NATIONAL ATHLETIC TRAINERS ASSOCIATION
HELPING TENNIS PLAYER STAY IN THE GAME
CERTIFIED ATHLETIC TRAINERS (ATCS) HELP WORLD’S TOP WOMEN TENNIS PLAYERS, INCLUDING NO.1 RANKED JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE, PLAY THEIR BEST AND STAY IN THE GAME
“They are here from 9 in the morning until 12 midnight every day. They are involved in almost everything the players do (diet, exercise, stretching and rest). They support us so much in terms of getting us ready to go onto the court and play. I am very impressed by the job they’re doing.” Said Justine Henin-Hardenne, the current singles Number one ranked women’s tennis player, about certified athletic trainers (ATCs).
Currently competing at the U.S. Open in New York, Henin-Hardenne was treated for cramps at last year’s Grand Slam Tournament. There were concerns that she would have to withdraw before the finals but she managed to stay in the game, thanks to help she received from the WTA Tour’s athletic trainers, and went on to win the title.
Represented by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), ATCs are health care providers who specialize in the prevention, treatment, assessment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and people who are physically active. They are part of the WTA Tour’s team of Primary Health Care Providers (PHCPs), which also includes physicians, nutritionists, sports psychologists and podiatrists, among others.
Among the WTA Tour athletic trainers is Nadine J. Waeghe, who has treated every level of professional women’s tennis, from the lower rankings of qualifiers to the Number 1 ranked player in the world; and from fifteen-year-old rookies to forty-seven-year-old veterans. “The most important activity of an ATC/PHCP on the WTA Tour,” she says, “is to provide a safe, trustworthy and consistent health care environment for our athletes. Our first duty is to foster the healthy development of our athletes through education and prevention.”
Throughout the year, the WTA hosts sixty tournaments in thirty-one countries. The season is ten months long and requires players to compete continuously, usually in tropical or warm climates. According to Waeghe, the PHCP is the 1st to arrive on site and the last to go home.
Among the frequent injuries Waeghe evaluates and treats are thoracic and lumbar spine dysfunction, ankle and foot sprains, tendonitis in the wrist and forearm, shoulder dysfunction, blisters and heat-related illnesses. Treatment for such injuries typically consists of manual therapy, soft tissue mobilization, stretching, strengthening, taping and equipment modification
“There isn’t a significant difference in treatment or training techniques used in preparation for a Grand Slam,” says Waeghe. “However, as the tournament approaches, players typically train more intensely.
They have a heightened sense of body-awareness as they prepare for tougher competition. As a result, we see them more frequently in the training room. This gives us an extra opportunity to educate the athletes, as well as upgrade their therapeutic exercise programs.”