Chris has over 20 years of experience working at the highest clinical level, offering expert opinions to various state & national athletes. West Coast Health is proud to be a partner of the West Coast Eagles Football Club providing them with Physiotherapist and Injury management services for the AFL WAFL team as well.
Highlights of the episode:
- How Chris develops his crafts and skills
- Who are his usual clients and athletes he works with
- How he got his job at West Coast
- His fave movie
- Noel McRoberts
- James Crawford
- Pete O’Sullivan
- Steve Hooker
- Matt Priddis
- Paul Tucker
- Steve Allan
- Mick Hughes
- Neale Daniher
- Judith Thompson
- Nick Kane
- Paul Burgess
- Tim Gabett
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Jack: Welcome to our live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. And tonight my guest is Chris Perkin. He is the director of West Coast Health and High Performance, and he’s part-time in the West Coast Eagles where he started in 2004. Chris has over 20 years of experience at the highest clinical level, offering expert opinions to various state and national athletes. West Coast Health is proud to be partner of the West Coast Eagles Football Club, providing them with physiotherapists and injury management services for the AFL and WAFL team.
Before we start tonight’s episode, our mission here at ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ is to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge and some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to strengthen the AFL community. If you like the show, please show your support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We’re on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.
Welcome, Chris. Thanks for joining us again, mate.
Chris: Thanks, Jack. Thanks for having me on, mate. I look forward to having a chat.
Jack: We’ve got a bit more time on our hands now to really dive into your journey. You mentioned 2004 West Coast Eagles, so you’ve had a good stint there, which, no doubt, you spent some time of your career over at the Eagles, but let’s go back to the very beginning. At what age did you discover you had a passion for physiotherapy?
Chris: It’s always a funny one. I think people find it difficult to know when the exact moment was, but being in sport, I suppose this is probably a familiar story with people going into physio. I injured myself playing country footy in the in Kambalda, which is a place near Kalgoorlie. You guys over the East Coast wouldn’t have a clue where that is. A little mining town and everyone plays footy and cricket and basketball.
So, spraining the ankle. My old lady, my mom, took me to the local physio clinic or nursing post it’s called. Because there’s not much going on there in a small country town. It was a good experience, basically. Couldn’t move with this ankle and got myself back playing within a week or two, which, obviously, we know that happens. And that was probably enough of a good experience for me to get involved at about year 10 or 11, I think, as a 15–16-year-old.
So, I guess from there on, it took me on that sporting concept pathway. And obviously physio is not just about sport, we know that. I was lucky enough to delve into that when I graduated. But my physio career was almost over on a fourth year country prac where I left a wax bath on in the hospital I was at and came back to a flaming room and the fire department there. So, I was destined not to work in a hospital.
Jack: It’s classy. So, everything turned out all right?
Chris: Yeah. The fourth year student lost the marks for leaving the wax bath on. That sent me into sports physio instead of the hospital setting.
Jack: You made the right choice, I reckon. And with the physio side of things, you mentioned a week turnaround, what did your rehab look like at the age of 15 at that point? What was the ankle injury and what did you do?
Chris: You’re testing me out now 30 years ago? From memory, I was doing some wallboards and butt balancing sort of stuff, just getting on and actually just walking out feeling, ‘Oh, that actually feels better.’
And I think that’s what physio is. Our aim is to have someone walking out the room and being a bit more empowered and feeling like we’ve had an effect. And so, walking out of somebody and thinking they helped me there. Geez, that’s great. This is not a bad little feeling.
I guess that’s what we do in our profession, it’s helping out people. So, it was a nice feeling and rewarding to get back to what you love doing. And that’s how I’m in sports and medicine and health, it’s getting people back to what they love doing and that’s exercise.
Jack: Awesome. I love that. That’s great. And it’s an empowering message as well for practitioners too. Like you said, if we can help the athlete walk in and as they walk out they’re feeling better, more confident and feeling better physically, you’ve done a pretty good job.
Chris: Absolutely. Just to know you’ve actually had an effect. Something’s changed. Often injuries don’t change in a hurry, but to walk out of every session with someone and something’s actually helped, or your mind’s changed or you’ve been positively influenced by something, is good.
Jack: And what about those that have influenced you in your early part of your career? Did you have mentors early on or did you forge your own way? Talk us through.
Chris: I was lucky enough to jump into physio practice early days that linked in with a couple of sports teams. I think my first company was Western Sport Gear, it was called. A fellow Mac Robins, he was more towards the end of his career and he ran the Australian hockey team and Milwaukee basketball, who, sadly, didn’t make the finals this year. But I think that was a great experience. So, he took me on knowing I’d played a lot of sport along the pathway before hitting the physio. I was a footballer, basketballer. That all helps, I think, as you’re developing into your profession to be active in the things you want to go into.
That was a nice start. I cut my teeth on some elite sports people in my very early days. And I still remember, you might not know the guy’s name, the ‘Alabama Slamma’ he was. He was James Crawford. He was one of the centers for the Wildcats. And my fist ankle strapping was James Crawford telling me, ‘Hey man, you know what you’re doing, man, with that ankle?’ And he’s ‘Alabama’ and he’s got a 21-year-old strapping his ankle. So, you learn pretty quickly when athletes give you shit and you grow from that. I mean, you can take it on board and it’s yeah, but no, it’s great.
