SMA members achieve great feats everyday in the sports medicine world. They are the team behind the team or athlete, that help them achieve the ultimate success. With that in mind we sat down with SMA member and Australian team physio Kate Beerworth ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 to chat about life as the side’s physiotherapist heading into to the team’s biggest tournament.

How are you feeling about the World Cup? What are you most excited about/looking forward to?

This is my first Cricket World Cup and the first major tournament I have been involved in, in Australia. It’s very exciting to be a part of an event that showcases women’s sport in Australia. It’s also great for the players to have the opportunity to play in front of their family and friends and a credit to everyone involved behind the scenes to get an event such as this in Australia. I am very proud to be part of this World Cup.

What is your role pregame, game day and post-game? Run us through the kinds of activities you would undertake.

There’s a lot of work, preparation and planning in the lead up to the tournament.  This involves a team approach from a sports science sports medicine (SSSM) perspective to manage injuries, as well as planning their physical preparation and training loads to ensure the players are functioning at their optimal level over the course of the tournament.

Game day preparation from a physio perspective is much like any other team sport.  Typically, there is taping, perhaps some manual or soft tissue therapy. Each player does their own individualised physical preparation prior to the team warm up.

Post-game responsibilities include assessing any immediate concerns ranging from minor complaints to acute injuries that occur during the game. The important thing is to triage as soon as possible to enable early management which is vital in tournament play with congested fixtures and travel between games. As a SSSM team we all contribute. It really is a whole team effort and the key is communicating effectively as a unit so we can manage the players and keep the coaches and selectors across any niggles that we may encounter throughout the tournament.

How is the dynamic different on and off the field for a physiotherapist?

All going well, I don’t really do much on the field. Obviously if a player sustains an injury during the game that requires immediate attention I would enter the field of play. Off the field, my role as a physiotherapist is all about making sure I’m there to assist the players in their preparation and best manage any on going issues and acute injuries.

What differences have you found between working with the Australian Women’s Football Team (The Matilda’s) and the Australian Women’s Cricket Team?

Touring and the nature of tournament play is very similar across both sports. In tournament play, you need to manage acute injuries, recovery and physical preparation in a congested time frame. So in that respect, physio management is very similar between the two sports. When players are not together in the National team environment, they may train and play with different clubs. In cricket, they will train in their state environment or train and play in domestic competitions outside of Australia. This is similar in football where players play in either the domestic league, the W-League or in domestic leagues in Europe or the US. A large part in both sports is communicating with these stakeholders and being a case manager for the contracted players and monitoring their wellness and activity via an Athlete Management System.

The main difference from an injury viewpoint is that football is a contact sport which often means that you’re managing a lot more soft tissue injuries that come up as part of the game and would enter the field of play more often. In cricket, there is a variety of skill sets required so we see different injury profiles for bowlers vs batters and injuries related to throwing and diving in the field. The other difference in cricket is the different formats of the game and that is reflected in our injury surveillance. The different formats also influence the planning of training loads and in particular planning bowling loads. Women only play test cricket every 2 years so injuries in the Australian women’s team are very different to Australian men’s teams. Cricket Australia has an excellent injury surveillance system that helps us to see the “big rocks” from a National, State and age-related viewpoint and focus our injury prevention strategies in these areas from a SSSM perspective.

What has been a highlight for you working with Cricket Australia?

I’ve had a very fortunate career working with arguably two of the best teams in the country, male or female. Seeing the rise of the profile of women in sport and how National Sporting Organisations (NSOs), particularly Cricket Australia, are genuinely getting behind female athletes through the provision of improved resources and opportunities is something that I am proud to be a part of. Cricket Australia have shown strong leadership in this country in terms of how they’ve resourced and supported their female athletes and programs.

Having the opportunity to do this role in a full-time capacity is also a highlight. Full time roles in female sport unfortunately is still something quite rare in Australia. While I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at the elite level, working full time in this role also enables me to work collaboratively within the high performance team and coaching departments to help implement injury risk reduction strategies in pathway programs and assist in developing the next generation of cricketers.

Hopefully in the future we get to the point where we don’t talk about male or female athletes or male and female sport but simply talk about different athletes or different sports and focus on the wonderful stories and performances that we all love to see. Behind the scenes, we need to continue to drive equality in resourcing and staffing male and female teams and pathway programs. Women’s sport has gone from strength to strength and I hope I’m able to continue to contribute in a small way as this continues to improve in the future.