Clinical Pilates at Melbourne Football Club

Many people are aware of Clinical Pilates being used effectively by physiotherapists for the rehabilitation of injury. The general understanding is that Clinical Pilates helps to engage the ‘core muscles’, thereby improving core stability. However, Clinical Pilates can be much more versatile, targeting many different goals for a range of different clientele. I am commonly asked whether Pilates is used within elite sports as part of injury management. The answer is yes – and its application often extends beyond the realm of just rehabilitation.

The Clinical Pilates program at Melbourne Football Club has been designed to encompass rehabilitative, preventative and physical performance goals. Athletes undergo screening by the clubs physiotherapy staff at the start of pre-season which involves a comprehensive physical assessment. These findings help form the basis of each footballer’s individualized Pilates program. Some common goals are to improve trunk stability, flexibility (commonly neural, hamstring and trunk), hip and lumbo-pelvic control, balance, movement patterns and may also include injury rehabilitation. Most exercises are completed on reformer machines with the athletes completing their specific programs under supervision by myself in small groups. Exercises are progressed when appropriate to ensure the athletes are continually challenged.

All athletes have access to the Pilates program, however there is a stronger focus on working with the younger athletes (1-4 years) to help aid with their body awareness and movement control. The Pilates exercises do not substitute gym or conditioning work, but are rather complementary – with the aim that improving movement control and awareness will assist the athletes in other areas of their training. For example, an athlete might be able to lift with better technique in the gym if they have better control around the lumber/pelvic region. Whereas some athletes find the dynamic flexibility component of Pilates important in their post training recovery. Improving movement efficiency or having improved glute function may also optimize a player ability to run, jump and land with reduced risk of injury when fatigued.

In summary, Clinical Pilates has many benefits and its application in sport and AFL football is very relevant. No matter which sport you play, Clinical Pilates can be tailored towards injury rehabilitation, prevention, post training recovery, increasing flexibility or control, and general maintenance. We are more than happy to assist you if you feel Clinical Pilates could help achieve any of your athletic goals.

— Kathleen Pettyfor

Kathleen graduated from Monash University in 2010, and completed her DMA Clinical Pilates training in 2011. Since this time, she has worked across a range of recreational and elite sports including netball, surf lifesaving, triathlons and tennis. From 2012-2014, she was the physiotherapist at the Casey Scorpions Football Club (VFL). Since 2015 Kathleen has worked with the Melbourne Football Club implementing their Pilates and core stability program. Kathleen has a special interest in Clinical Pilates, rehabilitation of sporting injuries and chronic back pain. Aside from her private practice and elite sports work, she also has experience as a physiotherapy educator to the LaTrobe University undergraduate students. Kathleen is currently completing her Masters degree in Sports Physiotherapy.