That was a really nice start and working with Wildcats, trying out hockey and doing some trips with some more senior physios in my early days and traveling to Pakistan with the Australia hockey. That was an amazing experience back in 1999, moons ago. People only just started going back to Pakistan, so I was lucky enough to be there with the Aussie hockey team and seeing the passion of sports around the world, you know what I mean? People playing cricket in every park you walk around in Pakistan. It’s unbelievable. The hockey stadium. Incredible stuff.
So, it was instrumental in getting me involved in that stuff. And I suppose winning a premiership with the Wildcats in 1999 was pretty good memory. So, that was a good influence. And then I did my sports physio degree. Funnily enough, Peter O’Sullivan was our lecturer that year, transitioning out of sports and so transitioning into lecturing and then my next employer, I guess. So, Peter O’Sullivan, the back guru from Perth, with all this amazing research that he’d done. He got me on board to work with him for a few years, and then we became business partners.
That was an amazing experience with Peter. He taught me his trade in spinal pain, pelvic pain, chronic pain. And to bring that into the sporting field was really special and a good part of how I operate. I was very lucky to be business partners with him for 10 years along the way and a women’s health physio in Judith Thompson. And so, there’s some key physios that influenced me on the way. And I guess working with athletes like you are, mate, and all the people that are listening with us.
Probably two athletes that stick in my mind are Steve Hooker, I worked with him. He’s a Melbourne man, so you know him well. His time over here when he was with the WEI’s program. And he was a genius at just getting everything out of his body. Wanted to perform, pushed everyone around into getting better. So, almost led to actually go and hunt things down on to how to actually improve on performance and all the little things that make a difference, the 1% that makes a difference in an athlete’s body and how they feel.
We came up with some fun things. He’d search around for different people’s opinions and we’d talk it through. And yeah, spending some nights in the front of the TV, putting needles in him or getting release work done was part of our routine as well. My kids still have his gold medal, he had it around his neck when he was over. It was pretty great. You get to know your athletes really well when you work closely with them in it. That’s a pretty lucky thing to be doing with what we do in our profession.
And then probably another player that I just rate highly is Matt Priddis. Matty Priddis, Brownlow medalist for the West Coast Eagles. He comes through the rookie draft at a mature age. He just got the best out of it. Mr. Football we called him and his influence on me is just making people do all the things you need to do to get better. There’s no spare time when you’re at a footy club. Don’t just wait around. Get on the roller. Do some extra trigger work. Ask people questions on how you can improve. He was a great advocate for doing everything you can do to get the best out of your body.
So, those are the names that really helped me a lot along the pathway and gave me an approach that I do myself. And everyone has their own approach, but it blends in from all the influences that you’ve had. And all the physios along the pathway that we work with at the club. Being at the Eagles for 20 years, the band that you have with the physio group. So, Paul Tucker’s been with me forever there. Mark Finucane and Steve Allan, they’re great guys who influence you.
And, of course, the sports science crew that we work with. That whole team environment, working with sport science and coaches and everyone who’s got the same aim – to get your athlete at the best level and keep them on the track. And, unfortunately, at the Eagles at the moment we’re not quite doing the best job. We’ve been cursed a little bit. We’re doing everything we can, as we always will in my profession.
Jack: A hundred percent. I like that mindset, mate. It’s not just practitioners in your field. Obviously, you had mentors that you looked up to and you learned from. But also learning off the best athletes that you’ve worked with, practitioners in other fields, like you mentioned, coaches, sports scientists, strength & conditioning coaches, it’s a good perspective to have. I think, as all practitioners in the field of what we do, athlete preparation. Is that something that has come naturally to you, that open mindset? Like you mentioned, with Steve Hooker you loved the fact that he would probe you and challenge you on ‘How can we think more laterally and do things differently?’
Chris: I think everyone has a different approach and everyone’s had more experiences. That’s what we do as professionals. We look at the people who’ve done the research, we try it out, we see if it works from our perspective. Athletes respond to different things. Every athlete has a different mindset, don’t they? You need to get inside their head and just being an easy person to talk to is really important to get the best out of each athlete. Unless you get those details down, you might be pushing shit uphill in trying to get what you want out of them. If they’ve got a mental barrier of some sort you don’t quite get.
And we’re not going to be best suited to every person we talk with. You might find that if you’re open enough to different ideas, you’re not getting someone better than work with people you know, who have different skillsets. My motto is just deal with people who are the best at what they do, and then chase that down. We always aspire to say, ‘These people are great at what they’re doing.’ So, get as much information as you can from everyone around you, really.
Jack: And for the physiotherapists tuning in, that want to work in elite sport, they might be working at some official spot at the moment or community level, and they’re striving to get their foot in the door. You mentioned Peter O’Sullivan and the connection there was through doing your Master’s with Noel. How did you get that connection early on in your career? Was it calling? Was it through your own networks?
