2020 Nation Touch League
The 2020 Inferno National Touch League is on in Coffs Harbour! With over 119 teams competing across Open, Mixed, Masters and for the first time All Abilities divisions. Sarah and Josh from our ProTrainer program give you their personal experience on being a part of the tournament as Sports Trainers.
I’ll start this blog post off by saying that this experience absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. Prior to arriving I assumed that since Josh and I were privy to such a valuable placement that perhaps the actual trip itself would be very challenging or that maybe we wouldn’t be trusted to handle ourselves, and thus might not get much out of it. I was completely incorrect in that assumption.
From the get-go it was an absolute trial by fire, and I genuinely think that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We were each assigned a team, I was paired with the Men’s Opens team, and Josh was paired with the Mixed Opens team, and our role was to act as the ‘primary medical personnel’ for our allocated team for the duration of the tournament.
This involved performing all strapping/taping that the athletes required, giving sports massages (tissue release work), providing advice on injury management and finally screening all injuries as they occurred, with it being up to us to decide whether the athletes needed further medical attention or whether we believed we were capable enough on our own to handle it.
As one could imagine coming into that role was undeniably intimidating, and both Josh and I definitely questioned our ability to tackle it, but in the end we both appeared to have been successful in our roles.
The travel we had to undertake to get to Coffs Harbour wasn’t too bad overall; a red-eye flight out of Melbourne Tullamarine at 6:00am to land in Gold Coast, and then a five hour drive down to the Aqualuna Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour.
The drive down was beneficial as we shared the van with another medical personnel who would be working with the Women’s 40s team, and then some of the players from the Mixed Opens team, who gave us a slight debrief on how the tournament would work.
The trip back wasn’t as easy, as the drive ended up being longer and we also had to wait at the airport a couple of hours for our flight, however it was still absolutely worth the trip!
I was very fortunate to be able to travel as a Sports Trainer to Coffs Harbour with the Victorian Storm Touch team which attended the Inferno Nationals Touch Tournament.
My first time travelling for work, initially I was very excited but at the same time nervous as I knew I was expected to perform my role at a high standard to meet the expectations of key stakeholders such as the coaches, players, managers etc.
Travelling from Melbourne to Gold Coast then driving to Coffs Harbour was draining and taxing on the body but taking time to enjoy the scenery of the countryside helped me clear my mind and shifted my attention to focus on the positives of the experience.
I have to acknowledge that in the beginning of the trip I still felt uncertain about my strapping/injury management capabilities, and as such was hesitant to dive right in with a lot of confidence.
What I found to help with that fear was having the guidance and assurance of the other physiotherapists, particularly Nathan, who was excellent at not only lending Josh and I a hand when we felt out of our depth, but also at encouraging us to learn to trust our own knowledge & judgement in a situation.
Because of that initial encouragement I was able to
Strap numerous shoulders, ankles, knees, achilles tendons, and wrists prior to each match
Perform soft tissue work on the athlete’s backs, groins, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, calves, & glutes to alleviate tightness/immobility
Give advice on injury management and preventing DOMS/muscle stiffness (such as when to ICE/elevate/compress/apply cream ect.)
Recognise the signs of concussion immediately and prevent further trauma from occurring to the player
Provide advice on mobility and strength work that could help prevent injuries in future
All on my own without intervention from the other health professionals. With that being said there were a couple of times when I required the advice from other physios, such as when an athlete presented with PFJ pain and I was unsure of how to proceed in terms of loading, or when the SCAT-5 test had to be performed on a concussed player (which I have no experience in administering).
It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from the experience of the physios, particularly in learning how to communicate with other allied health professionals, and benefiting from their vast experience in treating athletes as they often have tips and tricks for best practice, and understand a lot more than I do in terms of the difference between theory and practice.
Focusing primarily on the Mixed Open, in terms of injuries wise unfortunately I had a few injuries in my team. Firstly, prior to the tournament commencing I had a few shoulder complaints whereby players experienced injuries to their rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor) limiting them from lifting their arm up above shoulder height.
Furthermore, sprained thumbs and ankles were common as well as Medial Collateral Ligament tears. Secondly, during the tournament overall I was fortunate where besides general soreness I only experienced a blood nose, two rolled ankles, two jarring of the shoulders and a unique sciatic nerve pain coming from the individuals lower back and down their legs.
Furthermore, I was required to spend a significant period of time strapping the athletes prior to their games. Specifically, it was my responsibility each day to strap nine ankles, three shoulders (AC joint), two thumbs and two knees (MCL). On a personal note as each day went on, I gained more confidence in myself to perform the strapping and felt it was coming naturally to me.
