Photographer's Blog: Interview with Paolo Castelli of the Clinica Mobile
I first met Paolo Castelli and Giuseppe Triossi of Clinical Mobile on a flight from Frankfurt to Doha in 2010. Having identified each other as heading for the MotoGP race, we got to chatting, half in English and half in Italian, about the coming season. The two had just treated Marco Simoncelli for his crash during testing just before the season opener. Since then I have made a point of stopping by the CM when possible to say hello, and for some time have wanted to interview them about their work. At Valencia I spoke to Paolo on the morning of the Moto2 test when things were quiet in the CM facility.
MotoMatters: Can you please describe your role at Clinica Mobile and what kind of things you do on a daily basis?
Paolo Castelli: I have been working in the Clinica Mobile for seven years as an osteopath and physiotherapist. Here the most requested job is physiotherapy because on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the riders need to be massaged before they ride. And after the practice sessions, after qualifying, they need relaxing massage and stretching. Normally we also use osteopathic techniques like the cranio-sacral relaxing therapy, which is very useful to regain physical and mental energy and to sleep better at night. Here at the Clinica Mobile almost all of us are osteopaths, and those who aren't are studying to become osteopaths.
So the main job here is a mix of physiotherapy and osteopathy. The most common treatment is hand protect in the form of a functional bandage, because gloves very often are not enough to protect the skin. These bandages are useful to protect against blisters and tendinitis.
Normally we arrive on Wednesday evening at the circuit and on Thursday we start working at 9 a.m. If there are riders who crashed in the previous race weekend, we start with rehabilitation. Otherwise we start with stretching, relaxing massage and all the things a rider needs to be ready for the race. We also give some advice about dietary supplements, proteins, vitamins and so on because due to air conditioning everywhere the riders are often sick. Especially the younger ones, they are always sick.
So the work with the riders is arranged like this: Normally we don't decide beforehand who will treat a specific rider. But riders, after coming to the Clinica Mobile for a while, make their choice, usually asking for the same person. For example if a rider has liked the treatment he got from me, next time he will probably ask for me again. And this is good because by then I know which kinds of problems he has, I know which treatment he prefers. For this reason every physiotherapist has a group of riders he works with regularly.
Moto2 rider Johann Zarco in the capable hands of Giuseppe Triossi
MM: You told me before that some of the riders don't come to the Clinica Mobile.
PC: Yes, this is true, some of the riders have come to the Clinica Mobile in the past but for some reason or another they have not continued their relationship with us. Normally riders such as Lorenzo and Stoner have their own physiotherapist for massage. But when a serious problem occurs, like a crash, they come to the Clinica because we have a radiologist to perform x-rays and an orthopedic surgeon so they can have specialized treatment here. But normally, the top riders have their own personal physiotherapists.
MM: So you can do x-rays here, and how much more specialized medical treatment is available at the CM before the rider must go to a local hospital? You don't do surgery, right?
PC: No. But where surgery is not necessary, for example in the case of serious shoulder damage, we perform physiotherapy, and in case of hematoma we perform drainage and shoulder stabilization with functional bandaging. Normally on Friday and Saturday we work like this and for the race our doctors make some anesthetic injections in order to reduce the pain.
We avoid anything invasive on Friday even if the rider is in pain because Dr. Costa's experience says that is better that the rider go racing with a little bit of pain because adrenalin coming from it makes him stronger and performance is higher. Our experience shows that riders injured on Friday or Saturday often have their best performance during the following Sunday's race.
I remember a rider who injured his shoulder some years ago in Qatar during Friday's practice and was treated by Dr.Costa. After the crash the rider decided to return home because of the severe pain. Dr. Costa told him that the pain would have been strong for some days anyway and tried to explain him that would have been a great challenge to race. So the rider decided to race on Sunday. The pain was strong, he started the race and won, making his best result ever. He has not won again since. The strength of mind is really impressive!
MM: At Silverstone this year, Cal Crutchlow fell and broke his right ankle, then had a very good race on Sunday starting from the back and finish in 6th position.
PC: Crutchlow has a great strength of mind , he's a fighter and the situation was the same, his pain makes him stronger!
MM: So that must be an interesting of your job, to see how the riders can find this extra strength from pain.
PC: Yes. [It's interesting when] you see a potential great rider since he's 16, he's methodic, precise and always punctual. And people like this often produce remarkable results during the races.
I was very impressed years ago from Marco Simoncelli, he was very methodic and punctual when he came in for the treatments before and during the races. He always asked me why I was doing a certain treatment instead of a different one.
Another interesting rider from this point of view is Marquez. When he knows he has some muscle problems, he comes to the Clinica always at the same time because he has planned exactly his routine. Very professional. Normally riders like this get better results than others who are less precise in their organization.
(At this point we took a break and later resumed our chat inside the Clinica Mobile facility. I had been thinking about how wrapping riders' hands was such a common part of Paolo's work, so I decided to ask for a demonstration. Paolo kindly sat me down at one of the stations and wrapped my left hand as if I were a rider preparing to go on track. Paolo first showed me how he prepares the bandages to be used, one at a time, cutting each strip of material to fit the individual rider's hands.)
