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A mountainous task for Mount

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Steve Mount Steve Mount

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Australia & New Zealand

SYDNEY: Being the physiotherapist of a sports team is not an easy task. It demands great skill in the profession and also the ability to make the right decisions so that the sportsperson’s career is not endangered in any way.

Stephen Mount has been the Sri Lanka cricket team’s physio now for almost three and a half years – he completes four years in August when his current contract finishes. The years he has spent with the national cricket team Mount described as a “fantastic experience”.

“I’ve always been a great cricket fan so stepping into the environment with such legendary names like (Kumar) Sangakkara, Mahela (Jayawardene), (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, Lasith Malinga and others was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking at the start,” Mount told The Nation.

“I remember my first day driving on the bus to Kandy straight off the plane, being introduced to the guys and those names I mentioned and everyone else made me feel welcome and put me at ease. They are legendary players but also a great example of how to carry yourself off the field and how to treat people well, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.

“In the years I’ve been with the team I’ve met some fantastic people in the cricket world and everyone has been very welcoming from the first day when I came to Colombo. It’s been a great life experience and it has been a pleasure to work in this environment.”

Mount’s role in the national cricket team is as a physiotherapist and he has a support staff of national trainer and masseur assisting him. He has the envious task of keeping track of all the injuries that take place day in and day out like the one the present team is undergoing in the World Cup. Already from the originally selected 15 four have returned home due to injuries and a fifth is recuperating with a finger injury.

“As the Sri Lanka physio my job is to oversee all areas of injury management.  This includes treating, rehabilitating and attempting to prevent injuries as best as possible. Due to the constant nature of international cricket, it is also common for players to be playing with little niggles and issues that also need to be regularly attended to.  This is all aimed at allowing the players to continue playing and also helping them to be able to still perform at their maximum capacity.

“Basically it is about trying to keep these guys as much on the park and keep them injury-free as much as possible. Unfortunately injuries are part of the game. When they happen you have to attempt to diagnose them correctly and as soon as possible.  Following this you come up with a rehab plan aimed at getting them back into training and playing as quickly as possible, while at the same time being careful not to rush them back and put them at risk of further issues.

According to Mount it is the fast bowlers who take up most of his time. “Their job is the most demanding in terms of the physical stress it places on the body physically on the body. I speak to the coaches, trainers, the bowlers and try and get them as fit and ready to play as possible.  We talk about their bowling loads, what they are doing in the gym, how they are recovering and everything like that in an attempt to allow them to be prepared to handle the rigours of fast bowling.

“If they are performing well then the side’s going to go well too. There have been a few injuries along the way, some more publicized and others as well. They all have their own sort of challenges but overall it’s an enjoyable and rewarding experience.”

One of the most common sorts of injuries that Mount gets are, fractures, especially with batsmen and fielders. “As we have seen during the world cup, fielders are at risk of finger and hand injuries.  Another common problem is overuse injuries, especially with the fast bowlers. The fast bowlers are at risk of stress fractures or other overuse injuries, particularly in the lower back. We have also had a couple of well-publicised ankle issues – the ankle, lower back, side strains and knee injuries are also common.  Probably the two biggest injury issues for fast bowlers are mainly the ankle and back which often takes the longest to recover. As we have recently seen, soft tissue injuries, such as hamstring strains, also occur.”

Mount puts down the constant stream of injuries to the amount of cricket played and to the biomechanics of bowling that places a lot of stress on the lower back and on the front ankle where a lot of body weight goes through.

“It is due to the amount of bowling but it’s their job so they are gradually building up their load and trying to avoid too many quick increases in load, that’s when injuries are more likely to happen when the body is shocked into this high amount of bowling,” explained Mount.

“It’s easier said than done. Sometimes from T20 cricket in two weeks’ time you go into a Test match where a bowler might have to bowl 50 overs when they’ve only been bowling four overs. These are the sort of challenges you have to deal with when you are working as a team, to discuss those and how best to go about them,” he said.
As physio Mount said that he is not much under pressure as the player and the coaches. “In every job there is a certain amount of pressure but I don’t think I am under too much pressure. You just have to deal with it the best you can. Get all the facts as early as possible, get a good diagnosis and it’s all about communicating that to the player, selectors, coaches and everyone of what’s going on so that everyone gets the same message. You make a plan and then go on from there.”

Mount follows a long tradition of Australian physiotherapists who have done yeoman service to the national cricket team starting with Alex Kountouri in 1995. There was CJ Clark, Tommy Simseck before him and also Dan Kiesel, an Israelite the only non-Australian.

Mount was referred to Sri Lanka Cricket by Kountouri when they contacted him for a physio. “I was working in Australia at the time in the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and someone told me this job became available. I spoke to Alex and he recommended me and it went on from there,” said Mount.

This is the first time he’s handled a national cricket team. “I was working in the AFL before that with one of the teams in Melbourne and after that with the AIS for national teams with various sports Olympic athletes and those things, but this is the first time in cricket which is fantastic. I always loved cricket, been interested in it and the job is perfect for me.”

What sort of environment does Mount experience inside the Sri Lanka dressing room?
“It’s a good fun place to be in. You’ve got the group of legendary players and there have been a lot of young guys coming through. It has got a diverse group of people and everyone gets along really well. There are times to be serious and very professional and at other times relax and have a bit of fun like any team environment,” Mount said.

Conversing in the native tongue with some of the players has been a challenge for Mount.

“I tried to learn a bit of Sinhalese. When I first got there I was very determined to do the best I could. At times you get a little bit lazy and busy with other things. Some guys speak perfect English, other guys not so much especially the young guys generally. They know enough for me to communicate with them. I could throw them a few Sinhalese words every now and then. If communication is a real problem then someone is always there to help.”

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