So far in my interview series, I’ve been able to hear from therapists who work major events like the world championships and Olympics, and work major meets, like the Diamond League meets. In this interview, I was able to spend some time asking World Athletics Center therapist Jerod Carnahan questions about the daily Performance Therapy athletes receive. I was curious what types of things take place during treatments daily, and sometimes more than once a day, as you will see!
For those who don’t know about the WAC, it’s located in Phoenix, Arizona and provides training and coaching for athletes and coaches education. It’s a great opportunity for athletes to bridge their collegiate and professional careers to allow development to compete at the highest level, being coached by some of track’s best coaches. Part of their program involves internships and apprenticeships.
This post is about Performance Therapy (also called track side therapy). For an overview of Performance Therapy, you can also check out this from WAC coach Stuart McMillan to get a better idea of what the theme of this interview is about.
Now, on to the interview!
I got into massage to work with athletes – that’s what I’ve wanted to do for some time. I heard about the opportunity to work with WAC from a former massage instructor of mine Patrick Ward who knew some coaches from WAC, and heard that they were looking for some new therapists that would like to come out and volunteer and I jumped at the opportunity. It then led to an internship.
One of the unique advantages WAC offers is the amount of therapy athletes receive. Some call it track-side therapy, or as Stu McMillan calls it, Performance Therapy. Can you explain how this process worked at WAC?
The athletes at WAC have the opportunity to receive Performance Therapy pre-, during- and post-practice, as well as getting deeper tissue massages – or as the athletes like to call it ‘a flush’ post-track practice or lifting session. The amount and duration of therapy is very athlete-driven depending on their needs and what their workouts consist of day-to-day. However, any therapy provided during the athlete’s practice usually is no longer then 10-15 minutes so that he or she doesn’t cool down too much. The athlete’s practice can also be altered depending on what is found during the therapy session or through the athlete’s feedback
In your process of doing checks, do you prefer to start from the feet working up? Head down? Or pelvis outwards?
I usually start my sessions with the athlete standing, doing a standing posterior pelvic and sacral test. Once I have assessed how the pelvis is sitting, I then start the athlete face down and check the leg length by checking the medial malleoli to see if what I found in the first test translates to the table. I then start my soft tissue work based on what I found in my tests.
Are there any things that are overlooked in therapy for track and field athletes?
Not that I have noticed. However I have only been with WAC for 9 months and this is my first taste of the Track & Field environment. The only thing I have really noticed is that at some track meets there aren’t always great areas to set up a table or have good warm-up areas!
Jerod it’s interesting you mention this! In a prior interview, Holley DeShaw mentioned something similar in commenting on some odd places she has done treatments!
If it is a new athlete that I haven’t worked with before, then I will talk to them about what their event is, how long they have been doing it, and what their history is with therapy. Once I have a good understanding of what their body goes through on a daily basis I can better understand how to treat them. If I am working with an athlete on a consistent basis I will always ask them how they’re feeling compared to the day before or the week before depending on how long it’s been since I’ve seen them. Then I will ask them what they have that day so that we can make a more specific treatment plan.
I’ve seen photos of you working and you are literally on the side of the track. How do you measure the effectiveness of a treatment?
I measure the effectiveness by first the athlete’s feedback from when they get off the table until they are done for the day. I also see the effectiveness from watching the athlete and seeing how their body is moving. I also, of course, rely a lot on Dan Pfaff and Stu McMillian’s feedback to see how the athletes are performing. Neither one of them is scared to let me know if I haven’t done enough!
What advice would you give to a therapist who might start doing performance therapy at event sites?
I would find a team or school that will be willing to let you come out and volunteer and give your time to learn from them. Find a mentor that you that is willing to give you their time if possible.
For a therapist coming to WAC to go through the training and experience you have, what advice would you give them? What things should they expect that they might not expect before getting there?
Expect to be ‘thrown into the deep end’ – meaning be ready to work and answer questions. Know your anatomy and kinesiology, and constantly read whatever you can get your hands on. Be willing to give up your free time – it’s definitely worth it to get to work with some of the greatest coaches and therapists you’ll find anywhere.
Also don’t hesitate to ask any questions about therapy or coaching. Everyone at WAC is always happy to answer any questions. The best advice I could give to anyone coming to WAC is just to try to be better then you were yesterday.
Where can people find more information on you and the WAC?
The website is www.WorldAthleticsCenter.com. There is also a Facebook page :https://www.facebook.com/worldathleticscenter and a Twitter account @Worldathleticsc. I also have a Twitter account @jcarnahanlmt
Jerod, thanks so much for taking time to share your experiences at the World Athletics Center. It was great to hear about some of the behind the scenes things with therapists who work with athletes on a daily basis. Keep up the great work!
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