Kerry Wheeler, owner of KW Sports Massage based in Ipswich, has been working at the club keeping the riders in the best possible shape as the speedway season takes its toll on the body.

Kerry has a clinic in the garden of her home where she sees clients in the evening and weekends and is about to go full-time with her business, she explains what services are on offer.

“I offer Swedish massages which is the nice relaxing type that you get at a spa,” said Kerry. “My main focus is on sports massages which incorporates deep tissue and soft tissue therapy.  It should be noted that this isn’t just for sports people and can help with day to day aches and pains.”

Kerry has been with the club for over two years and explains how she got involved and her role on race day with the riders.

“I have been a speedway fan for years and have known Chris (Louis) a long time. When I started doing my training I needed to work on a sportsman and I asked Chris if I could use one of the riders as a test subject. I was let loose on Rohan (Tungate) and ever since then we have grown and I now offer pre and post-event massages for the guys.

“My role is to keep the team as fit and well as possible.  I will speak with them pre-meeting to see if they have any niggles or are feeling tight and then we do some basic massage. We generally do not work really deeply before a meeting because they need to be relaxed and ready to race.  If we work too hard they can tense up. The work we do is light and is about relaxing and lengthening off the muscles and just getting the guys ready to perform well.”

Kerry says that regular massages can help prevent aches and pains as the season goes on and assist with recovery after riders suffer heavy falls.

“Even if they do not have any niggles, regular massage works well because it keeps the body in a better position to cope with crashes. Massage is as much about maintenance and prevention, as it is a treatment for injuries.

“What we find is that as the season goes on and they get more tired, they have more aches and pains, especially the guys who travel a lot. They spend a lot of time in vans and those who ride abroad spend a lot of time on planes, so they tend to suffer with lower back issues and they become more pronounced as the season goes on.”

Lower back issues are the main area of concern with speedway riders but Kerry says that the current crop of Witches are committed to their fitness.

“Pre-event it is mostly lower back stuff. I can’t emphasize enough how much those guys go through when they are on a bike. Their body goes through a massive amount of stress and force and they have to be fit to do what they do.

“The one thing I have noticed this year is that they are really committed to their fitness and their rehab. The guys that have had injuries, you look at Rory (Schlein) and what he went through over the winter, he has been on top of his rehab and he is in great form. It’s the same with Kyle (Newman) and his shoulder. They seem really focused on making sure they are fit and well and I work with them to try and continue that.”

The term ‘arm pump’ is well-known in the sport and Kerry explains a new way around the issue.

“One of the other things we do with the guys is use kinesiology tape. Some of the riders suffer with ‘arm pump’ which is where the blood does not circulate out of the forearm properly and makes it tight and uncomfortable, and can affect their grip and things like that. We use ‘k-tape’ to alleviate that as well as for joint support or pain relief.”

Speedway riders suffer many injuries in their careers and are often desperate to get back on track as soon as possible and Kerry admits it is difficult to get riders to remain patient and listen to doctors’ advice.

“These lads just want to race, so sometimes it can fall on deaf ears to a degree but sometimes, they just have to accept that they are better taking an extra couple of weeks to recover because it can save them months in the longer term.  Danyon (Hume) for example, has had a massive injury and he has got to take it steady. There is always the issue of coming back too soon and making the injury worse or making the recovery longer. The guys this year are sensible, they are in good shape and they take their fitness seriously.”

Words: Henry Chard