ATCs Help World's Top Women Tennis Players

ATCs Among WTA Tour Primary Health Care Providers in Prevention and Treatment of Tennis-Related Injuries at U.S. Open & Tournaments Throughout Year

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Sept. 3 – “They are here from nine in the morning until midnight every day. They are involved in everything the players do (diet, stretching, exercise and rest). They support us so much in terms of getting us ready to go onto the court. I’m really impressed by the job they’re doing.” So says Justine Henin-Hardenne, the current singles #1 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. Despite fears she would have to withdraw before the finals, she managed to stay in the game, thanks to help she received from the WTA Tour’s athletic trainers, and won the title. Represented by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), ATCs are health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. They are part of the WTA Tour’s team of Primary Health Care Providers (PHCPs), which also includes physicians, sports psychologists, nutritionists 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 #1 ranked player in the world; and from 15-year-old rookies to 47-year-old veterans. “The most important role 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 primary duty is to foster the healthy development of our athletes through education and prevention.” Throughout the year, the WTA hosts 60 tournaments in 31 countries. The season is 10 months long and requires players to compete continuously, usually in warm or tropical climates. According to Waeghe, the PHCP is the first to arrive on site and the last to go home. Among the frequent injuries Waeghe evaluates and treats are thoracic and lumbar spine dysfunction, foot and ankle 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. - With input from Waeghe and other PHCP members, the WTA Tour has designed a therapeutic exercise program to evaluate and enhance the overall fitness level of its athletes. At the start of each season, every tennis player goes through a thorough physical examination during which she is evaluated. The athlete is instructed in a series of exercises appropriate for her current functional stability level. Over the course of the season, she is routinely re-assessed and her exercise program is modified and advanced as appropriate. “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.”

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