Chris: I think that was through a network of working alongside sports trainers. When you go through your degree, for me, as an employer, I think looking at getting involved in work experience. Ringing people up. If there’s an area you want to go to, ring them up, be annoying to a point where you can be helpfully annoying, because otherwise you get blocked pretty quickly. But if you want to chase something, chase it, it’s not going to come to you. You’ve got to chase it. Like physios now, jumping in and asking, ‘Sir, are you just sitting here with the patient that’s gone to the surgery?’ That’s a great idea. Just to get connected with the surgeon, the patient. Ring the personal trainers, that I deal with all the time.
I’m going off track here a bit, but I guess for getting your first bite of the cherry when you’re going into your profession, it’s actually putting it out there. Doing unpaid work that’s going to get you the opportunity to go where you need to, and just show a passion for what you’re doing. That’s what I’m looking for in all these people who tell you they love what they’re doing and they want to aspire to be better. So, having people around you that want to keep continue to be better, that ask you questions are really important.
My initial job was based on a contact and an opportunity from a question and my involvement in basketball. I love basketball playing and I’d also strapped footy guys as a player, playing through North Beach and Subiaco footy over here, and actually women too, working with one of the physios, helping strap guys before I’d go out and play myself.
Jack: It all helps.
Chris: Yeah, all helps. For many years I was running out, warming up my local footy team, going and cracking someone through Essex spine just before someone goes on the field, and putting a finger back, running down the full back and putting a finger back in. It all helped you just get the experience of what you wanted to go into.
Jack: A hundred percent. Take us through your mindset. Did you know that you are going to be a physio at that point, like in sport, and you were doing deliberate practice? Or was it just that you had a skillset and you just wanted to help?
Chris: Oh no, that was once I was in physio study, going through uni, still playing footy, going to the gym, juggling everything with life and work and doing your sport and having relationships and getting out with your mates and all those sort of things. The fun times. So, it’s just trying to put in as much as you can to where you think you’re going, to experience them.
From a physio perspective, we love to say dislocated shoulders and fingers and things like that. It’s not something most people love, but, unfortunately, they’re the experiences you want to see as a sports physio in your early stages, so you can experience it.
I just popped my young bloke’s, fifteen-year-old’s kneecap back in, when he was working at ‘Hungry Jack’s’ a couple of weeks ago. And so, that’s from years of experience. Instead of going to the hospital with ambulance, he’s given me a call, so I’ve ducked into his work.
Jack: And he finished up the shift.
Chris: Yeah. I think it’s just at every opportunity using what you can to do what you do.
Jack: Love that. And you mentioned an early on moment with James Crawford, it definitely could have been a sink-or-swim moment for a young practitioner. It reminds me of moments where you do hear what some athletes would keep to themselves and they’d be nice, and then other athletes will definitely let the trainer or the physiotherapist know if they don’t like the strapping job. And you said it’s a good growth experience to get better fit for physios, trainers, whoever it might be that’s experiencing those moments.
How do you like to develop your craft? You’ve talked about making the most of every opportunity you can get, whether it’d be strapping a mate, but are you trying to find new methodology to help blokes like Steve Hooker? Is that calling colleagues and hearing their, like you mentioned, research? What’s your favorite way to develop your own craft?
Chris: So, develop your own knowledge, I think. One thing is just talking and being open about cases. Discussing cases. In the AFL and NRL, whatever sport is at elite level, we’re always trying to get our patient, our players, our athletes back as quickly as we can and as safely as we can.
So, ringing people within your network, across fields. I was lucky enough to do a little bit of lecturing at Espeetar. And you’ve got some genius people over there. And you can join on your context, even in the research fields over there. They have a really rich research hospital. You can ring up and say like, ‘What’s the latest on this? Have you guys got anyone back earlier on this protocol?’ I think everyone’s happy to share. I’m just going to be careful with specific names, so it doesn’t get out.
But I think that’s one big thing is actually talking to colleagues and actually going through case studies. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Talking to sports positions, talking to anyone that’s had an experience with a particular case you’re looking for. And social media is huge now. It’s so much better. When I was studying undergrad, you we’re going to the library and looking at journal articles. I’m showing my great age. But it’s so much easier now and us oldies have a little bit less experience on the social media, but I still have a crack at trying to actually follow as many people as I can on that.
Mikie Use is the great one over there, who does have so much stuff on ACO stuff himself. He’s made a little bit of a business out of just having a great podcast that he does and he’s ACO staff. So, it’s the same with lots of different areas. People become experts in those areas and it’s nice to follow them and what they’re doing. You’re still getting your journal articles to flip through. Where we are at the West Coast, we share a lot of updated articles across sports science and medicine.
But I reckon the best one is actually asking questions. Feeling dumb enough to put yourself out there to say, ‘Look, I really need some help on this case. What do you think we can do?’ And I also think with patients, it’s asking them, ‘What do you feel has helped you or what’s not working?’ And being open, like, ‘Look, we’re not going anywhere near. What do you reckon we need to do?’ And having an open conversation about that and saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got this other guy I want you to see. I want to come in and catch up with him.’
