Keeping healthy at the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles

By Nigel Tilley 3 years ago
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Roger Hawkes is Chief Medical Officer of the European Tour.

I’ve been European team doctor for the last four Ryder Cups. Over this time, I’ve learned that it’s important to remember the basics.

As well as working to prevent infections, we make sure that players have diet advice, and we help them to enter the match in a fit and healthy condition.

We also pick up on local climatic conditions. For example, in Valhalla in 2008, it was very hot and humid, so we had to look out for dehydration.

Research shows that if an athlete’s hydration level drops 2%, it can lead to a 10% reduction in performance. So the relationship between dehydration and performance is clear.

At Valhalla, some of the players were sweating and losing four or five kilos in weight during a round. In addition, if you’re a high salt loser, you may become salt depleted gradually over the course of the week.

This can be crucial to the match result, when you consider that all the critical matches occur on the last day of competition.

We make sure that the players get carbohydrates soon after they finish their round. If you don’t load up on carbohydrates soon after exercising, it can take a lot longer to get your glycogen stores back up to normal.

And, if you’re playing a number of rounds over the three days, this delay may lead to reduced performance.

The Race to Dubai physio bus that supports players at European Tour events across the world will be present in Gleneagles. It’s a fantastic service with state of the art facilities and highly experienced staff. It has a treatment area with three physio beds, a warm-up and work out area, a private room with diagnostic ultrasound and examination facilities, and a consultation area.

It will be stationed at Gleneagles for The Ryder Cup, and the players can use it to help them prepare for their matches as they do at events on the European Tour. The Physiotherapy service at Gleneagles will be led by the Director of the Unit Mr Rob Hillman along with James Mackie and Alvaro Zerolo who will make sure the players are given the best treatment and ability to play at their maximum throughout the week.  It’s an environment that allows the players to have some private time, which is in short supply at a Ryder Cup.

Another part of my role is overseeing the medical provision for the crowd at the event. At Gleneagles, we’ll have three teams of fully equipped doctors and paramedics who can get about the course on buggies.

Our on-course facilities cater for minor injuries and general practice needs. We have a big medical center in the middle of the site and various posts out on the course, so we won’t need to transfer patients off site in most cases.

This is important because the medical facilities in the local area would have difficulty coping with such a large influx of people.

For about two years, we’ve been working with the local NHS, accident and emergency centers, the Red Cross, the ambulance service, the police force and local authorities to prepare contingency plans for any eventuality – from injuries that might occur from slipping over in wet weather and minor illness, right up to and including a major incident.

The provision of medical and healthcare services at major sports events such as the Ryder cup is a major undertaking and requires the hard work and detailed planning and preparation of a lot of people.  We are lucky enough to have a superb team to allow us to deliver this service to everyone in attendance at Gleneagles.


Rob Hillman

Alvaro Zerolo

James Mackie
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  Health Benefits of Golf, Nutrition & Hydration, Performance, Travel Health