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Interview with Puneri Paltan physio Dr. Akshay Jain: "We are one of the fittest sides in Pro Kabaddi"

The Puneri Paltan physiotherapist talks about Pro Kabaddi, Puneri Paltan, reveals the strongest player in the team and a variety of other topics in a free-wheeling interview.

Dr Akshay Jain puneri paltan pro kabaddi
Puneri Paltan physiotherapist Dr. Akshay Jain

In any sport, the attention is mainly given to the athletes participating, but they are supported by an entire team of individuals who make sure the particular sportsperson is in the best condition to participate. Similarly, Star Sports Pro Kabaddi franchise Puneri Paltan have individuals dedicated to take care of the team. One very important person is Dr. Akshay Mahavir Bardiya, who is employed with the Paltans as a physiotherapist.

Having graduated from Dr. DY Patil College in Pune back in 2012, Dr. Jain, as he is called, has established himself as one of the most reputed physiotherapists in the country. Being a district level badminton player, a marathoner and actively participating in Tae-Kwon-Do and kickboxing, it is no surprise that he chose the sports industry to practice his trade. He was part of the I-League side Kalyani Bharat FC prior to his assignment with Puneri Paltan in Pro Kabaddi.

They say injuries are part and parcel of the game, but Dr. Akshay has ensured that is not the case with Puneri Paltan. He spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview over the phone where he talked about a variety of topics.

Here are the excerpts:

Q. Tell us about your role with the team.

I am with the Puneri Paltan as a physiotherapist. I take care of all the injuries that the players suffer. As kabaddi is a high-intensity sport and involves a lot of body contact, there are high chances of injuries and we try to keep it at a minimum.

Q. What prompted you to join Puneri Paltan?

Earlier, I had worked with a football team (Kalyani Bharat FC) and athletes. However, kabaddi is our sport. It is an Indian sport, so the level of patriotism in being involved with kabaddi is at a high. Moreover, I wanted to try different things and this seemed like a brilliant opportunity.

Q. How has your experience been of being in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi?

It has been awesome! The injuries are more or less the same as in other sports. But, as kabaddi is an extremely demanding sport, more training work is needed.

As for the players, they are very humble and down to Earth. They are very nice. They listen to everything we advice them and it is a treat taking care of them.

Q. What sorts of injuries are common to kabaddi players?

Due to the presence of the mat, players suffer from plenty of bruises. The most prone joints are the ankle, knee and shoulder. Most of the injuries suffered by the players are related to the aforementioned areas.

Q. How do you check the fitness levels of the players?

We have a system called the FMS – Functional Movement Screen. It tests the speed, endurance, agility and stamina of the players.

Q. What is the worst injury you have seen happen with the team – in training or matches – so far?

We have an Omani player – Waleed Al Hasani – who plays in the right corner. During a warm-up session 10 minutes before the match, he twisted his knee and his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tore. It was a big blow to the team as he is one of our main players. Thankfully, we have medical personnel present at every session and we evaluated him to find out the extent of the injury so he could get proper care.

Q. As we are talking about ACL injuries. I, myself, have suffered it twice and know how difficult and lengthy the recovery process is. So, could you please shed some light on the effect such an injury has on players mentally.

Yes, of course. The mental aspect is a major part of the rehabilitation process and it is extremely important it is not taken lightly. We take care that any player who suffers an injury returns back as the same player he was before the injury. The players want to return to action soon, but we ensure that they complete their entire regime before returning and this helps regain confidence.

One such example is Mahipal Narwal, who suffered a major injury, but listened to us and completed his entire rehabilitation process before making a comeback. This helped him overcome the mental block and you can see how well he is playing.

Q. Who is the fittest player in the Paltan squad?

We are blessed to have some of the fittest players in the squad. Manoj Kumar is an extremely good athlete, while Kenyan Simon Kibura is built like an ox. David Mosambayi’s fitness levels are up there with the very best while Tushar Patil and Sachin V. are extremely agile and fit.

Simon Kibura pro kabaddi Puneri Paltan
Simon Kibura

Q. Do you make the players follow any particular diet?

Yes, we have a very strict diet plan that each player has to follow. We ensure the players don’t gorge on sweets or fried food. We make sure the players take their dietary supplement as in the Pro Kabaddi League, they have to maintain their weight (The League rules state that no players can weigh more than 85 kgs at any time during the tournament).

Q. Puneri Paltan have players from different ages. So, do all the players follow he same fitness plan or is it separate for each?

Most of the players have been playing kabaddi for a very long time and we need to have a good dialogue between the two. We need to understand their point as to how they have managed to remain fit throughout the tournament, while they need to understand what we are advising is for their benefit.

We have a trainer with us who gives special attention to all the players as well.

Q. The Pro Kabaddi schedule is extremely tight with the home team playing 4 matches in 4 days while they participate in at least 14 matches in a month. How do he players keep up their fitness levels?

We had devised a plan for the players after the tournament schedule had come out. It includes their travelling and practice. It is an extensively chalked out plan that ensures the players remain in the pink of health throughout the event.

Q. Finally, how are the Paltans different from other teams in the tournament in terms of fitness?

We have worked a lot on fitness. It is mostly sports specific and does not include just gymming or running. We have a long way to go in the League, but our squad is one of the fittest core among all the others.

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