In my clinic at West Coast Health and High Performance we will often bring a case that’s challenging in and get the whole group of 8 or 10 of us physios and group of people in there and challenge a run-around and go ‘Here he is, this is what I’m doing. What do you think? You guys piss him out, ask him questions and do some assessment on him. Let’s have a big open group discussion on this chronic hamstring tendinopathy that’s not getting better. Why? Why is it not getting better?’ Just challenge ourselves as to what else we can do.
I think people need to be mindful that they don’t know everything. And if you’re not getting someone better, challenge yourself to get more help. Don’t be afraid to get help.
Jack: And this might be a tricky question, but in your experience with doing that, specifically with physios, how much is it that the diagnosis was slightly off and how much is it that the relationship with the athlete was slightly off there that you didn’t quite get enough information?
Chris: You get very closely linked with patients, so you get very protective. Physios become protective sometimes with their patients and the patients develop a good relationship with them. I think patients appreciate that when someone’s referred you across to someone else, if you can’t get the process. Not necessarily to ongoing treatment, but for advice and say, ‘This guy does this, he’s a specialist in the pelvis or the groin or sees a lot of these. How about you see him and then he’ll give you his advice and you come back?’
I think that’s really important. But you’re right. I think they’re the ones that work better when the physio is mindful to actually push him on, as opposed to second or third opinions, because people haven’t got better and they become fed up. So, if someone’s not getting better with the injury, then you need to go forward and change what you’re doing or get a different approach. And do not look at it as a negative on yourself. You look at it as try and maybe ‘How can I learn from this?’ That’s more important.
But I think the people that maintain the relationship with their patient, they’re actually happy to refer on to someone who’s maybe a specialist or more expertise in the area.
Jack: Ultimately, you’re putting the athlete first, aren’t you? The client first, before yourself.
Chris: That’s our job. That’s our job to get the best that the human being in front of us, whether it’s an athlete or a patient with chronic back pain or whatever it is, you got to get them better. It’s not a nice environment to work in with someone who’s continually coming back in pain or having the same problems. You need to tough it up and figure out that you need to change your approach or get some help. And getting some help isn’t a negative, it’s a massively positive learning environment.
Jack: You’ve worked in a range of sporting environments. What are some highlights that you look back fondly of, Chris?
Chris: That Pakistan trip. Going to Pakistan and getting delivered this massive one ball, one made of ice block I had to chisel out, and watching how sport was done in a passionate country like that.
Having done a lot of physio at my local footy club, my mighty North Beach Tigers, I’ve just been very lucky to win a bunch of premierships with all these boys. And the celebration and always being the guy that asked, ‘Okay, what about this? What about that?’ Injury wise. The celebrations and the fun that you have with community sport and your physio link with that and with the players there. I can’t say enough about that. The links with community sport and the commitments to those and both as a physio/player and heavily involved in the club.
Watching Steve Hooker get his gold medal and being able to experience that with him. Working with the Eagles team. I was lucky enough to only be there for two or three years before they’d won a premiership. So, 2006, 2018. A couple of great premierships there. That’s not just that, it’s the relationships you build along the pathway with the clubs you’re with and the people you actually share that joy with, as opposed to the moment itself. But they’re certainly highlights from a sports physio point of view I was very lucky enough to be involved with.
But you can have just as much fun winning a local premiership, helping out with the under forties hockey team. It’s just how involved you get with whatever club and link you’ve got. I think it’s the fun stuff of what we do and being passionate about it, getting engaged with anything you do. Most importantly, being engaged in what you do well. So, I think there’s a couple of lucky moments I’ve had there over time and they’ll always stick in my memory.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing some great highlights and, from a personal point of view, all the way to the top, to two gold medals and premierships, which is great experience.
Chris: And professionally, I probably should say that getting that specialization under my belt was a pretty important thing. We were pushed by Peter O’Sullivan, he’s a genius physio and a research clinician. And that was a pretty big highlight of my career to be able to do that. And that’s something that a lot of physios are aspiring to do now and going through the training program to become that highest level of professionalism that you can get clinically. So, that was probably professionally the great moment to get that under the belt and then keep going. I’m not a researcher, but I love to be clinically working on people and continue advancing what we do.
Jack: And what about on the flip side? What have been some challenges that you’ve faced and what have you learned from them?
Chris: Challenge is always a difficult one. Challenge is coming patients that are not getting better, patients you’ve actually injured and learning from that and then trying to avoid doing that again. We get so connected with patients that we want to make joy within the right thing, and then some of them got backwards. So, learning from that and not doing that again. And then getting on the right track early.
The biggest challenge in my life and my career physio-wise was probably losing my wife. We had an awful time in 2009 and we were having a third baby and the baby got infected and she delivered a stillborn baby at term. And so, the baby died and my wife went into a coma and died three days later. So, no one likes to hear that stuff.
Jack: I’m so sorry to hear that.
Chris: Yeah, that’s the sort of thing no one wants to hear, but that’s the challenge and that’s the life story. So, for me to juggle kids, to juggle profession. I’ve done my sports physio degree by then and just finished my specialization and wanting to go in a career path, it wasn’t the priority. But I was lucky enough to have a great business partner in Peter and Judith with Body Logic Physio we had.
