10 Questions with (Head Therapist) Nicole Lemke

How long have you been with the Wildcats?
I began working with the Wildcats in the 2003 season.

Tell us about your educational background
I completed my Physical Education degree at the University of Alberta; from there I went to Mount Royal College (now University) in Calgary to take my Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy. In June of 2004, I became a Certified Athletic Therapist with the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association (CATA). I am also an Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. Currently, I am working on my Masters of Science at the U of A with a focus on sport concussion research.

What does your role as head therapist entail?
A lot of paperwork! I have to make sure each athlete completes their CCES Online Drug Education course, baseline concussion testing and medical history forms. Throughout the season we also keep injury history notes on each athlete. There is a lot of information to keep track of and the whole therapy staff is involved with this.

Injury prevention is always a big topic for the players. What tips would you offer to them?
Come into main camp in good physical condition. This includes flexibility, core strength and balance. There’s a lot more to football besides running and lifting weights. Also keep yourself healthy. A regular meal plan and sleep patterns can get thrown off during the hectic football season. A cold or flu can affect the whole team.

What are the most common injuries you see, both in training and on the field?
We see a lot of ankle and knee sprains.

Could they be prevented, or “just a hazard of the sport”?
Some of the contact mechanisms of injury are difficult to prevent. The individual injuries where an athlete plants their foot and twists their body are easier to prevent. Again it comes down to a good proprioception (a sense of self – where your arms, legs, joints, etc. are) or a sense of your joint in space. Lots of balance on unstable surfaces work.

What is the most unusual injury you’ve seen?
At the U18 Football Canada Cup tournament an athlete lost the tip of his ring finger with a crushing injury between two face masks. The athlete and therapist were shocked with that injury.

There’s always a debate about the significance of stretching before and after practices. How important is stretching, in your opinion?
Maintaining flexibility is important. This cannot be achieved by a warm up and cool down alone. The goal of a warm up is to increase blood flow to the tissues so they are ready to use. This can be achieved with more ballistic and high speed stretching. The goal of a cool down is to lower the heart rate and stretch out the tissues. This can be achieved with more static stretches. If an athlete struggles with tight muscles, they need extra stretching outside of their warm up and cool down.

You’re very well-versed in concussion knowledge. What signs should we look for when we suspect someone has one?
I think most people are familiar with the physical signs/symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea, etc. People may be less familiar with emotional symptoms, cognitive symptoms, sleep disturbances, and balance problems. Anyone of these symptoms can mean a concussion injury has occurred.

Final comments.
I’m looking forward to my 11th season with the Wildcats. Go Cats Go!