Behind the Castle: Meet our Head Physio
This week, we go Behind the Castle to introduce you to the club’s Head Physio and Clinical Manager, Adam Roberts.
Originally from Hampshire, Adam joined the club in 2018 following nine and a half years at English Premiership outfit Harlequins where he worked as the Head Academy Physio and then First XV Physio.
A qualified physiotherapist from Oxford Brookes University, from 2017 Adam combined his work at Harlequins with a role as Professional Development Advisor & External Examiner at the University of Bath before making the move north to the Scottish capital.
We caught up with Adam, who discussed his path to the capital while sharing some insight into the ins and outs of his crucial role within the club.
Adam – what was your path into Physiotherapy and what were your early beginnings in sport?
“I did my undergraduate at Oxford Brookes University in 2004 – a very long time ago! The reason I went there was because it’s a very good course essentially. A good mixture of practical elements, versus the academic side, with some great placements too.
“I was there from 2004-2007, qualified as a physio and went into the NHS which is quite a common route. I moved to South-East London and got a job at Lewisham Hospital, which is one of the large teaching hospitals in London.
“It was a fortunate move because I always wanted to live and work in London, and it was fortunate because it actually propelled me into sport a lot earlier than I thought as I worked at Charlton Athletic FC part-time.
“So, where they are based in South-East London, it was only a 10-minute drive. So, I’d do my NHS bits from 8am till 4pm, then from 5pm into the evenings I’d be there looking after their Academy guys.
“That was an amazing experience at the time. They had just left the Premiership, but obviously still had a lot of funding, with a huge training complex, great pitches and a gym, and brilliant food that even we as part-time staff got to eat – at the time, you definitely thought this was pretty cool.
“I did a lot of hours plying my trade, while also working as physio during those years and it definitely helped me along the way. Football is obviously a very different sport. I’d be driving into the training ground in my humble VW Polo while someone would be screeching out in a Bentley!
How did you eventually get into rugby and was it a sport you played yourself?
“I played a bit at school, but going to a state comp, it was very much about football. So, rugby was always something that I was interested in, but didn’t have a lot of involvement in.
“I supposed my love for rugby – and especially the physio side of it – came about when I was at University. There were two teams there, Oxford Harlequins and Oxford City, that were both clubs on the outskirts of the town. I was on placement, and someone said, do you want to just come and help out?
So that’s where I got the opportunity to go, help out, start strapping guys, understand what that meant at a very, very humble level. Getting the bus to all these away games in and around Oxfordshire and I thought to myself ‘you know what, this is actually what I want to be.’
Everything from the variety of injuries and the challenges of the sport. Football by comparison is quite easy. So, rugby was always something at the back of my mind, and although I was doing football in South-East London, my head was definitely looking for a job in rugby.
What was your first job in rugby?
“After leaving Lewisham Hospital I got a job at Harlequins in 2009 where I joined as the Head Academy physio, and that was my first full-time job in sport.
“It was a hell of a steep learning curve, but it was amazing obviously. I actually joined during bloodgate. I ended up being interviewed by Dean Richards, got into my role, all was rosy, then bloodgate happened.
“As you can imagine, it was an interesting time to be at the club!
How often do people bring up bloodgate when you mention Harlequins?
“All the time. People always ask what was it like, what really happened. Like anything, at the time, it was very stressful and a lot was going on.
“But, being in the middle of it all, you obviously get a real-life lesson in sporting ethics and attitude and where the sporting world meets the real world.
“People often think that sometimes, within the bubble of sport things are very different, but there were huge consequences at the time, and it was obviously a very interesting period and there was plenty of experience to take out of it, that’s for sure.”
What was the biggest lesson you learned in your first year of professional rugby?
“I think it would be to trust your own process. We always have a lot of students up here at Edinburgh involved with the club (Edinburgh Rugby have links with universities within the city giving students placements at the club) and I do some teaching at Bath.
“Process is so key and you have to have a solid process in your assessment, treatment approach, rehab - everything. You need to have a sound process and trust that process.
“In professional rugby, because you have such close contact with the players and seeing them all the time, sometimes you can start to doubt yourself when things are going the way they should. When you’re in the middle of that dip, and you can’t see the wood from the tees, you think: ‘what am I doing wrong, and what am I missing?’
“But, if you trust your process, you will get there, you’ve just got to give it time.”
How did the move to Edinburgh come about and did you know much about the club or city beforehand?
“I’d never been to the city at all, apart from the time Quins played Edinburgh in 2016 (they lost…). However, I’d heard about the club. A lot of famous people to represent the city and a really solid place and team.
“As physios do, we chat on the side of the pitch, and I do remember speaking to Stu Patterson (former Edinburgh Rugby physio) and we just kept in touch. From there, a relationship came about.
“Then at Quins, we signed Ruaridh Jackson and he spoke well about Scotland. I’d been at Quins for nearly 10 years, and really wanted to come and try the PRO14. So, when the job came up at Edinburgh, I leapt at the chance and it just felt right.
“I ended up meeting Cocker and hearing about his vision of where he wanted to take the club. It really aligned with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to take my career, taking on that lead job.
“When Cocker and I had that conversation, it was clear that he was building something - and it was still in the early stages at that point – and the medical piece was definitely something he wanted to have a look at and take further forward.
“I came up and was really impressed about all the other parts, like the rebrand, the new stadium and the direction of the club. I thought, yup, this is me.”
“It’s an exciting place to be, because you feel like we’re going somewhere and building something large.
“It’s different because everyone has heard of Harlequins, and everyone has heard Leicester Tigers. They’re established brands. I’m enjoying it far more, being part of the building of something from the ground up.”
Final question - what is the toughest thing about your job?
“The toughest thing about the job is undoubtedly explaining or confirming a significant injury to a player. Without a doubt.
“If someone steps off their right leg, feels a pop and suddenly thinks, I’ve done my ACL. There are a lot of things flashing through their head – especially depending where they are with regards to a contract at that point.
“I always try to be as open and honest as I can at that time, and you’ve got to tell it to them straight – but it’s very hard. Guys work so, so hard to get professional contracts and to get to where they are, and then in an instant, everything is turned upside down on them and life as they know it has completely changed.
“But then that’s where we come in to get them back stronger and back playing as soon as possible.”