In our environment, in sport and the health profession, we help a lot of people. and it comes back in spades. And I was overwhelmed by the support I had with that. Sometimes I feel almost a bit lucky in one way that I had so much support. And then the other side of it is the opposite to luck. Blessed that the amount of support I have in my workplace was very supportive and bizarre, but it continued normality. I think what I learned out of that is the importance of relationships with human beings, live your life to the fullest.
For me I’ve just been a lucky man, to have my kids and grow up with them for the last 10 years and teach them the way I want to teach them. And, hopefully, they’ve learned a few things over time. But to professionally keep juggling footy, Eagles, business. The Eagles were amazing at that time for me. Actually I gained a credit through a sporting team that just did everything they could do at the time to just keep me on board and ‘What can we do?’
I think that over time people with challenges in their life and health challenges, look at Neale Daniher, for example, he was there at that time. I look at what he’s become. He’s an absolute legend, what he’s done with his cards he’s been dealt. So, it’s just a case of getting through the absolute crisis in life with things that occur and then try and create something from it.
And I was lucky enough to set up what we called the Sunshine Beach one. And it was a memory for anyone who’s lost a young child. So, they ended up being a memory of it for my wife. But, of course, people who have lost kids, babies and kids, which is going to be Red Nose foundation. So, we did that for about 10 years.
The learning of that is human beings are very resilient and we’ll keep plugging along. Kids are resilient more than anyone. The opportunity to have so much support. And we don’t know what’s ahead of us, so just live the moment and enjoy what you do, be passionate about what you do. Don’t hold back from what you want to do.
My difficulty was accepting that professionally I couldn’t probably go into all the things I want to do. And I think the massive juggle of life and that’s what we all do. Everyone is juggling life. So, there’s just trying to prioritize things when, as you know, elite sports are sort of followed environment. So, very lucky to be out of game, probably part-time then, and still stay involved thanks to the footy club and the good people around me.
Jack: Thanks for sharing, mate. And sorry again to hear that, but a super inspiring story for your kids, no doubt. They’d be looking up to you and lucky to have you. Like you said, resilience, so be able to have that attitude, to appreciate those that’re around you. Then I can imagine they would come out like spades and get around you and help that support and to raise a fundraiser as well. Absolute tragedy, but it sounds like you kept moving forward, which is, like you said, Neale Daniher way. So, super inspiring I’m sure for everyone listening.
You mentioned the Body Logic with Peter O’Sullivan. So, it sounds like you guys have been business partners for quite some time. For the business owners out there listening in, have you had a successful working relationship in that space? There is high pressure and there’s lots of stakes. Have you guys worked well together?
Chris: I guess what we had at the time was a business and Body Logic is a great business. I’m not with them anymore. Obviously, developing my own West Coast Health and High Performance. Because, I guess, what we did at the time was we had our specialty areas. And Pete was the guru and he’s in back pain, chronic pain and managing all these sorts of things and all chronic issues and the researcher. And the women’s health was run by Judith Thompson. She’s a pioneer in women’s health in IBM Perth.
So, we had our areas, so sports, physio, and that specifics part was mine. Pete’s was the back pain and the spinal pain, but also chronic pain issues and Judith’s was women’s health. That worked really well. And I guess you can only stretch yourself so far over time. We knew our strengths, we pushed each other in different ways, but from a business perspective it worked really well for like 10 years.
And then my challenge, that was a really big part of challenging my career, a big tough one because I didn’t really want to move from Body Logic, but it was a bit too hard for everyone involved to just continualy develop something else. And my opportunity came up to set up a practice with the Eagles over at their home ground. And so, that was probably one of the first practices located at…
Jack: That’s becoming a bit of a trend now.
Chris: Yeah, we started a good job and set up in a place with the boomers in and out there now. But I think having that high performance center now at the Eagles is a dream of my wife and me. But doing it on mine own has been a tough gig, having from a practice where you’re working with two or three practice, but you get great people around you, supporting you, physios working with you and great business manager helping along the way. With Mel, who’s done that for me. It makes life a lot easier and that’s, I suppose, the key with business, isn’t it? You’ve got to have a plan, but you’ve got to be able to enjoy it. And we are nowhere near where we need to be and that’s continually building up and enjoying it on the way.
Jack: On that note, it makes a lot of sense having a physio clinic performance space within an AFL club. Why has it taken this long for it to start? Were there some strong challenges in getting it started?
Chris: Oh no. The Eagles facility was basically a move. They were at CBO forever and CBO basically got developed over us. You probably don’t know the backing behind it all. So, that was purely about building a community medical center that linked with the new build that was done. So, it was a multi-million dollar build at Vic Park, which is an area that we’d never been before.
It took a few years for it to develop. The facility there is outstanding, credit to the people that organized it and built it all. And I would challenge other facilities around just to have what we’ve got there. The Doggies did it probably 10 years ago, so they did it at Koji. And what we’ve got, I won’t say it’s better in any way because it’s different, but it’s ahead of what else is out there based on it’s the newest build.
So, something else would come down the track, that’ll be even more inspiring and more things going on. But our clinic was based on a lot of negotiating over time to just fulfill a role that they wanted anyway. As an offering to the community, we’re coming in bringing this big footy club.
