Q&A with Physio Peter Thain, Team England's latest Commonwealth appointment

Physio Peter Thain has been appointed to the Team England Men’s side for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia. As another appointee with significant experience of the Performance Pathway and a well-respected professional in his field, we caught up with Peter to speak about his appointment, what his role entails and what he’s most looking forward to with Team England.

BE: Peter, first of all congratulations on your appointment. You must be delighted?

PT: Absolutely! I’m incredibly honoured to be offered the opportunity to work with the coaching staff and team in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Working at such a global sporting event is a great privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

BE: You must be itching to get to work then?

PT: The hard work really does starts now in the lead up to the tournament as we monitor the loading of the players, and prepare for the busy tournament schedule at multiple venues across Australia. I’m excited to start working with the team as we lay the foundations for what I hope will be a very successful games for Basketball England.

BE: It sounds like you can’t wait to get going! Once you do get underway, can you tell us a little about what your role involves?

PT: The role of a physiotherapist is a complex one with the majority of work done behind the scenes. I know it is a cliché, but two days are never the same. In the build up to camp I typically work with the Head Coach and Team Manager in discussions around the schedule, every minute of every day is planned to allow for optimal performance on court and optimal recovery after the game. This includes liaising with the hotel in advance regarding food for the athletes during camp, as well as planning medical screening to take place in the morning of the first day. This is essential as it allows us to obtain baseline data for all players and prescribe individualised conditioning programmes.

BE: That sounds pretty hectic, and that’s all before the players even get to camp! Do things change once each camp starts? What does the focus shift to then?

PT: Once in camp, the alarm goes off at 6.30am, and I ensure everything is ready for the athletes at breakfast. The players will complete a wellness questionnaire, giving key information on their recovery and stress from the previous day. After breakfast there is an opportunity for treatment which may include massage, stretching, mobilisations, and taping as we prepare for the practice session. Once practice starts, I work with any injured players, treating, assessing and starting rehabilitation work. After practice, the strength and conditioning coach will take the warm down before I perform post-practice massage, mobilisations and stretches, as well as examining and assessing any new injures. We will then head back to the hotel for lunch, have some down time to recover, and then start preparations for the afternoon practice.

BE: And I’m guessing once camp is finished, the focus switches once again?

PT: Between camps it is vital that we monitor the loading of players. We receive daily information about the volume, type and intensity of activity the player is performing away from camp. This information allows us to adjust individualised training programmes in an effort to best prepare the athlete for competition. Based on current evidence, we don’t want are large spikes in loading or activity, as these can increase the chances of injury.

BE: And with a specific tournament like the Commonwealth Games, is there anything extra you need to consider?

PT: For an international tournament such as the Commonwealths, the planning is even more intense! I’ll have to consider the toll that international travel, as well as travel across Australia to multiple venues because of the tournament structure, will have on the players. We will look to utilise the swimming pool wherever possible as this can provide an excellent medium for recovery. There’s much more to the job than just treating injuries and watching the game, so I’ll have my hands full!

BE: Is there anything about being a physiotherapist that you particular enjoy or look forward to?

PT: My favorite part has to be 60 minutes before tipoff. It is all pretty frantic as you are performing strappings and tapings, as well as pre-game massage. The adrenaline is running continually and peaks at the National Anthem. This is always a very proud yet humbling moment for me, and I often reflect on the opportunities that have been given to me.

BE: And once that period before tip is over, can you sit back and enjoy the game?

PT: Absolutely not! Once my favorite part of the job is done with, its soon followed by possibly one of my least favorite parts, the game itself! Whilst this might sound odd, especially as I have one of the best seats in the house, I don’t watch the game like a fan would. I’m watching it with a 2 second delay, and rather than tracking the basketball, I’m tracking each player to ensure they're not injured after each play and movement. It is mentally exhausting watching the game this intently, as I am also often running injury management scenarios through my head at the same time, ready to react at any minute.

BE: It sounds like you go through quite the roller coaster ride on a game day! Is there anything you would describe as a major challenge with the role you do as a physiotherapist?

PT: Time! We all need more time! Also, and it isn’t so much a challenge, but the hardest part of my job is breaking the news to a player that they most likely won’t be ready in time to be considered for selection to a squad or game day 12. That is incredibly difficult, but it is unfortunately just part of sport.

BE: Finally, is there anything you’d could suggest to aspiring physios who are trying to improve?

PT: As a few suggestions, I’d say gain as much experience as possible in a variety of sports for one. Not only will you be exposed to a broad range of injuries, but it will increase your repertoire of rehabilitation drills. Be willing to work long days and nights because in this role you’re always on duty. Also, be a chameleon. Every coach is different, be able to adapt.