My advice to every skateboarder would be to visit the sports-physio
even when you think your issue will heal on it’s own.
– Jeroen Stam
the Jeroen Stam interview.
25 April 2019 / interview: Matt Beare
In this interview we have a special, speeecial guest, Jeroen Stam, aka @skateboardphysio. Jeroen is another specimen of the rare breed of skateboarder/physiotherapists, and also the author of two internationally acclaimed feature films on The Daily Push (one and two). Jeroen's at the forefront of the more health-conscious movement in skateboarding and works rehabbing skaters out in the Netherlands. He's treated the likes of Sewa Kroetkov and Nassim Guamez, along with countless other skaters with his pop-up physiotherapy bench he sometimes takes along to skate competitions.
This year Jeroen's been making some pretty solid moves and has already been shipped out to Street League in Rio de Janeiro as the on-site physio for the Dutch team, along with starting to work with the Dutch Olympic team. In this interview he goes over his experiences at Street League, the importance of physiotherapy and rehabbing your injuries, when you should visit a physio and when you can probably give it a miss, and much more.
So Jeroen how’s things? How’s dad life treating you? Are you still finding time to skate?
Things are going good and dad life is awesome. Especially now that he is sleeping through the night! Skating has been limited but I try to skate once a week.
Have you got the little one his first board yet?
Not yet! But I will, as soon as he can walk.
You work primarily in a physiotherapist clinic right? Do you work with a lot of skaters?
That’s right. I mostly see sport related lower limb injuries and orthopaedic rehab after ankle, knee or hip surgery. I think I see about one or two skateboarders a month. Skateboarding is getting bigger here in Europe, and in the Netherlands but it's still pretty small. What I also noticed is that skaters are really scattered around the country and therefore rarely have the opportunity to visit me. That’s why I think Instagram is such an important tool.
How is it working with skaters? Are there many big differences between skaters and the general population?
Not really. It helps that I skate and have been injured as well so I can understand what they're going through. Also, good knowledge of how to prepare someone for the return back to the board is key to a successful rehab, and being a skateboarder myself helps a lot! The main thing that's different from other sports is that skateboarders are not used to going to the physio. For example, a soccer player or track athlete visit the physio regularly, just to make sure they're doing the right thing, or for some advice, or with little aches and pains while training. Skateboarders pretty much wait till they can’t walk and then decide to get checked out. My advice to every skateboarder would be to visit the sports-physio even when you think your issue will heal on it’s own, so that we can intercept the ones that won't. Also it’s important for you to make a well informed decision on when to skate and when to chill.
From my perspective, it seems that when most people are rehabbing an injury they sack off the rehab as soon as they feel just about okay to skate again. What are some reasons that people should avoid stopping their rehab earlier than recommended and do you have any techniques to motivate people to stick with it?
What I noticed is that a well informed patient is a compliant patient. Make sure you understand what's going on and why you're doing your exercises or undergoing a certain treatment. If you don’t agree with your physio, let it out, maybe he/she just misunderstood you, or he/she can give you a logical explanation on why you should follow their advice. Also, most therapy should (at least partially) be effective in 4-6 weeks. If that’s not the case talk about it and make another plan with your physio.
Like you said, most skaters don’t visit any kind of healthcare professional until they can't walk, or probably more accurately until their faces or genitalia are hanging off by a thread. Is it possible to give some examples of when it’s okay to avoid seeing a professional but times when you’d definitely recommend visiting one?
If you can walk it off and there's little to no swelling it’s probably ok. If not, but it’s getting better in a week or two, it's still probably ok. If you hear a snap or crack and/or there's immediate swelling and you're unable to walk, go to the ER or the family doctor. If it doesn’t get better or gets worse in the first week or two, go see a physio or family doctor. For knee injuries you have to be aware of the feeling of instability and giving way, if that’s what you're feeling, go see a physio.
In your experience what are some of the most common injuries skaters go through?
I reckon ankle/foot injuries, but there hasn't been proper research done in our population. I would love to do that when there's time!
What are some things they can do to prevent these injuries?
Exercise! Once or twice a week. It doesn't have to be all that complicated. I refer a lot of people to your exercise section on The Daily Push. Other things are; don’t overreach or skate stuff you've never done when injured or tired. Pretty much common sense.
What are some classic rehab mistakes skaters make or rehab myths that you’d like to see come to an end?
