A physio’s work management in the times of COVID-19

Head physio Mark Rausa. © Cricket Ireland

Being a physiotherapist it’s very hard to keep your athletes fit and up on their toes from a distance. And when the situation is worse like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has forced a global lockdown, one has to push more than usual which is challenging.

Consider Mark Rausa — Cricket Ireland’s Head of Physiotherapy and Medical Services. Rausa has been in the trade for 10 years rubbing shoulders with elite level athletes, including at the Welsh Institute of Sport, the England Lions and Glamorgan County Cricket Club before joining Cricket Ireland in August 2018.

“Right at the moment, the men should be in Zimbabwe preparing for a six-match series, where I would be engaged, and the women about to depart for Thailand for a Quadrangular tournament ahead of their World Cup Qualifier scheduled for July 2,” Rausa said in a statement released by Cricket Ireland on Monday (March 30).  “And in the weeks leading up to those tours, we would have been in the gym four days-a-week to physically prepare the players for each tour.”

So how is Rausa managing to work with the players given he can’t be present with them physically and interact? “Given the current restrictions, I cannot visit players and do any form of manual treatment,” he said. “So, it’s a real challenge with what we can do, especially from a physiotherapist perspective as it usually requires you to be in close proximity to your player/patient.

“Working with our strength and conditioning coaches Brendan Connor and Greg Hollins, we have provided our players with new home-based fitness programmes and encouraged them to use equipment suitable for home use and running in open spaces close to home to get their aerobic work done,” Rausa, who tweets by the name of @glammyphysio, added. 

Rausa is also keeping in touch with his science and medical team experts daily discussing the players’ progress on whether any rehab plans need to change or restricted which is absolutely based on self-reporting. “I have been sending on home-based rehab plans to players and having some video call-based rehab sessions, which so far have been valuable,” he stated. “I am also keeping in touch with players myself via video call and phone. The players are also encouraged to call me anytime to discuss any issues they have.”

The Athlete Monitoring System plays a major role in the job of a physiotherapist. And with the players having remote access to it, Rausa is happy with the results. “The players have remote access to our athlete monitoring system, and are required to score themselves on things like muscle and joint soreness, sleep quality and overall wellness,” he said.

“We get a pretty good gauge where the players are with this information – it allows us to modify any workload or flags that we may need to contact the player directly if we have any concerns to work through. The programme we have in place is not just general health and fitness but takes input from a nutritionist to make sure players are eating right, and input from psychology and mental health services,” he added.

Rausa is fortunate that he doesn’t have a big list of injuries but is managing issues remotely. “We are fortunate at the moment as we don’t have a large number of players requiring heavy injury input,” he said.

“With injured players, I would typically be modifying their strength and conditioning programmes to allow them to train without aggravating any issues they have. We don’t completely shut down players when they are injured – they will always be doing some form of exercise and fitness work whilst recovering.

“This is key at the moment, not just from a performance viewpoint, but from an overall mental-emotional health viewpoint given the current circumstances. Our performance analysts have also been working hard to provide players with video of themselves and opponents to work through,” concluded Rausa.