Female Physio in a man's World

So what’s the story behind Phnom Penh Crown’s mould-breaking female physio, Lidwina Niewold? For mega clubs like Chelsea its almost common practice to employ female medical staff, but for a team in the Cambodian League it’s unheard of. “As a teenager, my dream was to help professional footballers with their injuries. I come from a football-playing family and played for a girl’s team as soon as I could. But I suffered an injury when I was 20 and didn’t get it treated properly. So I know from my own experience how important it is to make sure players get the best possible treatment. I’m addicted to football, I love it. The fact that I can be involved on the pitch and use my physio skills at the same time is like living my childhood dream.” Brummen, in east Holland, is home for Lidwina. A twin, she has four brothers and a sister and football for girls was popular in her area of Holland, enabling her to play regularly and to help train a girl’s team for a couple of years. She studied physiotheraphy in Utrecht for four years including an internship in Indonesia for six months. “That was an amazing experience. I worked in a hospital and then a small health care center in the countryside, and with disabled children.”


Lidwina arrived in Cambodia in November 2011 to work with Dick van der Poel at the Physiotheraphy Phnom Penh Clinic. Early on she treated one of the Crown Academy boys and things kicked off from there. She attended a few Academy games, took over the rehabilitation of Kouch Sokumpheak and was then invited by head coach Sam Schweingruber, to get involved with the senior team. “I’m trying to make the players conscious about their body, and what to avoid. I can treat them with manual physiotheraphy, massage, medical taping or exercising. My goal is to get them back as soon as possible but without risk of more damage. Sokumpheak is a good example. He is coming back from a serious knee injury. Step by step he’s been doing more exercises to strengthen his muscle, coordination and stability. The aim is to get him back playing matches but also to avoid further injury.” She’s only too aware of what can happen if injuries are not treated correctly. “I am my own worst example. When I was 20 I twisted my ankle and damaged my ligaments. Because I couldn’t wait to play again, I didn’t get enough rest, I didn’t do my strengthening exercises properly and it took me a really long time to recover. Now I realize how stupid I was, I just wanted to play and failed to take good care of my ankle. My job now is to make sure that doesn’t happen to the Crown players, and of course, to my clients at the clinic.”


For now, Lidwina is enjoying her involvement with Cambodia’s most go-ahead and proactive football club. Always prepared to try something different, Crown have a recent history of Croatian, British and Swiss coaches, a British press officer, the country’s first-ever youth academy, its own artificial training facility, a fan and community engagement agenda and now its own foreign female physio. “We’d like to have a Cambodian physio working with me, specializing in sports injuries. Not only for now but for the future. Clubs and coaches need to understand what physiotheraphy is and that with physically fit players you can win competitions. If players keep going with small injuries, the body gets weaker and the risk of serious injury grows. Sportsmen are difficult patients. They want to recover as soon as possible and I have to stop them or push them, depending on the extent of the injury. Football is and will always be a man’s world, but nothing is impossible if you have a dream and you follow that dream.” 



Posted on April 14, 2017 .