Dr Craig Duncan Discusses Working with Professional Athletes

Body Science
Bodyscience
Published in
5 min readJun 1, 2018

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Hi Everyone. It’s Dr Craig Duncan, and this is Maximizing Human Performance series. Today I’m going to talk about professional athletes. This is where I spent most of my career working with athletes and particularly, in football, what often people call soccer. I’ve also worked with people in rugby league, basketball and nearly every sport, but one of the things that are often asked is how do I become an athlete? What goes into becoming an athlete? What I’ve found over the years is that it’s much more than just talent. There have been some fantastically talented athletes that haven’t gone on to have a great career simply because they haven’t put in all the extra work. The extra work is completing the basic injury prevention things that we need to do or getting a good night sleep, eating well and a good recovery. However, I’ve found that it’s not always the most talented or genetically gifted athletes that have the success. That’s really exciting for many of us because we can really identify that hard work and persistence can make a difference.

I’m currently preparing players for the World Cup. Can you imagine what it’s like to be chosen for Australia and participate in the World Cup? The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world along with the Olympics. Honestly, it’s probably the pinnacle for any athlete, particularly a footballing athlete.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the Australian National team. We are currently preparing for the World Cup. Over the last 4 years, we’ve been preparing for this moment. We will be heading to Turkey for pre-camp then the World Cup in Russia. Australia is fortunate to make the World Cup, it has taken us to all parts of the world and a lot of hard work with the players. In fact, Australia played the most games in the history of the World Cup to qualify and travelled the most amount of distance.

It’s exciting that Australia has qualified, once we start pre-camp we will start preparing for this period. We will work hard with the athletes to prepare for our first game in Russia. One of the things we’ve been working on is the management of fatigue as performance is the relationship between your capacity or your fitness. Once we start taking away things like fatigue, or anything that’s going to disrupt your capacity we disrupt the performance. It’s this area that’s very important on making sure your recovery is right, your nutrition is right and your sleep is right. A lot of players are at the stage where we can bring them to their optimal performance zone.

So, how do we go about doing this? Well, one of the keys points is that we have to monitor them which means staying in tune with exactly where a player is at 24/7. So, that means we monitor their sleep, training, and we monitor how they respond to that training and through all that information we can package it up and track exactly where a player is a day to day, so we know they aren’t getting too fatigued or not training hard enough.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful players, and one of those is Tim Cahill who will hopefully be attending his 4th World Cup. Tim is now into his late 30’s, which is a fantastic example of what you can do with hard work and if you manage yourself correctly off the field which means sleeping well, eating well, training well and getting good advice. Tim is a prime example how you can continue your career long into your late 30s, and some players can even do that into their 40's.

A great example of Tim’s dedication is that he was injured during the last games we had to play to qualify for the World Cup. Tim had an ankle injury which normally, it would be very difficult to come back. However, the amount of work that you do off the field in preparation and your attention to the detail in any of your recovery or your preparation can make all the difference. Tim came back and was able to play in those games.

There are great examples throughout a lot of athletes that we work with, and one of the things that are important to a professional athlete is their resilience. We are all going to get knocked down at some stage, it’s your ability to bounce back that works in everyday life as well. If you have resilience, you can make all the difference and I’ve seen that several times in my career. It’s the ability for players to come back from difficult situations, where they have got that knockback to actually go on and for that to inspire them rather than to fall in a heap and start to feel sorry for themselves.

So ultimately, it’s up to you… If you really desire to become a professional athlete, remember it is much more than talent. Often, talent can be a curse. Why? Because sometimes you aren’t doing those other requirements that are vital for any professional athlete like working hard off the field, on your preparation, your eating and your nutrition aspects.

I’m often asked what supplements professional athletes take and often? People are surprised to know that the supplements they take are very similar to what is available to everyone. Everything that is available to you is available to them. Often a pre-game supplement such as K-Os Pre-Workout is taken, which will really enhance their performance. I’ve found for set athletes that a recovery type protein is very important for post game to enhance the recovery process. With any supplementation, it’s food first, you’ve got to have your diet right and then, supplement on top of that. Our main work with our athletes is to concentrate on the recovery area, and that’s where compression comes into play. I always advise that if you have a long travel period, particularly post-game, compression will really enhance your recovery and there are some good signs about that as well.

For convenience, we use the RTDs so rather than sitting there and mixing up proteins for our athletes, the RTDs are there ready to go as we normally can put it in the fridge or just put it on the ice and use it straight away. I also highly recommend the Low Carb High Protein Bars or the Protein Balls which are easy to use because often after we play, we get straight onto a bus head to the airport which means it can be a little while before we actually eat food. So, it’s fantastic when we can use that supplementation, it’s advantageous and great to use if you’re training and it’s going to be a while until you get home for a meal. The convenience is important, and this is why we recommend Body Science.

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