Haha, biggest mistake to not do rehab at all! Just get yourself checked out, stop talking about it and start doing it. A common myth (not necessarily for skaters) is that an MRI or X-ray is important to get your diagnosis right, it’s not! Only if conservative treatment (like physiotherapy) doesn't help, further diagnosis by an orthopaedic surgeon can be helpful. In healthcare we became very good at over-diagnosing patients. Because the imaging is so good we keep finding new and more abnormalities, but it's unclear if these abnormalities actually give you your pain. Not every visible ‘tendinopathy’ gives pain, arthrosis does not equal pain, or not every meniscus tear is a reason for complaints. So trust the diagnosis your physio gives you and do your best at rehab.
You’ve worked at a fair few skate competitions throughout the Netherlands but you recently made it to the big leagues and went out to work at Street League in Rio de Janeiro! How did that opportunity come about, and what were you doing out there?
Yes, that was very cool! The Dutch Skateboard Federation asked me to come along and take care of their riders. I've worked with the federation and more then a few skateboarders in the past so they kind of automatically came to me.
photo: Derk Steemers
Did the pros know you were there and were told to visit you if they had any issues?
Just the Dutch team, which was Sewa Kroetkov, Nassim Gaummaz, Keet Oldenbeuving, and Candy Jacobs.
What kinds of issues were you treating?
There were some knee things and some bruises, but nothing serious. Mostly I was there so I could advise the team on when to do what, and help with preparation and recovery (massages and stretching and stuff).
Did you do any workouts with the skaters out there? Any group Zumba classes up on the platform of the big section?
Haha, no nothing too fancy. We were just getting used to each other. They've never been on tour with a physio and I've never been is this situation. So start easy.
Were you the only physiotherapist at Street League or were there others out there with you?
I spoke to a Japanese physio and Nike had there physio with them. But I was more concerned with our riders so I did little to no socialising.
Are there always on site physiotherapists at the Street League events?
I don’t think there a physio’s that Street League hires, but like I said there are physio’s from other countries or brands.
Did you get involved when Ivan smacked his face on the ground?
Nope, luckily first aid was on site.
photo: Derk Steemers
Did you find the pros had a decent understanding and interest in health and what you were doing?
I can say that the dutch team has, in some ways more then others. As a sport in general we are slowly finding our way in the world of fitness and healthcare. That's the main reason I started my Insta account, to make skaters aware of the benefits of healthcare and fitness/training.
Were there many pros warming up properly and doing things to prepare for the competition, or doing anything to recover after they skated?
Yeah, a lot of them had their routine as far as I could see. A lot of the pro’s did some stretching for hip mobility, side jumps, counter-movement jumps, etc. I also saw a lot of Theraguns, they're fun but useless as far as I can see. They kind of do the same as a foam roller, which is way cheaper. But most importantly they all did the run down of their basic tricks and "go-to’s". That's vital I think in a warm up.
What was the feedback you were getting? Were people hyped on what you were doing?
Yeah, I got a lot of positive feedback, which is very cool to get! Mostly general feedback that it's a good step forward to see a physio alongside the Dutch team or any team for that matter.
I’ve seen some of your skate-related workout clips you uploaded to Insta, I know you recommend the bodyweight exercises on The Daily Push, but what about in the gym? What kinds of exercises do you do and would you recommend to skaters?
Yeah! Shitloads! I’ll keep it short. I think Olympic weight lifting can help a lot. Not the heavy heavy lifting, just heavy enough to get some more power in those legs. The downside to Olympic weightlifting is the technique, you have to have someone explain it properly to you. Otherwise, deadlifts, squats, single leg work and counter-movement jumps are also good (for various reasons, which could be a whole article in itself), and next to that plyometrics in different directions.
Have you got any extra physiotherapy x skateboarding related projects or missions you’re working on at the moment?
Yes, we are starting (or we just started) programs to guide our Dutch team to the Olympics in 2020, while maintaining the essence of skateboarding: to just have fun! Also, I'm trying to do more with my Instagram account. More exercises and more explaining of the "skateboarding body". I'm also working on a website where skaters can use me as their online physio/coach. I will be making post-rehab training programs, maybe someone as old as I am wants to get back on their board or maybe someone just want to stay fit and prevent injury as best they can! I hope it airs before July, follow my IG for updates.
If you could impart some final health related wisdom upon the skate world, what would it be?
If you got pain, get it checked out! And try to work out a bit, the sooner the better. It will most definitely prolong your skateboarding ‘career’. You should also start buying our local board brand ‘Falus skateboards’. Because you'll land everything and landing everything means no bails and no injuries. Check out their website and video’s at www.falusskateboarding.com. Keep it fun!
What’s the best way for people to contact you?
Follow me on Insta @skateboardphysio and DM me or leave comments below my posts.