Talks to Peter Collins March 2000

SOME of us know what we want to do 'when we grow up,' some of us never know, but the club's physio Julia Trevor knew at 14 what she wanted to do, although it was a while before she became involved with ice hockey. After work experience in hospitals and getting the right A levels she studied physiotherapy in Sheffield for three years, after which she worked in Doncaster and Chesterfield gaining hands-on experience. Her first real contact with sport in a professional capacity was at the World Student Games and Wheelchair Games. She then moved back to the right side of the Pennines and began to apply the modern version of the 'magic sponge' to the walking wounded at Sale and Broughton Park rugby clubs. After being put forward for the Storm job by her predecessor Helen Rocca, she's now had time to settle in, develop a good working relationship with the team and find out all about the best game in the world.

So what are hockey players like compared to other sportsmen? "Generally they have very high pain tolerance levels, everyone is different but on the whole their pain barriers are much higher than ours. If you ask the guys they'll tell you that rugby players must be tougher because they don't have all the protection they have yet still take bit hits. But the rugby lads think the hockey players are tougher because of the speed they're hit at and the fact they're put into the boards which are generally unforgiving. And I have to agree, hockey players seem to be able to cope with pain much better.

"None of them like to be injured and they are all anxious to play but they are usually sensible and know when they can't play through the pain any more, after all they have a career to think of. That in itself can create a problem in that players are technically recovered but they have in their heads that they are not. So not only is 'hands on treatment' that's needed, you also have to give them a lot of moral support and encouragement."

Okay, enough of that, what about the nitty gritty? "One groin is very much like another (said with a tongue in each cheek!). I see them every day and I see their great sights and their not so great sights. We have a great rapport in the locker room and we have lots of fun, but we're all professional and we get on with our jobs. I do have to blank out a lot of what I hear and see. What we talk about in the treatment room stays in there, likewise what I hear in the locker room stays in there, they treat me as one of the guys and that's the way I like it because it means they trust me to get them better."

A high impact, fast sport like hockey tends to leave players open to specific injuries that occur time and again, and Julia found she had to be able to adapt quickly to them. "The typical hockey injuries are groin strains, bruised ankles and wrists, knee ligament damage, separated shoulders, 'charley horses (deadlegs) and obviously brakes. Some can take a few days, others a few weeks, some like Neumy's dislocated shoulder will put them out for the rest of the season, and unfortunately like Ruby some are career-ending.

"You can usually tell from the grimace on their faces when they come off after a shift whether they are simply getting their breath back or they're in trouble with an injury. You also get to know how to treat specific injuries. "A puck on the foot is usually 'walk it off if that doesn't work come back to me'; blood injuries are dealt with at the moment by the doctor, he usually does the stitching during a game and I do some afterwards because you have to be very quick but I'm doing a stitching course at the moment, so watch out guys!" For home games she is never on her own, before and after the game she has the help of masseurs Patrick Walker and Ian Shepperd and she's usually accompanied on the bench by the team doctor, Patrick Milroy. "We operate as a team, I go out onto the ice initially and evaluate and if I need him he's there. Most of the time he'll leave the bench if a player has to be seen to and I stay on the bench. Once an injured player is off the ice my duty is to stay with the team, especially on the road as we don't have our own doc with us and I become a combined physio-masseur-doctor - I'm it. I then check on an injured player whenever I can."

When crowd favourite Brad Rubachuk suffered his career ending injury down at Bracknell during last seaosn's play-offs it was Julia who was first to him. "My initial thought was he'd broken his neck. On that occasion although I was the first medical person to him, there was a doctor at the rink as per ISL regulations and he is in medical terms the senior. So we evaluated together and as I know my players I know when they are really hurt, with Ruby he has a great pain threshhold so when I saw him I knew it was serious. I knew he was in extreme pain and it was possible he'd broken one or more vertebrae, which turned out to be correct. Afterwards at hospital in Bracknell he was cleared but when we got him home next day we weren't happy with the situation and so we organised for further examinations pretty urgently and unfortunately we were proved right."

