The cricketer’s physio

James Pipe is First Team Physio at Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. Here he tells Lucy Mason about the importance of his role in keeping everyone from the Academy players to the likes of fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Jake Ball and batsman Alex Hales fit to play for their county.

Why cricket?

I grew up playing the game from an early age and was lucky enough to play professionally as a keeper/batter for Worcestershire County Cricket Club and Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

I studied physiotherapy at The University of Salford part time over 5 ½ years whilst enjoying a full time professional playing career.

Tell us about the setup at Trent Bridge

I am fortunate to work alongside some highly-experienced health care professionals at Nottinghamshire CCC. In addition to myself, we have an assistant Physiotherapist, sports doctor, two strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologist, sports therapist, Personal Development Manager as well as our network of radiologists and orthopaedic consultants.

We have strong ties with the University of Nottingham and regularly have sports rehab and physio students doing work experience with us.

I think I have the best office in the world! Trent Bridge is a modern high tech stadium full of history with a great atmosphere. Our match day physio room is joined onto the players changing room where we get a great view of the pitch. We have a separate physio room next to our indoor training facilities which we use throughout the winter and I also have a physio bed in our gym.

How does a typical day look?

It depends on the time of year. Our season starts at the beginning of April and finishes at the end of September. Some of the players have playing commitments through the winter months, either on international tours or playing for teams overseas.

The lads that stay at home normally get around six weeks to recover and prepare for the start of pre-season. This is a busy period for the Sports Science & Medicine team. In addition to sorting out any niggles that players may have picked up in the season, we may also have a few surgical cases to deal with.

This period is also a great time for reflection and a final analysis of all the data that we have collected through the season (injury, workload, MSK screenings, medical screenings, cardiac screenings, vision screenings, skin cancer screenings, blood profiling etc).

From this we formulate plans (squad and individual) for the first six-week pre-season training block. In addition, the findings from our analysis provide a useful tool for directing personal development.

We also have an annual science and medicine audit from our governing body (The England & Wales Cricket Board) to ensure the competence of staff, to ensure that appropriate resources are in place, to ensure that critical processes are being adhered to and good practice and professional development is being recognised.

A typical in-season match day begins by preparing the trauma kit and running through the emergency care plan with the opposition physio, paramedics and match officials.

The physio room is buzzing on a game day with players getting screened, strapped, mobilised or activated. Prior to the team warm up, the players perform individualised physical preparation sessions derived from their past injury history, game requirements and screening results.

Once the game is underway it’s a case for being prepared and ready to go at any time for whatever happens! The post-game procedure varies depending on our schedule. If we have less than 48 hours before the start of our next game day we commence our recovery strategies immediately.

What sort of sporting injuries do you see?

Cricket is an exciting sport to be involved in for physio’s. We literally see everything from head to toe! Over the past year, we have experienced the traumatic injuries commonly associated with contact sports such as dislocations, fractures and concussions.

The repetitive nature of the sport also lends itself to overuse injuries such as tendinopathies and bony stress injuries. Batsmen are prone to hamstring and quad strains due to the aggressive high speed running, accelerating and decelerating forces they are exposed to whilst running between the wickets. Some of the more common bowling injuries include lumbar stress reactions / fractures, abdominal strains and posterior ankle impingements to name a few.

In addition to meticulous individualised conditioning and physical preparation we try to minimise these types of injuries by collecting daily workloads, RPE’s and wellbeing data. We also screen for objective fatigue markers. We use this data to prescribe training loads to keep players performing in their individual sweet spots and inform coaches when they may be at risk of injury.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I genuinely love helping people. It’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning and know that you can make a difference in people’s lives. I am also extremely competitive and I take great pride in trying to help the club win trophies. As the data suggests, successful teams have low injury rates!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

From a clinical perspective – one mistake I remember making as a newly qualified physio was looking too localised at an injury, focussing on the victim and neglecting the culprits. My mentor at the time encouraged me to consider the whole kinetic chain!

Peter Moores, Head Coach of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and former England coach talks about helping the players to make a strong connection between their strength & conditioning / physical preparation work and improvements in performance and availability. I believe involving players in the process and putting them at the centre of their programmes is key.

Do you still play cricket?

No, I find it difficult to commit to playing sport during the cricket season. Working in an elite sporting environment isn’t something you can do with one foot in the door. You must commit to it wholeheartedly and dive in with two feet! I have a young family so anytime I’m not at work I enjoy spending my free time with them.