Jack: That was good timing.
Chris: Yeah, timing was right, but, like everything in business, you have to negotiate and jump at it, otherwise you miss out.
Jack: A hundred percent. And talk us through the space for those that haven’t been there. Who is your classic client that works with you? Who are the athletes that work with you?
Chris: So, the business is separate to the point that the Eagles guys will come up and do their high performance stuff and their DEXA testing, and their VO2 max testing in there. I bought identity testing that they have as a part of research. If they need a Biodex testing, they can come up and use those things, which are often used for return to sport testing or measuring weaknesses. Most of the stuff they need is down at their actual footy club, but the occasional time to come and use the high performance stuff, that’s when they come up. So, the same stuff is offered to the community.
And so, I guess we’ve got a high performance part, which is just small aspect of the clinic. I mean, our clinic is based around physio and treating sports injuries, back pain, arthritis, your day-to-day patients that we’ll all see, that can all do with exercise. But the high-performance part of it is for the recreation or stimuli or anyone who wants to actually get the best out of themselves and actually get the best measurement out of themselves, get the best progress from a planning and a programming point of view. And go to that next level, whatever it is that ticks their box, or goal they want to create. That’s what the facility is there for.
We do the same with every patient we see. But for me with a patient to be able to go into a force platform test and measure their jump off the force plates and measure their guessed rock force left versus right by just jumping on a force plate. Or if the guys are there to jump on the decks that locates your body comp and drop 20 kilos, big fellow. If body comp’s not that good, but this is the base for you and we challenge you to lose 15 kilos over the next three months by doing X, Y, and Z. So, that’s very lucky to have that stuff there.
That’s not going to exist in most practices. I do think that takes a while to just get out into the community, that these facilities are available to the public. And it started getting better. We’ll look after some of the other local elite teams in towns who don’t have the facilities. And that’s only a small percentage of what we do. It’s trying to get all the community engaged in these things. And you know, why would I do that? But I think it just needs to be sold to the people that it is a very good opportunity. That’s important. And if you want to take yourself to that next level, like you say in your ‘Prepare Like A Pro’, if you want to get to that next level, then do what you can, help yourself, use facilities that exist around your town, wherever you live.
Jack: A hundred percent. And to have those objective measures, like you said, from body comp to screening and have access to all that, no doubt, there’ll be some athletes out there that have just never had access to it or practitioners as well, like the development of these start to be able to have that.
Chris: Absolutely. And just return to sport after an ACL, everyone does it. But I guess having just a little bit of extra resources to tick your box. And even if we’re not the ones doing the full return to sport, we can help other physios or exercise physios or PTs do their thing by just giving them this resource, giving them the report back. So, it all ticks a box of getting people back safely, returning to sport.
Jack: So, there’s a lot of other practitioners around the area that are also using your facility for consultation and assessments.
Chris: There is and there isn’t. That becomes a bit of a protective mode to pump some people with some extra resources, as I talked about before. If you can get the bit, if you’re willing to put it out there and help your patient more, then you know there are places that can give more information, something to help you with your management. That’s important to make sure that we do in our profession, it’s get the best for our patient, going where we need to go, joining forces with other people.
Jack: A hundred percent. Good message. And the one we’ll spread. Going back to your career progression, how did you get that first experience in 2004 at West Coast? What was the original role?
Chris: Probably through the current physio there, Paul Tucker. So, we both worked with athletics and with the weights athletes. He was probably doing a bit with the Paul Walters at the time as well with Paul Burgess, who’s now coaching Paul there. And then Tucker’s moved into that role with the Eagles. And it was probably one of the first full-time physios to go into AFL actually in about 2003. So, I followed up his role in athletics involved with giving things all and around town. When that came up, I jumped in very part-time with him to start with, because it was only role for one full-time physio. As I said, that was miles away. And now every club has two or three full-time physios, full-time sports science, full-time exercise fuse, full-time a bit of everything, really.
Prior to COVID there was a bit more there going, but now we’re tightening the screws. I mean, they want the best out of their athletes, so that was my opportunity through contact, but also working with someone else in different environment. And he wasn’t certainly working with me, but I certainly knew him as colleagues at the time.
Jack: There was trust there.
Chris: Yeah. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity and then jump in and knock stuff up at the start. And if you’ve played footy, if you’ve done things that you’re going into, it makes a difference. You’ve got that bit of respect from that point of view.
Jack: And the in your return to performance point of view, return to play, have you seen a lot of change in the methodology with something like a hamstring strain in your experience in footy?
Chris: In a way. Everyone’s got their different protocols and I guess the problem is if you look at the Orchard Report, which is the number one medical collection of data over years, the hamstring injuries have been less reoccurring, but they are still highly prevalent. They’re still number one injury in AFL. So, I think we’ve become more aware of all the different types, different levels in the central tendon a bit more from the investigating and taking that on board.
