Relationship with players is just physio

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am


The phrase 'strapping young men' usually means fit young males. However, for Sevens physiotherapist Janice Morton, 'strapping' is a verb not an adjective.

'Over the weekend, we perform around 200 strappings and use mountains of rolls of tape, pounds of ice and litres of massage oil,' reveals Morton. 'Pre-match strapping prevents injury and stops existing injuries from getting worse. And we are required by the teams to do plenty of it.'

The physio area has similarities to the military triage centre from TV show MASH. 'While the ball flies around the pitch, the banter flies thick and fast down here,' says Morton.

It is the responsibility of the tournament's host to provide physios. Morton, who has worked for the tournament since the early 1980s, recalls the period before, when most teams came to Hong Kong with their own physio. 'We had 240 players to treat over the three days, and a team of 10-12 physios.' These days, a team of 16 physios works in five-hour shifts.

One of the more unusual sights over the weekend is players cooling down in bins of ice up to their waist - as if they are tins of beer. Putting players in the human ice buckets is all in the name of cooling muscles as quickly as possible. 'It is a recent physiotherapy technique and one the Hong Kong team uses,' Morton says. 'We don't get involved though. That happens in the players' changing room.'

The role of a rugby physio takes physical strength, decision-making ability and more-than-gentle powers of persuasion. 'The players are in Hong Kong to play; no one wants to miss out on the chance. However, sometimes if we feel a player shouldn't go on the pitch, we'll say so. And we work closely with the doctors.'

Varying levels of pain threshold are something else Morton has experienced. 'Some people are like Samson, and for others we provide the grown men's version of a Winnie the Pooh Band-Aid,' she said tongue-in-cheek.