Often while sat watching the football (known as soccer in some impoverished nations – a joke!) or almost any other team sport a common sight will be the Physio running on to the field. When I am sat watching with friends or family this sight is normally the cue for me to provide on the spot expert Physiotherapy commentary as everyone is always interested in what the Physio is actually doing with that magic sponge and what is in the bag they are carrying across the field?
The Physios first job is to establish the injured structure and the extent of the injury i.e. can the player continue or should a substitute be warming up ready to enter the game. The Physio should be watching the game so it is likely (unless its an off the ball incident) that they will have seen the mechanism of injury and will already have a partial diagnosis of the injury while running onto the field. Once they get to the player they will quickly ask what happened and where the pain is located before taking a brief visual scan of the injured part to ensure no lacerations or open wounds.
The Physio’s time on the field is very very limited so above all they must be efficient and accurate. There are a few standard tests they will do for knees – they will perform ligament integrity tests by stressing the knee ligaments and looking for pain and excessive movement. They can also test the knee cartilage by palpating and “winding” up the knee joint and looking for reproduction of pain.
In the past, a Physios main treatment tool has been the “magic” sponge this has since been replaced with 21st century cold spray. The idea with the spray is simply to numb the painful area and minimize local inflammation. If more treatment than this is required then the player is quite likely to be taken off the field of play. It is up to the Physio to maintain the health of the players on the field as well as giving the team the best opportunity to win the match. Imagine if your teams Physiotherapist unnecessarily takes off your teams best player because of a poor on field assessment and you lose the match – you would not be best pleased. A sports team Physio has to put up with this on field pressure and must perform at their best along side the players, officials and management staff.
Thankfully the Physiotherapist is not alone – within a large club there will be a whole team of medical specialists including Physiotherapy assistants, sports scientists, nutritionists, doctors, personal fitness trainers, coaches, masseurs and sometimes sports psychologists. But, its the Physio who gets the glory and the limelight on the field of play! 🙂