Have the rehab protocols changed that much? I think we go for an early intervention a lot more aggressively. We return to sport a lot more aggressively, but I think overall, we’ve done the right thing still for many years, 15–20 years I’ve been involved. The sports science is probably more involved in the last 10 years with the GPS data we are using. I remember having a laser gun we used to get out of the big box in the early stages 15 years ago. And we’d be a bit like a policeman with the laser gun, trying to get their speed and doing the acceleration/deceleration until GPS came very prevalently involved.
So, I think we’re still measuring speed, but not with the same technology we had. We’re still doing all the same things. Repeated strength, plyometric work, high-speed work. I think we know a lot more now that high-speed running is way more important at getting that into you consistently, before returning to sport. Being underdone with the chronic acute training loads is more important than we probably measured before. With all the research that we’ve seen coming out with Tim Gabbett and all the crew that we know they’ve done all that work.
I think we’ve still done it traditionally and hamstring strains have always been there, still are there. There’s no magic pill. And, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a big part of sports that require high speed and Aussie rules is one of those.
Jack: It’s getting faster.
Chris: You’re right. It’s getting faster and quicker. Watching footy games now, I think, ‘How quickly did they get the ball out?’ And it’s great. Intensity is always up there.
So, from hammy perspective, I think we’ve done it in a good while of time, but there’re still ways, where little things are improving and research backing up what we thought maybe 10 years ago. It’s validating what we probably were doing and it’s just being systematic about how you do it. You can’t prevent everything, but we can do our best to try and reduce the risk.
Jack: Awesome. Well said, mate. We’ll get into the personal side now of the podcast, have a bit of fun with these. The get-to-know-Chris-Perkin-side, mate. This first one is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? You can throw in a book as well, if you’re not a TV guy.
Chris: Probably the opposite for me. I wouldn’t like to say I’m not a book guy, but maybe a bit my ADD doesn’t let me read books that well. So, podcasts, movies are good. One of my favorite movies ‘Pulp Fiction’. That’s got nothing to do with anything here. So, we’ll go into my second favorite movie ‘Shawshank Redemption’.
I think it’s favourite for a lot of people. And with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, overcoming a seemingly impossible mission, being dealt some shitty hand and fought through what in the prison system you might think now they never do. I can’t remember, if it was based on a true story or not now. It should be, it’s such a good movie. But the passion to follow through on a task and a persistence to do what he did. In digging a fricking tunnel with a little pick that took him 10, 15, whatever it was, years to get through.
So, some great messages in that movie. Friendship that lasts forever. Relationship building, understanding human beings and how they tick. For me that movie that maybe was when that old bloke disappeared out of the life he had and nicked himself, he hang himself because he did not know a life outside of prison. So, the emotions from that movie were big for me. I enjoy the friendship and the camaraderie that you see in things like that. And then, as I said, the inspiration to actually follow your passion and get your goal.
Jack: No matter how long it takes.
Chris: Yeah, persistence towards a goal. That’s my favorite movie too. So, I just made some little positives up out of that.
Jack: A hundred percent, mate. You’re selling it well. That makes me want to watch it again.
Chris: And I really like chatting with young blokes at footy clubs ans say, ‘Go through movies I’ve watched.’ And you can’t believe some of the movies they haven’t seen. As I said, maybe I’m getting a bit old, but some of the classic movies that everyone’s watched or series. You’ve got to watch these things. So, if anyone hasn’t them all checked, go and have a look.
Jack: A hundred percent. I can vouch for that. It’s definitely my top 10, for sure. It’s a good long one as well. I don’t think they make movies three hours long anymore.
Chris: No. You can’t see them through. People have got a little bit of issues with social media.
Jack: All series now. 30 minutes, 60 minutes. You almost tied it into that first question, but favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Chris: One of my mum’s. My mum would always say to me ‘Be kind, always be kind to people.’ You be kind to them, they’ll be kind to you. You treat people how you want to be treated, that sort of concept. I think I take that into most of my patients, no matter who they are, where they come from, what their problem is. Whether they’re a Hollywood superstar athlete from the place like the Eagles or Mother Hubbard who walk in with a bung knee, I always try to be a nice, kind, friendly person to people that they can actually relate to. So, I think that’s really important in getting the results out of people, so they can build trust in you.
I think Morgan Freeman had the quote of ‘How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.’ Like he said, if everyone does that, a little bit of random kindness every day of their life, the world’s a better place. And if someone does that to you, you go, ‘Oh, thanks. I didn’t expect that.’ And that’s such a nice feeling to have. So, I think just being kind to people and understanding that you don’t know what’s going on at the back of someone’s life. If they’re a grumpy ass, they might have some battles going on in the background you don’t know about.
And that’s why in my job I hunt that down with people and try to find an underlying, what’s the real issue here that’s not getting them better. Sometimes it’s the battle they’re having in their brain underneath it all. So, it’s important to build relationships. And if you’re a kind person, you’ll get the best out of people you’re dealing with.
Jack: Wow. Great message. And what about on the flip side, in your work life what are your pet peeves? What makes you angry?
Chris: Oh, what makes me angry is a little too long non-weight bearing. That’s one thing when people are coming back out of surgery, I’ll work at that over time. I don’t think it’s good for bone health, and I don’t think it’s good for muscles health. I would like to get some more research done in time off your leg.
