A Day in The Life Series: Natasha Nataatsya (physiotherapist) Credit: Photo by Philip Kairu, artwork by Samwell Okiria

Ever wondered what it’s like being a part of the national tour that is the Nile Special Rugby Sevens Series?

In the “A Day In The Life” series, Kawowo Sports goes behind the scenes and follows select individuals to share some highlights about their experiences on the national series. From players, coaches, medics, and team managers to referees, officials and administrators, and even our fellow journalists.

In our third instalment, physiotherapist Natasha Nataatsya gives us a glimpse into how a typical day goes for a team doctor on the series. We followed Nataatsya on Day One of the series finale Kyabazinga Sevens (7s) at Bugembe Football Stadium.

For starters, a team physiotherapist is different from a team doctor, Nataatsya explains.

“A doctor makes medical decisions regarding the health and wellness of the team. A physiotherapist’s primary role is to apply treatment by physical means and manual therapeutic exercises.”

Both roles cover injury (and illness) prevention, treatment and management, plus first aid.

“I play both parts sometimes but I always involve medical doctors in the field in decisions that are not part of my profession. It is important to consult doctors who would be in a better position to manage particular injuries or conditions.”

Nataatsya did a Diploma in Physiotherapy which she later upgraded to a Bachelor’s degree. Her first role was in rugby when she joined in 2021.

So, let’s dive into what a typical day for a physiotherapist during the national 7s series is like!

The Day Before:

“I left work at around 5 p.m. and headed to town to pick medical supplies for the weekend that I had purchased earlier in the week.”

The supplies included sports strapping tape (like zinc oxide, heavy adhesive and elastic adhesive tape, cohesive bandages, and black tape), oral rehydration salts and glucose. She purchased enough to last through the two days of the tournament.

Nataatsya then went home to prepare for the journey from Kampala to Bugembe across the river Nile. The Rhinos team bus left Kampala at 9:30 p.m. and arrived at their hotel a few minutes to midnight.

“When we checked into the hotel, I checked on my players, freshened up, and then retired to bed around 1 a.m.”

Game day (before arrival at the venue):

“I woke up at 6 a.m. and prayed to kick start the day. I then switched on my phone to check on my family back home.”

Nataatsya says she is not a breakfast person. So she quickly set about work on what she expected to be a long day.

“I started strapping players at 7 a.m. as they had their breakfast.”

“Then I finalised prepping my medical kit bag and ensuring I had all I needed for the first day.”

The team set off from the hotel to the venue (Bugembe Football Stadium) at 8.30 a.m.

Morning session (first round of matches):

For the Kyabazinga 7s, Rhinos was in Pool A with Impis, Kiira Crocs, and hosts Walukuba Barbarians. Their first match was at the tail end of the first round at 10 a.m.

“As soon as we arrived, we prayed as a team before the players did their activation and stretching.”

Full body activation and stretching is a mandatory routine for all players. Nataatsya’s role is to ensure that all those participating are injury-free and ready for action.

“The first match went on fairly well, apart from one player who sustained a knock in the ribs. I recommended immediate substitution for further management.”

“At half-time, I led a thirty-second session of breathing exercises for relaxation, to reduce anxiety, and to help with cardiovascular fitness. This is also one of the routines we have built as a team.”

After the match, Nataatsya checked on her players and attended to those who had sustained some knocks.

“Post-match, the players iced their knocks. I advised lots of hydration for them (it was a hot day) and then we all sat to watch the rest of the games.”

Afternoon session (second and third round of matches):

The second and third-round matches proceeded routinely without incident. For a physiotherapist like Nataatsya, this is a thing of dreams since it means her players will be ready to go in the knockout round the next day. It also means that she will have less work to do in the post-match period.

Read how a player’s day goes

Rhinos’ scorecard had two wins (against Impis and Kiira Crocs) and a loss (to Walukuba). This meant that they progressed to the main cup quarterfinals.

Post-match period (from 5 p.m. til late):

“The players then went for an ice bath (at the end of the day’s matches).”

The ice bath, where players sit in ice-cold water, is a therapy technique used to ease soreness in muscles and speed up recovery. Nataatsya recommended that her players do three sets of two minutes each in the ice bath.

“We had lunch as a team at 6.30 p.m. and then set off to the hotel to rest. I retired to bed at 9.30 p.m.”

The next day (knockout round):

Rhinos played three matches and finished in sixth place behind Heathens who beat them in the 5/6th place playoff.

“I had to activate my thirteenth player (for the Heathens match) after a player suffered a concussion (in the prior match against Hippos).”

Uganda Rugby Union’s concussion protocol is “Recognise and Remove”, and thus, any player who is suspected to have suffered a concussion is withdrawn from the match immediately.

“The games ended by 2 p.m. and players went for an ice bath.”

“After the Cup finals, I returned to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for the journey back to Kampala. I reached home at 11.30 p.m. and rested to prepare for the next week.”

Ernest Akorebirungi joined Kawowo Sports in July 2019 after one year as a student volunteer at the Makerere University Games Union. In his role as rugby correspondent, he offers unique insight and analysis...

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