The forgotten role of physios

The forgotten role of physios

MASERU-Physiotherapists play an integral part in a football team’s health and training plan and their work goes far beyond the pitch.
Physios don’t just run onto the pitch to attend to injured players, they deal with diagnosis, treatment and recovery of physical injuries as well as prevention of future reoccurrences.
In Europe’s big leagues, physiotherapists are normally seen on the bench with the technical team. No team goes onto the pitch without physios; they are highly qualified doctors who look after players’ health.

However, here at home, the role of physiotherapists has been criminally overlooked and, compared to other countries, Lesotho lags far behind.
There are some Econet Premier League teams today that do not have professional physios; instead they have individuals who are called on match days to provide players with water and ice when they are injured.

Worst of all, these volunteers do this with no paramedic or first aid education at all.
In some games in the league this season physios of other clubs have stepped in to help opposition players with their injuries.
The dangers of having unqualified people running around with a first aid kit that has nothing but cotton in it are very serious.
That is part of the reason why every top-flight team is required to have a club physiotherapist when they apply for a club licence at the Lesotho Football Associates at the beginning of every season.
However, there is worryingly no thorough follow-up done by LEFA to ensure the people the clubs register are indeed professionals.

One physiotherapist working for an Econet Premier League team called this ignorance.
He said any player that walks onto the pitch in Lesotho’s elite league does so at their own risk as there are no measures in place to ensure the physiotherapists in attendance are qualified professionals who can help stabilise a player in case of a serious injury before he is taken to hospital.
In one instance in the league this season, a Premier League player broke his leg after a physical tussle with an opposition player.

The player lay down on the touchline visibly in pain surrounded by a group of people who put blocks of ice on his knee for about 20 minutes with no ambulance to take him to hospital.
He was later taken to hospital by a volunteer from the crowd. The physio described the scenario as a total lack of care and he said players could die in the hands of so-called doctors who do not know what they are doing.

Likhopo is one of the very few clubs in the top-flight that has a qualified physiotherapist.
Likhopo physio Makhobalo Matamane, who holds a paramedic certificate, said his job requires him to know every player in the team and their strengths and weaknesses.
He said when players have injuries it is important not to misdiagnose the situation because it could be dangerous for the player.

“My work starts during the week, I must know each player and their strengths and their weaknesses,” Matamane told thepost.
“Some players arrive at the club carrying long-term injuries and you have to know how to treat such injuries. I meet with the coach before he does his programmes,” he added.
Physiotherapists don’t watch the game like the rest of us.

They are not looking for entertainment but they are always cringing at every tackle. They are always eagle-eyed and ready to step in should any injury occur.
They work together with the team’s head coach and give advice on the players’ fitness and who is ready to play or not.
“It is in a few games where you will find an ambulance, in a case where there is no ambulance somebody else’s car will be used but when there is a problem the same car cannot help, so when it comes to injuries in sports there is no follow up at all. An injury could ruin someone’s career,” Matamane said.

“I think we are lucky here in Lesotho that we have not seen really bad injuries, we do have long-term injuries but they are not many,” he added.
Matamane said he is fortunate to have a good working relationship with Likhopo coach Halemakale Mahlaha.
“Coaches do understand they must have qualified physios but they cannot enforce it to the teams. I work with the coach; I give him suggestions on players because I know their strengths,” Matamane said.

“My coach allows me to have an input on how to use players, even in training I do give suggestions on how some players should train,” he said.
With football suspended in the country due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), Matamane said it has been difficult to monitor players and whether they are training on their own at home or not.

While some players have been in contact with him, Matamane said with players you can never be too sure because they play tournaments in their villages against club instructions that they should not play any games at all.
“It is very difficult, some are sending me videos of themselves at home saying they are working out, they are just not sitting at home but it is difficult to know exactly who is doing what,” Matamane said.

“It is now up to the players and their discipline, we give them what to do and it is up to them then,” he said.
“They are at home now. They have been told to stay at home and not play at all but with players, even though they have been ordered not to play, they still play tournaments at home and when they come back they have injuries that you don’t know where they sustained them and now have to treat them.”

Tlalane Phahla

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