Katie Holtham: Supporting footballers on and off the pitch

England International Katie Holtham spends her nights and weekends playing football for Perth Glory Women. But like many W-League regulars she’s also found joy in a profession outside of football.

Holtham began her playing career in her native England, featuring for big clubs such as Lincoln City, Bristol Rovers, Charlton Athletic & Chelsea Ladies. She also spent time in the US with the Buffalo Flash before making her way to the W-League.

“Football is religion in my family! Coming from a footy mad dad and two older brothers I was kicking a ball as soon as I could walk. I couldn’t imagine my life without a career in football,” Holtham said.

But football isn’t the only thing Holtham is devoted to. As a full-time physiotherapist at Beatty Park Physiotherapy Clinic she is also passionate about helping her clients.

“It’s quite interesting treating a lot of elite athletes and then turning into one myself. The bonus is understanding the demands of the game and injuries that can occur.”

Beatty Park Physiotherapy Clinic specialises in advanced rehabilitation for sports athletes, which means that Holtham spends several hours at a time working on the rehab of a single client.

“It’s perfect for me because I have a strength and conditioning background. Some patients spend the entire morning doing their rehab in the gym and hydrotherapy etcetera. We also have specific strength testing and an Alter G treadmill. Gone are the days where you see six patients in one hour! I couldn’t work like that.”

Holtham realised what career path she’d follow after tearing her ACL at 14 while playing football for England.

“I had to spend the following year in full-time rehab. I would spend all day at the clinic and my physio was great. I understood the risks athletes put themselves through and how hard it is to return. This experience made me want to be a physio, seeing the role they play and how rewarding it is to have people return to full fitness.”

Inspired by her own injury, Holtham is now working on research to better understand and prevent ACL injuries.

“I am currently working with top orthopaedic surgeons in Perth to identify the risks of ACL injuries in sport and most importantly developing a protocol for injury prevention and rehabilitation from ACL reconstructions. There is a global crisis of ACL ruptures in sport - specifically in females and in female football."

While off the field Holtham concentrates her efforts on preventing and rehabilitating injuries, on the field she takes her ‘physio hat’ off and her focus is locked on playing.

“When I am playing football I’m fully concentrated on doing my job and the role I have in the team. However, there have been many times I see an injury and am already self-diagnosing in my head! The worst though is when you see a team mate suffer a serious injury and you know what lies ahead. That was the case with Sam Kerr this season. Seeing her injury and how she was afterwards I knew it would require surgery. You have to keep that to yourself though and hope in those cases you are wrong.”

In cases of injuries to teammates, Holtham understands that she has to step back and let team physio Nafyn Pattiarchi do his job. The two have formed a bit of a bond as a result of their shared profession.

“We understand what’s going on and have a professional respect for one another. The girls sometimes laugh at us as we chat about certain diagnoses and to most of the girls it sounds foreign!”

Despite the full-time profession, Holtham manages to balance it with her training and match schedule.

“It gets tough at times having to race from work to get to training on time, but (head coach) Bobby (Despotovski) and (assistant coach) Collette (McCallum) are very supportive. It helps that I organise my own diary at work and the clinic are fully supportive so long as I am organised!”

Holtham will feature in her more public profession this Sunday as Perth Glory Women host Sydney FC at Ashfield Reserve.

Kick-off is 4:00pm and entry is free for all Perth Glory members.