'Players are comfortable now after early shyness': Ankita Matondkar, only female physio in PKL 2022
Puneri Paltan's Ankita Matondkar is the only female head physiotherapist in Pro Kabaddi League Season 9.
Pro Kabaddi League and their franchises are generally all-male crews. Things have changed slightly now as Ankita Matondkar is serving as the head physiotherapist for Puneri Paltan.
It is a coincidence that Ankita is in the PKL. It was days before the start of season 9 that she was asked by her HOD at Kokilaben Hospital if she would be interested in the role, as her colleague had to withdraw from the Puneri Paltan role due to personal reasons. The coincidence is turning out to be a good experience now.
"I thought about it a lot when I was offered this opportunity because it's a men's league. So I researched everything possible. I spoke with our CEO, trustees and HOD. Everyone backed me and told me that if I was confident then they don't have any issues. I have travelled with sports teams before, but never with an all-male side. My colleague is working as a physio for Jaipur and I also knew some of the players from before. So, I felt comfortable with being around people I know," said Matondkar.
The Puneri Head Physio added, "I have been associated with PKL teams for off-field procedures such as pre-season fitness tests, but this is my first time on the field in the tournament."
Matondkar expressed that the players were a bit shy to work with her in the beginning. "I also wondered if the players will be comfortable with a female physio. Because they have to come to me if they are facing an issue (with their bodies).
"Initially, the players were a little shy, but then within a week, all of the players felt comfortable while working with me and they started treating me as just another physio. Overall, this has turned out to be a good experience for me. My CEO told me that even if I feel slightly uncomfortable, I have to go back home. And I have not felt that yet."
The head physio also spoke about the importance of being on her toes all the time.
"Kabaddi is a very injury-prone sport because it's a contact sport. You never know when a player incurs an injury. That's why we have to be on our toes all the time. Small niggles will happen in every match. We have to manage and prepare the players for the next match. But, the players are very fit and they are used to facing niggles. I have seen the players recover faster than athletes in other sports and the kabaddi players' pain tolerance level is quite high."
Matondkar also spoke about an injury prevention programme the players undergo before the season.
"The athletes go through tests well before the season, where we find out in which aspect the player needs to work on before the season. We check if the players have any niggles or aches and we also identify aspects the players can improve on to put up a better performance. We look to prevent injuries and enhance performances."