(Paolo applied a sweet-smelling glue with a cotton swab before placing the first layer of adhesive bandage as shown here.)
PC: Since you sweat a lot into the glove, we must use glue like this... This is a metacarpal protection, like this... The first layer.
(After cutting several pieces of bandage to fit my hand, Paolo placed one between each pair of fingers.)
(Each strip was fixed over my knuckles while my hand was tightened into a fist...)
(By the end it took some effort to straighten my fingers as the bandage tension was least when I made a fist.)
(The protection at the base of the fingers was substantial.)
PC: We used to have a throttle lever, just like a sort of handlebar to let the rider to try the bandaged hand, but we don't have it anymore. This treatment is standard in addition to the glove. There are some riders who have problems because they push very hard on their wrists, for them we add this.
(To demonstrate the wrist protection, Paolo cut two pieces of blue bandage and applied them like so. These felt like a soft, flexible layer there just to add something between the glove and skin, as compared to the white bandages, which seemed to add support in that area as well as protection for the skin.)
PC: Marco Simoncelli did always this. He had always a callus here, because he pushed very hard on his wrists.
So this is to protect the hands and skin, to avoid calluses and blisters. But not just to protect the skin as there is also a psychological factor. The rider feels the hand more protected, I think. I don't know exactly because I'm not a rider. But in Moto 2 and 3 normally we don't have so many problems with the skin. But young riders do it because they see Moto GP riders and they want do the same. But for the MotoGP riders, calluses and blisters are normal after 2 or 3 days of riding a bike and they absolutely have to protect their skin in order to avoid real wounds.
MM: After the session, do the riders come back to you to remove this?
PC: No, they remove by themselves.
MM: And do the bandages show signs of having protected the skin? Are they torn or wrinkled?
PC: No, the bandages look pretty much like this. The skin underneath is red, but it has been protected.
MM: And you do this for most of the riders for the morning and afternoon sessions.
PC: Yes, we have a lot of work to do! Because if we have 20 riders and we have to treat both hands, morning and afternoon, we use many meters of this (holds up bandage roll). Every day ten rolls of this.
MM: Who pays for services in CM?
PC: IRTA I think, the teams association.
MM: So it doesn't cost the rider anything to come here?
PC: No, but it's expensive [to operate the Clinica Mobile]. In the 3 classes there are 95 riders and 70 or 80 of them come to Clinica. If each rider use one [roll of bandage] you can imagine... Riders don't pay, IRTA pays Dr.Costa, in the contract is all included, radiology, medicine, bandages, laser devices, and so on.
MM: Any other interesting stories to tell us?
PC: I can say that working here is very nice, we enjoy working together, we are like friends. When we are at home we never meet together because everybody has his own job, but working here is very nice, we meet all together in the evening and we talk about our experiences, we have fun with the riders. Crutchlow for example is really funny! He comes here and has fun with all of us and we laugh a lot. In the evening we meet all together, drinking a beer, and it's really a fun time. The situation is different when we go back home, we have to work hard.
In MotoGP there are many things to tell. Good things and bad things. When you see a rider two hours a day for the entire season, you get involved with him and when happens things like last year in Malaysia it's very hard to forget. It's just like you lost someone in your family. Life is made of joy and pain. This is a world full of emotions, and I think you know it very well, your job is to freeze an image, an emotion. It's an emotion for you and for the rider that will see your picture.
Here is the same, we see the riders suffering, laughing, falling... It's not nice seeing them fall, but it's nice to see them getting up, it's nice when they come back to you just to thank you for helping them. It's a very rewarding job, the most rewarding job. I'm not talking about money, you won't be rich doing this. However, this is very gratifying work.
(Paolo stands by the Clinica Mobile's most important piece of equipment, the espresso machine.)
MM: How did you start to work for the Clinica Mobile , how did you get involved?
PC: I've never had a great passion for motorcycles, but I love my job so much. One Saturday I was watching a practice session on TV and a rider had a serious crash. On Sunday, this rider was on the grid ready to start and I wondered how it would be possible. On Monday, after the race, I called Dr.Costa at Imola and asked him if it was possible to with him and he told me to send my CV and give him another call. When I called him again he invited me for a test during a race and so it all began that way. I didn't like racing and bikes, I'd only watched a few races just because of Valentino Rossi.
MM: How many years ago was that?
PC: In 2006, then I made one more race and some practice in WSBK and the year after I began full time. It's strange, I'd treated volleyball and tennis players, never treated a rider before.
Now I'm a fan, but you have to treat each rider in the same way. Of course there are some riders who are more funny than others. On Monday, watching the race each of us has his favorite rider but during the weekend we have to treat them all in the same way.
MotoMatters would like to thank Paolo for sharing his story with us, and for the Clinica Mobile staff for welcoming us into their facility. Thanks also to Johann Zarco for allowing a photo during his treatment.
As my Italian is not good enough to translate Paolo's comments on my own, I relied on another Italian friend, Andrea Raddi, to transcribe and translate the interview into English. My sincere thanks to him for his assistance with this interview.