Julia began the current campaign helping Kelly Askew on his road to recovery after surgery on his injured knee during the summer. "I had to do a lot of work with him but he also did a lot of extra stuff himself which made a big difference. He'd come in every single day for treatment and we'd worked out a comprehensive rehab programme here in the arena, then he'd go away and expand it with additional strength training in the gym on his own. But he still had to have my input and encouragement every day. They are with their injuries all the time and they don't always see it improving, that's where I come in. "Sometimes you have to show them how far they've improved, which at the end of the day comes down to trust - I sometimes play back games on video to show a player a particular instance where he's done something that proves his injury is getting better or has disappeared altogether, like "There was a lot of torque on that knee then but you came through."

The pressure was really on during the build-up to this season's B&H Cup final, with the club down to the bare bones defensively and in need of more than a spot of TLC. "On the Friday we had just three fit defencemen, it was very much touch-and-go whether Rob Robinson and Kris Miller would be fit to play, but they worked very hard at their fitness as well as me doing my bit . Rob had a lot of pain that game and Millsy, especially the last 10 minutes of the third period which he had to set out, he'd gone through the pain barrier and just couldn't continue. "Their treatment was round the clock. We were concerned Millsy might have slipped or fractured discs at first, although the hospital x-rays didn't show any up. So we sent him for scans bearing in mind what happened to Ruby and he was given the all clear, which really made it 'just' a pain thing. With soft tissue injuries the guys are expected to work through a certain amount of pain, as long as it does not expose them to long term damage. So for him it was a lot of massage, mobilising the joints and a one-on-one stretching programme. Robbo's back suddenly got worse over a 24 hour period and because we knew he didn't have a serious injury it was treated with massage and medication." Since then she's had to deal with Jeff Tomlinson's facial injury and of course the spate of knee injures that have plagued the team recently. "Tommy's injury was really nasty. As I said before you know when a player is really hurting and Tommy was that night. He'd lost two teeth and his lip was a mess. As soon as I looked at him I knew he was in no state to contiune. He had a ragged tear both inside and outside his lip and I must admit the doctor on duty did a really good stitching job, I honestly thought he'd need plastic surgery but the doc was a whizz with a needle. Tommy also complained of headaches more or less straight away, which isn't like him, he may be a headache occasionally but he was definitely hurting that night. "Frankie is making really good progress and he's already back on the bike and undergoing a weight programme. We used ultrasound and electrotherapy to keep the swelling under control in conjuction with ice therapy, so it's quite a lot of hands-on as far as Frankie's concerned. 'Scotty Campbell has tendonitis in both knees and it's more a matter of rest and a programme of light exercise and monitoring him on the ice. Hoff's lower back needs mobilisation and manipulation but he should be back to 100 per cent come the play-offs.

"There's always pressure to get every player fit for every game but it's never to their detriment or to the medical condition. The questions I'm asked and have to be able to answer are: 'Can they deal with the pain?; 'Is it okay for them to deal with it'; 'Can you get them to deal with it/are they able to deal with it'. After three years Kurt and I have developed a good working relationship so I have a good understanding of what he wants and what he'll expect, so maybe there's less pressure because he's confident in my decisions which are always confirmed by the doctor."

But how does she deal with the pressure placed on her? "If emotions are highly charged, say seven games in 11 days, it's hard to come down sometimes, but it's a good drive between the Arena and where I live and work in private practice which helps me wind down. Although I have to remember my 'ps and qs' once I leave the locker room because they use some pretty choice language. "My private practice - Mount Pleasant Physio - helps a lot. It's very different and refreshing dealing with my private patients and I'm never tempted to say: "What's up with you, it's only a bloody deadleg! - honest"

But does she have any favourites? "No. They all have their own idiosyncracies but I've joined in stick and puck sessions with them on the ice and it gives me an idea of what they must go through and I have the greatest of respect for them. It's a very tough game and I remember that whenever I'm on the ice. I enjoy the cameraderie and working towards the same goal and I'd like to pursue my career here for as long as I can."