I know there’s a reason we need to be careful with injury management. But that’s one of my things, because we’re working at LEFH and if you’re off your feet for 12 weeks, you lose it. You don’t use it, you lose it. That’s the old motto. Bone health and muscle health, tenant health, how do we work on that while loading the body? I don’t like when people aren’t being active and I don’t like it when people are having excuses to not being active. But everyone’s different. You can’t push people.
One of my pet peeves probably is poor management. When I’m seeing second or third opinion people that haven’t given enough for the shit of their patient and just come to the standard average thing that just gets through some 15–20 minute appointment, they just haven’t put enough effort into the patient they’ve had.
And everyone’s different. Everyone has a different model of how they work, but I do not like when people are not using evidence-based things these days, people are using ultrasounds on things. Please, throw it away. Ultrasound machine or electric stimulation, it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work. It should be out of your clinic. And maybe there’s some new research that shows it does work somewhere. But please, show me. There’s so much more evidence-based stuff out there now in exercise, and I’m passionate about people getting on the right track quicker.
And when I see second or third opinions, that have been dealt the wrong cards, and have been thrown on this medical merry-go-round for a year or two years, and their life’s been put on hold because they haven’t had simple things given to them. That seems so shocking. Get second opinions, big picture stuff sometimes, don’t sweat the small stuff. Get people better and get them being happy again. It pisses me off when people are managed poorly overnight. There you go.
Jack: Now you can tell you’re passionate and you care, which I love to see. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off, mate? COVID-free world, everything’s gone beautifully in the world again in these last two questions.
Chris: Here’s a little bit of a code. So, being a physio, I probably don’t just sit and lie about. I struggle with doing nothing. I could be better at doing that, being mindful of just chilling out, but I struggle doing nothing. So, a perfect day for me would be hitting the gym. I can’t run anymore because of my dodgy hips. But doing some exercise, which involves a bit of cardio. Going down, watching my young bloke play footy. He’s in colts level. Catching up with my old footy mates and old friends, watching my footy team, and at the same time watching my Eagles win by 50 points.
Jack: That’s coming.
Chris: Taking my crazy dog for a walk and sitting by a fire at the end of the day with my footy on the mat, with kids and friends and just chilling out, but also having ticked a few boxes during the day.
Jack: Yeah, a good active day.
Chris: Yeah, but to be able to relax in a way you can reflect on what’s been happening in your life, maybe occasionally.
Jack: And last one for the rest of 2022, mate, what are you excited about? What’s on the horizon for you for this year?
Chris: So, this year continually grow the business. I’m enjoying the more of the performance stuff building, building and exposing that to the world. I’m looking forward to getting back to Rado. If you haven’t been to Rado Stadium, mate, you have to get over to Perth one day.
Jack: I have. But that’s probably been nearly been 10 years, though. So I am due to come back.
Chris: Getting back to Rado is going to happen more towards the sunny season. And I’m lucky enough to be getting out for some lecturing gig over in Switzerland at the end of the year, November. That’ll be my fifth trip over there doing some teaching in the hip and groin with some interpreters. And, I guess, just keeping fit and healthy and keeping people on the right track, getting them in the game, getting them the message of keeping fit and active and healthy. And along the way trying to have some fun.
Jack: And on that one, for those that are managing a busy schedule, how have you managed to be able to work in elite sport for as long as you have from a longevity point of view? And then also to create businesses and do other things outside of sport. How do you juggle your personal and professional life?
Chris: Yeah, very tough. Certainly, relationships are tough because you need to squeeze, there are a lot of people in your life and things like that do suffer over time. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of support with my kids. And so, that’s one part of it, but, again, getting your exercise early in the day, getting up at five o’clock, mate. I’m living on father’s six-hour sleep, even though we tell our elite athletes to live on eight plus. But if you don’t, you’ve got to drop time somewhere, if you want to put extra in. I guess if you’re enjoying what you do at work, it doesn’t seem like work. So, that’s important and a bit of variety. I think the variety.
I’ve been lucky enough that the club were happy to have me part-time as opposed to non-involved. And as a specialist, I can give that opinion, consulting environment, but also have been there long enough to know the system and how it works. And so, the juggle act of involving sport, life, friends, it’s just having a busy life. And I guess things are compromised somewhere and you have to accept that you can’t be everything to everyone and things will change at a time when life changes. So, roll with them, whenever you can.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Well said, thank you. Thank you so much for jumping on and sharing your time with us on a Friday night.
Chris: No, that’s good, mate. I appreciate you doing a great job with your stuff. Some good stuff coming out of it.
Jack: A hundred percent. You get guests like yourself and it makes my life easy. Just share your story, so thank you. And I thank you for everyone watching live. If you tuned in halfway through or at the end, make sure to
watch the whole episode on our YouTube channel and we’ll post the podcast recording for the podcasters out there on the upcoming Tuesday. So, stay tuned.
Our next live chat will be with Michael Crichton, the owner of Melbourne Fitness & Performance. That will be on Friday, the 13th of May. I’ll see you guys then, at 8:30 PM. Cheers, Chris.
Chris: Thanks, Jack.