Clay Sniteman M.S., P.T., ATC, is a Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer for the ATP World Tour. He also runs a private PT business, Sundance PT in Utah. If you watch tennis you've probably caught a glimpse of him on court when a player needs assistance with an injury. Sniteman is one of the ATP's seven staff trainers covering twenty-two tournaments worldwide annually. I caught up with him recently while in New York:
What kinds of injuries do you see the most on the ATP tour?
There are always multiple shoulder issues and back injuries because of the rotational motion but we see and care for everything, knees, hips, elbows. The surface can make a difference in the types of injuries. Clay and grass mean more knee issues. Altitude and temperature changes can cause elbow issues. There are a lot of factors involved. There are also unexpected things from calf strains to waking up with a stiff neck. We are always busy.
How and when do you get involved with a player?
We [the other ATP trainers] are always in touch with each other and if a player is coming from one tournament with an injury we know what they are going to need before they come in. We work with players before, during and after a tournament at the event location, making sure all of their needs are met.
There is a training room at every tournament - a designated spot to work but I'm on court with the backpack too. Some facilities have more amenities than others. If there isn't space at a smaller event, we bring something in.
What types of treatments are you using to keep players comfortable while they play with injuries?
It really depends on what the player wants. Some players travel with their own trainers and I don't get involved. Some have a particular treatment they like and ask for it. Ice, massage, continued rehab...it's all part of it.
I'm seeing more and more tape on the tour players. Is this something you are using a lot more of now?
We still use stiff white athletic tape on ankles, where we want to restrict a motion. Kinesiology tape is diffferent however, and that's what you are seeing. It has become very popular because it is lightweight and can be used on multiple joints, adhering well and staying put through heavy sweating. I like KT Tape Pro as it is 25% stickier than the other brands out there. What we are doing with it is taking pressure off of specific muscle or joint so motion is pain free.
Isn't is bad to mask pain?
Pain meds mask biomechanical issues and the pain caused by them. We're not masking pain, we are preventing it. If you can put a joint into a position where it should be, so it's not grinding on a bone, for example, the player can continue to play at their highest level.