Insights from the U19 FIBA World Cup Basketball with Ballarat OSM Sports and Exercise Medicine Registrar, Dr. Anthony Hipsley
One day before we leave Melbourne to fly to Latvia and Greece. The boys have their final training session and are looking great. Unfortunately, it’s never that easy…
When I was asked to be the Team Doctor for the Men’s U19 Australian Basketball Team on their upcoming tour to Europe for the FIBA World Cup, I immediately became both excited and nervous. I knew it would be a big job but a fantastic experience.
The key to a successful tour with an elite sporting team is preparation. Conducting thorough, yet practical medical screens of my athletes was an important first step. This allowed me to understand the past and present medical histories, as well as mitigate the risk of future injuries. It also gave me the opportunity to build rapport and educate the athletes about health and safety. Ensuring up to date vaccinations, providing health information and preparing your medical kit are other pre-tour tasks which require careful planning.
So what happened 24 hours before we jetted off to Europe? One of our best players pulls himself out of training with an acute hip injury. Not ideal timing! Needless to say, the coach is fretting, as are we all. Thankfully, we are able to get him an MRI within a couple of hours to help with diagnosis and guide treatment. A lengthy discussion follows between myself, physio, head coach and athlete about the way in which this injury might affect his ability to play 7 games against the world’s best competition. Always expect the unexpected when it comes to injuries – lesson learned.
Besides managing injury in sometimes inopportune moments, another vital aspect of being a Team Doctor on tour is optimising performance. I collected “wellness” data from the athletes, which gave me helpful information about sleep, muscle soreness, hydration and fatigue. If there was a downward trend, I engaged the athlete to rectify the issue before performance was jeopardised.
We travelled to Latvia and Greece with 17 people – 10 athletes and 7 supporting staff. It goes without saying that a Team Doctor in a foreign, high stakes environment must exhibit strong communication, organisational and decision making skills. However, I have come to learn of more inconspicuous skills that make life easier. Firstly, humour. On day 1, the head coach asked me, “Doc, what’s your favourite movie”, to which I (truthfully) replied, “Easy. Dumb and Dumber”. All I can say is, our relationship grew steadily from there. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” was quoted relentlessly. I also have come to realise the importance of looking after yourself. I exercise every day at home, so I try and do the same on tour. I think of this approach as controlling the controllables, in this case, my own wellbeing.
Travelling as a Team Doctor with an elite sporting team is challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. I take with me many lessons learned and lifelong memories. Alas, we didn’t achieve our goal of winning a medal in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Basketball Tournament, however there is always next time. So you’re telling me there’s a chance!!!
Dr. Anthony Hipsley
Sports Medicine Registrar