Lessons from 2016 Australian Tennis Open

For the ninth year in a row Kirsty McNab, Sports Physiotherapist, from Physiologix, in The Gap, has worked at The Australian Tennis Open as one of four Tennis Australian physios working with the women. Kirsty works in a room adjoining the changing rooms, treating any of the players that require pre or post match management, as well as providing long term programs for the athletes as they go on to other tournaments. Here are a few things that Kirsty has to share with a few tips we could all learn from:

This was my 9th year working as an Australian Tennis Open physiotherapist. I hope you were all watching and enjoying the great spectacle that these incredible athletes put on.  As many of you are aware, there were a huge number of drop outs of players in lead up tournaments; Serena Williams had a bad knee, Maria Sharapova hurt her forearm. Concerns arose about Federer and possible injury. 

Having come from time off in the off season, these athletes have leapt back into the new season with gusto: new ideas, new goals, new fitness routines. 

But too much too soon, very often results in injury and breakdown. Tissues rely on stress and strain to challenge them to become stronger, but over-strain, or not enough rest to recover, and the tissue is pushed beyond its limit resulting in inflammation, degeneration and pain.

The start of 2016 sees many of us setting our own resolutions, goals, and targets, very often fitness and weight loss related. Take a message from the Australian Tennis Open: take a sensible approach to your fitness. More isn’t always best. Build your exercises up slowly, listen to your body and rest and recover – even the best in the world have a day off in the week.  All of them have massage every other day; they eat well, sleep well and do pool recovery. And any slight hint of anything and they are straight into the physio.

Another thing we see a lot of at the Open is “tendon” injuries. Tendons attach muscles to the bone. As we get older, tendons are a structure that are injured a lot more easily. They also struggle with too much load making them a very common injury in sport. Many of the athletes struggle with long term management of tendons around the ankle (Achilles), the knee (patella), the buttock (hamstring) and the side of the hip (gluteus medius). This year at the Open, two of the world’s leading experts attended to see the players, Jill Cook and Lynne Watson. Being able to learn what is cutting edge in the world in shoulder and lower limb injuries is one of the great aspects of being involved in elite sport and something that the physio’s at Physiologix can now pass on to you. Physiologix is a high level, specialist clinic. Management of tendons has to be very specific and depend on an exact diagnosis. A skilled therapist is essential. The injury in the tendon can be at different points, all with very different management strategies. Get it wrong and you are going to get no where, probably getting worse!

Last of all, lets talk shoulders. These are tennis players and hitting as much as they do, their shoulders face a massive amount of wear and tear - we all saw Kyrgios receive on court treatment! Every player with a shoulder injury (most of them) has a unique issue. It takes a bit of detective work to figure out what the exact problem is, why and how to change it. Hours are spent teaching players how to change the way they move their shoulder blade, how to switch on specific muscles around their shoulder joint, analyzing how they play and what they could change that would reduce the stress on their shoulder. And often the shoulder is just where the pain occurs: it can be actually be a problem with weakness around the ankles, hips, or core resulting in a need to then overuse the shoulder as a compensation. These are the challenges facing a Sport Physiotherapist.

One thing is certain, whether it is at the Australian Open or in day to day life for any of us, when it comes to injury, prevention is always better that a cure!  If you are getting any niggles, just want some help knowing what exercises are best, or to find out how to set yourself up with a good program, the Physiologix physios are here to help.