Rob the Rub
after almost thirty years' experience massaging professional athletes in a variety of sports, Rob Richardson has a tale or two to tell ...

Rob Richardson














“Will you write something for our site? Stories of your experiences, or advice on injuries. Not just squash but all sports. Keep it informal and chatty”.

Well, I could say it’s all very well having the fanciest sports shoes in the world, but what is the point if you don’t tie your shoelaces properly! – okay, so who am I to tell you how to tie your laces? I am a natural therapist who has worked in sport for the last 25 years with juniors, seniors and veterans of all standards.

I’m happy to pass on advice to juniors, but for seniors this needs to be more specific to the individual. It’s easy to roll out a few one liners – “Prevention is the best form of cure”, “Accidents happen”, “Take the wrong advice and you are history”, “Sport is beautiful when you’re fresh and on top of the world”.


I once thought that professional athletes would be in great condition and that my job would be to help keep them that way – well I was wrong. It was a few years before I found myself working for an athlete in perfect condition, he’d been allowed to develop properly, his potential had been nurtured and protected, he went on to become a great champion many times over. Now after a great career, he’s retired and still has the physical potential to enjoy life after sport.

Since then I’ve worked for other champions who have been in great condition and were constantly able to achieve their world class potential, the common denominator being that they were protected as juniors, none were allowed to overdo anything or specialize in their chosen sport before the age of sixteen. The trouble is not all of us have an ex-professional sports star as a relative to guide us. Very few of our athletes have that privilege. The result being that many competitors are riddled with injuries, complicated strains, accumulations of wear and tear, failed operations, strapped limbs or joints, supports for this and that – you name it.

I should be grateful, I’ve made a career out of these guys. In the beginning some came to see me thinking that a massage might be less boring than sitting under a heat lamp or having ultra sound. Relaxation is the secret of all healing, in addition a good therapist can feel the state of health of many muscles and can discern between cause and effect and so direct treatment of a beneficial nature. Then people start recommending you and before you know it you’ve got burnt out athletes in need of rehabilitation coming to see you. You can bet your life that anyone in this category has been round the world seeking help and advice from all the experts.


Athletes should realize the importance of not competing if you’re ill or injured, the more you ignore that rule the bigger the hole you dig for yourself until eventually someone will fill the hole with you in it. Don’t laugh, your friends and relatives won’t be laughing. One problem is that there are “experts”
who will tell you that it’s okay to play on if you buy a support from them or worse still suggest an operation. The stories I could tell you – I don’t want to be sued but I’ll tell you one.

In the 80’s, I was working at Wembley Stadium for the All England Badminton Championships, I had been working in badminton for a few years and was known and accepted by most of the players but not at that point by all of the establishment. One of the squad I was working for managed to get me an official pass but we were not given permission to set up a treatment room – none of the teams were allowed to. The other competing nations had their therapists and masseurs in their hotel next door but most of the English players were travelling in daily from their or their friends homes. The one place where the officials would never visit was the “ladies changing rooms” – so we stuck a “Private” sign on one of the rooms and set up for the week! The following year I was invited to treat the Olympic Squad and the rest “Officially” in their designated changing areas (Wembley had been refurbished).

Anyway, I was introduced to a chap described to me as “The McEnroe of Badders”, who’d been beating world champions whilst in his teens but when I met him he hadn’t played for a couple of years due to injury. It was the middle of summer and he was wearing a large overcoat to hide his crippled form and involuntary spasms. It took a couple of years to rehabilitate him. He did play again although never to his previous level.

Before his lay off he’d had injured his left ankle and someone recommended a great physio. This man videoed him on a walking machine and told him he had flat feet, gave him some orthotics to insert into his shoes and said he could carry on playing.

Unfortunately, he did not diagnose a ruptured Achilles tendon and by playing on with such an injury certainly helped to almost cripple this chap. (I don’t care if I get sued, we should all take responsibility for our actions. If this physio, who remains nameless, wants the world to know what he has done, come and get me – he’s not the only one). Last year I saw a twelve year old tennis player who had been given orthotics and had been using then for a year. She too had a ruptured Achilles tendon which had scar tissue at least a year old.


There are no short cuts to success. You have to pay attention to every detail, be meticulous in preparing your schedules, making allowances for recovery time after arduous events. If you do have an injury make sure you recover before exerting yourself and if you do seek assistance from someone, please give them your full history, it is all important.

Last year a squash player from my local club came to see me, he’d been wearing a knee brace for some time and it hadn’t cured his knee, in fact it had become so bad that he had no choice but to give up squash or see someone.

I’d asked him for his history but apart from his knees he really didn’t tell me much more. I always give a full examination so that I can make a proper assessment. It’s no good me treating knee if a person’s back or spine has seized up, if I find no other stresses or stains then we can start sorting out the knee problem.

When I examined this chap he wasn’t in too bad a shape, he had good conditioning and apart from his knee and the obvious strain and effect that had had upon his lower back, he looked as though he was probably quite a good athlete – apart from one thing. In his neck two of his vertebrae seemed to be fused together and in quite a sorry state.

When I questioned him about his neck he did say that his head had been in a smash a couple of years previously, when he came to his forehead was covered in blood - this was attended to, but the real point of impact, his neck, had not been treated. I gave him the name of an excellent cranial osteopath and told him to make an appointment, go through any treatment recommended and then throw away the knee brace before playing squash again. He did that and he is now playing again without support.

All in a day’s work for a massage therapist!