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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J MacFarlane, MD

Reflections of a usta tournament physician.

I have had the opportunity of being the Tournament Physician at the Aptos  ATP Tennis Challenger for over a decade thanks to the tournament organizers and the USTA. It is something I have looked forward to every year. It has brought me many interesting experiences with players and a true appreciation of the dedication of the players to the sport.

The connection the Tournament Physician has with the tournament allows you to see how both the sport and the players change over the years. Tennis is more advanced than it was and the players themselves are more advanced. Tennis now demands the best of its athletes in training, skills, diet and personal discipline. As such, the players have also responded with being more knowledgeable, more disciplined with training, more understanding of nutrition and more aware that any variance from professional conduct definitely has consequences that are not for the better in their career. The younger players understand the complete package that is needed to truly be competitive and they are bouncing on the professional circuit already complete.

Tournament Physician role.

As the Tournament Physician, you get to interact with the player at their lowest point - when they are injured so they cannot play at their peak performance or worse yet, they need to pull out of the tournament due to the extent of the injury. During either of these situations, listening to the input of the player, their coach and also the trainer or physio is so important. This listening can let you better understand how the player perceives their injury and what their goals of returning to play are. Then your treatment is guided as a physician in a way that maximizes the player's understanding of what you are doing and can help as well in further prevention of injuries for the player. 

Developing trust with players.

In order for the player to trust your advice and treatment, you need to be very knowledgeable about medicine, very knowledgeable about the body mechanics of playing tennis and very practical and efficient about treatment. Most of the time the players need something they can do while being on the circuit and continuing to play.

Following the players.

Seeing players develop from year to year in the Aptos Challenger or in more competitive tournaments on the circuit is always a pleasure. Feeling the depth of their competitiveness when playing along side them in the tournament Pro-AM is a valued memory too. Knowing you returned a few balls that were meant to go right by you gives  you an appreciation of how much it would take to do that over and over on every shot. 

Tennis and life.

In general, being the Tournament Physician of a tennis tournament, has given me an understanding how much tennis is a sport that really encompasses life. Each player is on court trying to secure a win in a way that is no different than achieving most things in life - what is required for both is being a student of what you are doing, a dedication, a fitness for the task, a designated plan, a clear focused mind and an agility to do what it takes. Every year, I learn something at the tournament that I can also use in life.


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