How’s that?

The so-called ‘gentleman’s game’ is distinctly less leisurely these days, as the Lord’s-based Middlesex physio explains to Sally Priestley

Being in the right place at the right time is not the recommended route for landing a top job in physiotherapy, but that’s how Middlesex Cricket Club physio Pete Waxman describes the move into his role. He wasn’t even a big cricket fan before his lucky break, but that hasn’t stopped Pete revelling in a role that sees him working with international cricket stars and becoming increasingly attached to the lifestyle that is part and parcel of ‘the gentleman’s game’. However, for those who think cricket is all about long days standing in the outfield and breaking regularly for cream teas in the pavilion, Pete insists those days are over. ‘There is wide misconception that cricket is not a demanding sport, but that’s a thing of the past and cricketers are now truly elite-level sportsmen. They have to be just as nimble, fit and strong as those playing football and rugby,’ he says.

Too much play?

After graduating from Bath University, Pete worked in the NHS for eight years, while studying for his masters degree. He was working as an extended scope practitioner at Haringey PCT when he heard about the chance to work weekends at Lord’s cricket ground. With that opportunity, Pete’s new career path was laid. A full-time job with Middlesex came up in 2005 and his experience there landed him the role. So, for seven months of the year (he works the other five in a private practice near the ground), Pete has swapped his caseload of outpatients for 25 professional athletes. He is part of a backroom team that also includes three coaches, a strength and conditioning specialist and a team doctor. On and off the pitch, it’s a real team effort. ‘My main work with the guys is a combination of strength conditioning and general health and fitness, and looking at musculoskeletal niggles and injuries,’ he explains. ‘What’s key is really getting to know the sport, and becoming expert in knowing exactly what niggles and concerns are likely to crop up.’ A month of pre-season training is spent looking at the health and fitness of each player, with screening, medicals and fitness testing. Then it’s a trip abroad for the pre-season tour; Antigua and Dubai are two recent destinations. New cricket formats, such as the Twenty20 league and 40-over games, mean there are more fixtures than ever, so the team is under more physical pressure. ‘Many people are saying we play too much cricket in England, and this is taking its toll on the players’ health and fitness. There is very little recovery time between games and it certainly gives us more work on the coaching and fitness side.’ He regularly deals with over-use injuries while stress fractures to the back, shins and feet are also common, along with regular sports injuries such as tissue damage. ‘And you’d be surprised how many injuries come from being hit by cricket balls. I see a lot of broken fingers, but I’ve also seen broken arms, head and eye injuries, and a broken cheek,’ Pete says. Another part of the job is making sure international players are fit for duty. There are currently three England players at Middlesex  captain Andrew Strauss, along with newcomers Stephen Finn and Eoin Morgan. ‘We have to be in close contact with the England medical team at all times,’ Pete says, ‘and when there are injuries we have to compare notes and analysis and so on. There is also a lot of conversation about how much players should play or rest to keep them in the best condition.’ Middlesex and England cricketer Stephen Finn has been under Pete’s stewardship since he was 15. ‘It’s good to have someone who knows you and your health so well,’ he said. ‘Most of my work with Pete is about getting loose and preparing ahead of the game, whether that be with a stretch or a rub, to try and prevent injuries and strains. He also looks at any pre-game niggles and we work on those.’ ‘We also work on making the body more robust. Bowling for a long spell is hard on your body. We are expected to perform to a high standard physically and be good all-rounders. But we have a lot of specialists on hand and Pete has a major role to play in that.’ fl ‘What’s key is really getting to know the sport, and becoming expert in knowing exactly what niggles and concerns are likely to crop up’  Pete Waxman 

Sally Priestley

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