conditions we need to address. We start our day in the training room one hour prior to the first match commencing. During this hour, we prepare our athletes to go out on the court. We make sure that each athlete’s needs are met and they are warmed up, taped if necessary, and prepared for their match. We also check the courts to ensure they are prepared with sports drinks, ice bags, and ice towels. Back in the training room recovery drinks, recovery baths, and taping stations are well stocked. All athletes are welcome to come in for treatments an hour before the first match starts until the last match is finished. Throughout the day, we evaluate and treat any injuries or illnesses that the athletes present with. We work directly with our team of core and local massage therapists and refer athletes to each other. When necessary, we will consult with one of our tournament physicians for a further evaluation or diagnostic tests. In the evenings when the night matches are on, we are often less busy working with athletes, which gives us time to restock supplies in the training room and write our daily treatment notes. It’s also a great time to catch up with family and friends who might be on the other side of the world.
You travel a lot around the world with the WTA… How often are you away from home?
Each staff member’s travel schedule varies, but we are usually required to work between 10 – 15 tournaments a year. This coverage allows for continuity of care for the WTA players. It is also a great opportunity to see new places in the world that we may not have had a chance to see otherwise.
How is the atmosphere in the training room… rather formal or more friendly?
We have a very friendly training room environment, while maintaining a professional and clinical approach. It is an open door policy and the athletes usually display a close camaraderie with their fellow competitors in the training room. We enjoy learning about the players’ families and friends as well as what they like to do in their free time.
Sometimes players have hard injuries and are forced to withdraw… how do you deal with this kind of situation?
Injuries can be a difficult situation to overcome at times. Our primary concern for all the athletes is their safety, health, and well-being. We strive to minimize injuries and allow the athletes to achieve optimal performance. However, injuries do happen and sometimes athletes need to retire or withdraw from a tournament. We help the athletes make the best decisions regarding their treatment so that they can return to play safely and perform at their best the next time they step on court.
What are the main overuse injuries you see?
Tennis is a repetitive sport that may lead to overuse injuries. We observe the trends closely and educate the athletes on surface preparation and periodization. For example, clay-court play may result in longer rallies, which require upper extremity stabilization and endurance. Grass courts require the players to get down low to the court as the ball bounces lower, requiring lower extremity and back stabilization, endurance and flexibility. Education is key as the players modify their training schedule in order to attain peak performance throughout the season. Periodization consists of four phases: preparation, pre-competition, competition, and active-rest. We have a great tool called ScheduleZone where the athlete can plan out their entire season with their coach. They can enter the tournaments they plan to play as well as training days, rest days, and travel days. The tool will alert the players of considerations they should factor in when planning their schedule such surface changes, altitude changes, and time zone changes. By following a periodization training plan, it decreases the athlete’s risk for injury, illness, stress, boredom, and burnout. We also educate the athletes on maintenance and recovery strategies and emphasize that they allow for one full day of rest each week.
And to finish, physiotherapist for the WTA, would you say it’s a dream job?
It is definitely a dream job being a physiotherapist for the WTA. We all have a passion for helping people and wanting them to get better. It is an amazing feeling when we can help players achieve their goal of being successful on the court. We get to combine this with meeting a lot of new people who are just as passionate about their careers, being surrounded by people that love the sport of tennis, and traveling the world.