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OFF THE COURT TALKS – Goran Kruselj: “I enjoy working for the Croatian handball national team with all those great handball players!”





In the latest in our ‘’Off the court talks’’ we welcomed Goran Kruselj who is doing his job as a physiotherapist since 2003. Besides, talking about his Olympic experience, work with professional athletes from different sport disciplines, and his sport studio, he also emphasized the importance of injury prevention and additional education. Croatian handball national team physiotherapist is the next guest of the interview series powered by Namman Muay. It is time to meet him!

How long are you doing your job as a physiotherapist?

Since 2003. Firstly, I started working for the futsal team ”Petar Rauch” in Podsused (a neighborhood in Zagreb). That was my first contact with the sport. After that, I made a ”transfer” to football club Vrapce. During that period, I was working with the futsal national team. Then, for 12 years I was an official physiotherapist for football club ZET. They were playing in the Third Croatian League. In 2012 I opened a body care and maintenance studio. Also, we are offering physical therapy, rehabilitation, and other physical procedures for recovery after injuries.

Why did you decide to open a physiotherapy studio?

My father is a medical technician, and he was working in the emergency department in Zagreb. When I was in elementary school we talked about massages and physiotherapy. Also, I watched matches on TV, and I was always watching physiotherapists how they run onto the field and provide help to the players. I started reading more about all that and it influenced my decision to start with physiotherapy. During high school, I gained more interest in the physio world. A lot of people from my high school didn’t continue in this field because they lost interest and will. I wasn’t a part of professional sport at the beginning, I was working for regional leagues in Zagreb. For me, it was always very interesting to work with people, especially people from professional sport because you always learn something new, and you meet a lot of new people. Also, you travel a lot so that is very good.

Do athletes from other sport disciplines come to your studio?

I have been a part of the female and male handball world for 12 years so handball players are coming to my studio. Also, handball players from the national team, when they are on vacation in Zagreb and they are injured, they are coming here. We usually have handball and football players.

You work for Croatian Olympic Committee, and you attended Olympic Games in Tokyo. Before that, you were in London (2012) and Rio (2016). Can you describe that Olympic experience?

Olympics games in Tokyo were very different than before, because of Covid-19. Before we went to Tokyo, we had to fill a lot of paperwork, and then when we landed, we had to do the testing for Covid-19, which lasted three to four hours. Those were my third Olympic Games, so I knew the procedures. And about the experience, you are basically living with 15 thousand people in one huge city complex, eating together and all. It was great because you are living with professional athletes from all around the world. It’s a chance to meet a lot of new and interesting people. Since I didn’t get the chance to see the city before, I stayed with my colleague one day after the closing ceremony to do the sightseeing.

As you mentioned above, you are working with many athletes from different fields. Is there a unified approach to the prevention of injuries?

Prevention in sport is very important if you want to avoid injuries. There are some small differences in the exercises, but the approach is the same in all sports. First aid is a primary thing to do when it comes to an injury. After that, it comes physical therapy, mobilization, exercises, until you reach full mobility and intensity.

You are also working as a physiotherapist in beach handball. Are there any differences in beach and indoor handball when it comes to injuries, prevention, warming up?

When talking about the beach and indoor handball, we can make a difference. Injury prevention, exercises, and warming up, that is pretty much the same. But when it comes to the severity of sports injuries, I would say that they are more serious in indoor handball. That doesn’t mean that there are no injuries in beach handball, just, indoor handball has more contact. In beach handball tournaments, dehydrations are more likely to happen due to the weather and heat. In indoor handball, there are more head-on collisions, bleeding arcade, joint distortion, muscle rupture, and so on.

When the injuries happen, what is the most important thing in your reaction?

The most important thing is to see in which segment the injury happened because it’s hard to see the angle of the impact or the way the player fell. But the most important thing is communication with the player, to determine the exact place of the injury. Also, there is a system of practice called RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) that is used as a first-aid after every injury, 24-48 hours after it happened. After that, the physical therapy starts, not sooner. The therapy could include ice treatment, magnet, laser, mobilization, creams, and similar supplements for a faster recovery. Of course, it depends on the type of injury.

Are you working with professional athletes only?

When talking about my studio, I mostly work with regular people who are not professional athletes. Those are people working 9 to 5 jobs, always sitting, having back problems and that is 60-70 percent of my patients. If you ask other physiotherapists who work in their own studios, they will probably say the same.

How does your usual day look like when you are with the national team at the training camp and at the big competitions? Are there any differences?

There are some differences, but they are now mostly related to Covid-19. We have testing every day, so that means more working time for us physiotherapists. Then the usual, breakfast, we share the supplementation, isotonic drinks, and everything the players need. It’s then usually time for training, lunch and in the evening once again comes training. After the training, the physiotherapist is needed for massages, therapies for the injured players, regeneration after the long day, etc.

Do you prefer working for the national team or in your studio?

It depends because everything has its positive and negative sides. Of course, I enjoy working for the Croatian handball national team with all those great handball players. But on the other hand, I enjoy working in my studio as well.

What is the most important thing in injury prevention?

It is important that every athlete does injury prevention not only in the national team but also in the club and in every practice. Sometimes you cannot prevent some injuries. Those are some mechanical injuries when contact occurs. But for example, you can prevent ankle injury with good mobilization and activation. Also, supplementation and regeneration are very important things in the training process. By regeneration, I mean the pool, sauna, massages, Cryotherapy, lymphatic drainage, or machines with vacuum therapy. Also, there is the importance of sleeping at least 7-8 hours a day, using supplementation, going on massages, etc.

Among all the work, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like to train, sport is very important for me because that is how I’m getting rid of the stress. I really enjoy CrossFit and road cycling. And grilling. First, you have to do good training and get rid of the stress and at last, enjoy the grill.

Which advice would you give to all young and future physiotherapists?

First, they have to love their job and enjoy doing it. Also, a very important thing is education. Additional education is very important in our job because everything is progressing. By that, I’m referring to manual technics and devices. You shouldn’t be focused only on books because practice and additional education are crucial for our job. Through educations, you have an opportunity to meet new people and you never know where that can take you.