Newly graduated and taking on your first Sunday League team? Looking to cover games for your local football team’s youth academy? Working full-time in the NHS but keeping your hand in sport at the weekend?
Any physio’s first competitive sports match, regardless of experience, knowledge and length of time qualified can be a daunting process. Most competitive sports teams make it compulsory for all medical staff to have basic Sports First Aid training but usually, it’s not actually the clinical aspects of the event you are most concerned with – it’s the simple (almost idiotic) questions that we ask ourselves i.e. football boots or trainers? Will they laugh at me if I don’t wear studs?
Here are some simple tips to make your first experience of pitch-side first aid more enjoyable and set you up for a successful day’s work in a sports environment…
Excuse the cliché, but preparation really is key. Make sure to confirm with the team the location, report time and name of coach/manager/trainer you are reporting to – do this a few days in advance. It helps to have a postcode of the venue so you can research transport to and from the area if transport is not being provided for you.
Report time often varies from kick-off/tip-off times so be sure to ask if you are simply reporting for the kick-off of the game or ask if you are to be available for pre-match treatment/strappings. Alongside the name of the person you are reporting to, be sure to ask for a contact mobile number in case you run into any trouble whilst travelling to the event or you need directions once you are closer. Finally, make sure to check the weather if you are working at an outdoor event – nothing worse than turning up to a muddy, wet grass park with no jacket and new trainers!
Normally, any team with a decent setup should provide you with a medical run-on bag and at the very least a waterproof jacket. However, some physios prefer supplying their own kit bag as (like me) it’s good to be familiar with your run-on bag in case of emergencies on the field. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the very minimum you should expect to see in a run-on bag:
· Sterile Gloves
· Sterile Water
· Gauze Swabs
· Crepe Bandage
· Sterile Dressings
· Sports Energy Drink/Drinking Water
This is the bare minimum kit you should have to get by during a field event. If you are expected to give pre-match treatment and strappings you should also carry:
· Massage Oil
· Deep Heat
· Various sizes/types of tape for strappings
· Physio table (make sure to ask if this will be provided or not)
Don’t forget to think about yourself! Kit you will need for an outdoor sports event:
· Cosy, water-proof jacket (unfortunately, most of us aren’t working for Barca!)
· Grass-based sports – always better to wear a studded boot/trainer (non-metal)
· Change of clothing and shoes for the car journey home
Often overlooked by those new to sports, is the different rules to each game. Don’t panic – we don’t all have to be avid Warrior’s fans to cover a rugby match… my first experience in rugby I had to bring along a friend who is an ex-pro just to run through the rules of game never mind what the specific rules for physios were!
Not all, but most sports events will have strict guidelines as to how the medical team can be involved. For example, in rugby you see medics running onto the field of play to treat injuries whilst play is still ongoing. In football, you must be invited onto the field of play by the referee (unless there is a dangerous medical emergency i.e. head injury, in which case common sense says run!). Before covering any game/match in an unfamiliar sport, it is worthwhile reading up on the general rules of the game and more specifically, make sure you have a rough idea of the guidelines supporting medical staff for each individual sport.
Medical guidelines are being continually monitored and re-published. One of the most researched and current topics surrounding sports medicine is concussion in sport. Each of the different sports has slightly differing guidelines but the most useful resource can be found here:
4. ON ARRIVAL
Finally, the only thing left to do before the event starts is make sure to ask coaching staff and players of any current medical conditions of certain players i.e. asthma and does he/she carry inhaler and ask if there are any existing injuries that players are playing with. This way you are not caught out with any unexpected problems. Most coaching staff teams should carry with them an up-to-date record of emergency contact details and a history of any medical issues. It is also worthwhile researching the nearest Emergency Department to your venue in case of an emergency (let’s hope its never needed!)
Team sports can be highly entertaining and once the pre-match nerves have settled you will often find yourself supporting and motivating the team you are working with. Don’t be afraid to get involved in the excitement of a competitive environment – it’s a great side of physio to be involved in and often never feels like work.
Best piece of advice for working in team sports – ask for help when you need it!
If you are not already working within team sports and interested in doing so, or you currently have little involvement, contact the Athlete Focused Physiotherapy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on opportunities we have within our teams/athletes!