You already know that your favourite athletes spend months in gruelling physical training in preparation for their biggest matches, but behind the scenes, the dedication and foresight from the coaches and medical staff are just as crucial to earning that win. From training while in quarantine to regular monitoring of player health, physio Cliffe Deacon explains why planning ahead is more important than ever.
Deacon is an ex professional cricket player (Free State, Eagles and Lions) and now a Cricket South Africa level 3 accredited cricket coach. He has been a physio for major teams in South Africa such as CSA High Performance, Momentum Protea Ladies and the Warriors, and is now the lead physiotherapist for the Pakistan Cricket Board and Multan Sultans. He is also the technical director for Physio-in-a-Box.
Deacon says that for any kind of team travel, “purposeful planning is without a doubt, my most important point. If you fail to plan at least 4-6 weeks in advance, you are in trouble.”
“Everything we do is basically based on the motto that once you go into a tour, a player should be ready - especially from a medical/sports science point of view. So, the better prepared players are going into a series, the better they can handle what’s going to happen to them in a series. Therefore, it’s much more important to fuel their bodies with the right food before touring. It makes the maintenance on tour so much easier.”
This also means a regular schedule of monitoring player health.
“We try and do blood (every 3 months) and body composition (monthly) testing, which serves as a guideline to enhance every player’s diet,” said Deacon. “Our strength and conditioning coach also takes care of the food served on the tours by sending menus to all our hosts.”
The pandemic has thrown a few extra twists into player preparation, and one challenge for Deacon and his colleagues is athlete quarantine and the accompanying lack of access to training facilities. The answer? Workouts built for hotel rooms.
“Travelling by plane and then having to spend much more time in hotel rooms/isolation facilities could naturally break down immune systems when you practically think about air conditioning, sleep cycle adjustments, prolonged periods in confined spaces and limited training options.”
“It’s important that players know what to expect physically with regards to limitations at different venues,” said Deacon. “What has worked really well for us so far has been to prepare workouts and sessions where players only need bodyweight and elastic bands. Once you start looking into these, there are some surprisingly taxing routines one can develop. Players would normally receive a prehabilitation/rehabilitation programme from me and a workout programme from our strength & conditioning coach. All of these programmes are individualised and periodised to comply with what is required for each player to be as readily available as possible.”
“Although I am not a major supporter of any type of supplements unless really required, I do believe that having our players take Phizz, we can help them boost their immune systems and that it will also help them recover better.”
As always, sleep is a vital component of what physios monitor in their athletes and work to create good habits, both on the road and at home.
“If you look at sleep and sleep research, the majority of Pakistani people are ‘owls’ (larks versus owls in sleep cycle research),” said Deacon. “So, our challenge is more about getting players to sleep at the right times before games, rather than during timezone changes.”
So, what does this expert carry regularly in his bag of tricks?
“Mini-loop bands, powerbands, skipping ropes, a TRX, sanitisers, a PowerDot (electric muscle stimulation for activations and/or recovery), a small massage gun, 2 different trigger point rollers and a portable speaker because training alone is hard enough - training alone and without music is just not for me!”
For more expert advice and insider access to life as a physio to pro cricketers, follow Cliffe Deacon on Instagram @cliffe55, on Twitter @cliffe55 or on his Facebook page, Cliffe Deacon Physiotherapy.