One aspect I never once considered was that the athletes themselves (not just the injuries) might be difficult to deal with. Thankfully my team was composed of very respectful, lovely people who happened to play sports at an elite level, so I was lucky to not have that concern.
The players were fantastic at respecting my advice, even when it meant sitting out for the rest of a game, and they were extremely grateful for the assistance I gave them, thus making it a very pleasant environment to work in.
The only challenge that I faced was that since they were playing such a high level of sport, there were greater considerations that I had to contend with, i.e the loading that they were undertaking was huge, so I had to consider any and all methods that could help increase their recovery time, and reduce pain.
Furthermore the tournament is likely the biggest sporting event in their career, so they often would try to play down the severity of their pain/injury so as to not be side-lined.
I am assuming that this mentality of ‘I’ll soldier through the pain now and deal with the consequences later’ would be quite common with elite athletes, thus I’m extremely glad to have experienced it first hand now so that in future I can work around it and hopefully manage the players expectations well enough to come to a compromise on prioritising health over game-time.
Very humbling to be nominated as the Sports Trainer for the Mixed Open team, however assisted with the Men’s and Women’s Open to develop my collaboration skills with other Physios/Trainers/Osteos.
Majority of the players from the 3 teams mentioned above were in good shape, we were lucky to be working with some high-quality players especially those that have represented Australia which is considered the peak of Touch Rugby. Shout out to the team for making the Quarter Finals and putting all the hard work in to gain success for Victoria.
Aside from the injury management responsibilities, I think the area that I learned the most about would be about the management of a sporting event, and just how much planning goes into one, even at the team level.
I was fortunate as the team manager for the Men’s team and I got along very well and I was able to help her out quite a bit when I had fulfilled my duties, so she shared plenty of insight on what it takes to manage the logistics of transporting, housing, feeding, and managing the athletes, on top of managing the equipment, uniforms, and medical supplies.
I feel like this information is of particular relevance to me as I study both Sport Science and Sport Management.
Due to the extreme nature of the sport, I predominantly spent most evenings performing the myotherapy/massage as the athletes spend a lot of time utilising their anaerobic pathways during higher intensity efforts in Touch which leads to a build-up of lactic acid as a by-product of using this pathway to produce ATP for energy.
Generally, most of the time I encouraged the athletes to perform active recoveries (such as a walk/jog) to prevent the pooling of Hydrogen Ions into the bloodstream and coincidently enables the body to act as an artificial muscle pump to promote blood flow back to the heart (venous return), ultimately this prevents the effects by-products may have on performance.
Similarly, the purpose of the massage/myotherapy was to promote blood flow back to the heart whilst also relaxing the muscle to prevent general soreness. On the other hand, Ice was utilised to prevent any swelling or inflammation from occurring in the muscle and enable the athletes to recover quicker by preventing the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMs).
Overall, most of the time the players required massages on their calves and hamstrings due to the magnitude of running associated with playing Touch Rugby at a National level.
To surmise, I truly cannot express how grateful I am to have been afforded the opportunity to work at the National Touch Football Championship. I feel as though it was the perfect mix of being out of my comfort zone enough to really challenge me, but it never got to the level of difficulty where I felt truly out of my depth.
The players, coaches, managers, and other physiotherapists made the experience remarkable in the sense that it was both enriching from a learning perspective, but also an amazing way to have fun, meet new people, and enjoy watching elite-level sport being played.
I would like to thank Leki, Aarvi, David, Nathan from PhysioTas and Janine for facilitating this wonderful experience, and I hope that my performance in my role lived up to what was expected of me!
Growing up I was always the type of person who enjoyed working in a team environment, I feel as though working with the medical team enabled me to excel and successfully perform my role within the team.
Working in tandem with my fellow colleagues enabled us to share our ideas around certain phenomena where we had the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other before coming to an educated conclusion on the best way to approach situations.
The experience was very challenging initially due to entering the unknown with little experience under my belt but I always bring myself back to the idea that you have to vulnerable in certain situations to be able to grow and personally develop as an individual, especially within the competitive sporting industry.
As the days went on, I felt I was becoming more comfortable and began to grow a lot of confidence from all the hard work that I did prior to the tournament. I can’t express my gratitude enough to everyone involved for their commitment to such an amazing experience which I will carry with me for a lifetime.
I am excited and keen to hopefully head back over next year and perform more work within Touch Football Victoria. Special shout out to Leki, Dave and ProPhysio+ for making it all happen, it has been much appreciated.