Meet top young Croatian handball and football physio Lukrecija Čurek
- by croatiaweek
- in Sport
It has been a phenomenal summer of success for Croatian beach handball.
Last month, Croatia become the junior world champions for the first time in their history when they won the IHF Men’s Youth Beach Handball World Cup in Greece.
A week later, the senior team replicated the success and won the 2022 Beach Handball World Championships also held in Greece. Croatia then claimed its third gold this summer this month in Birmingham, USA winning the World Games.
One person who played an important part in the success in Greece, getting the players prepared and helping them recover, was 26-year-old physiotherapist Lukrecija Čurek.
Lukrecija, who was born in Zagreb and raised in nearby Velika Gorica, is also physio for the Croatia U17 women’s football team, as well as helping out with the senior women’s team when required.
So how did you get into physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy as a profession was not my first choice in life. Since I was little, I have been talking about how I would become a doctor, and over time I decided on sports medicine because I wanted to help athletes get back on the field as soon as possible.
However, life didn’t have such plans for me haha. On the entrance exam, I was one point short of getting on the score list, so I enrolled in physiotherapy, which I knew nothing about, and in this year of study, I realised that physiotherapy is what I want to do.
In order to be able to work as a physiotherapist in Croatia, it is necessary to finish high school or college, complete an internship and pass a professional exam in order to obtain a license for independent work.
What was your first role as a physiotherapist?
My first role as a physiotherapist was in my handball club in Gorica, where I practiced all the things I had learned on my girls since the beginning of my education.
How did you start working with the Croatian Football Federation?
One day my friend called me and asked if I wanted to go to a development tournament with the women’s national team, to which I of course agreed. Considering that at that moment I was working at first division club Gorica, football and physiotherapy in football were not foreign to me.
What does a normal day look like in camp?
A normal day with the national team looks like we all wake up at the same time, check the condition of the players to make sure no one has accidentally developed a temperature during the night or similar, then breakfast together, free time or training, then lunch, free time, meeting, dinner and departure to sleep.
Basically, our whole day is planned so that there is no idle time, which I like, you know exactly what is at what time.
How did you get to work for the Croatia beach handball team?
I started working for the Croatian beach handball team last year in the summer when I went with them to the European Championship in Bulgaria. Otherwise, I played handball on the sand, so my acquaintances came from there, which made it easier for us to cooperate.
What did a typical day look like at the beach handball tournament in Greece?
A typical day in Greece was like waking up at the same time, breakfast, opponent analysis, going to the match, lunch, mandatory rest, mostly the afternoon match, then dinner and then therapy and free time. Our schedule was mostly tight.
How were the celebrations after winning gold?
Alas, standing on that podium in front of the world champions board was indescribable, that energy is happiness. We were convincingly the youngest staff there, a coach who won the world championship at only 24 years old, guys from whom not much was expected and in the end they conquered the world. I have no words.
Do you have any other jobs?
I recently opened my private practice Sprint in Velika Gorica, so I work there in addition to HNS, HRS. I still actively play handball and I am a coach for younger age groups, so we can consider that as a “job” because I am quite dedicated to that as well.
What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
The most satisfying thing about my job is when you return a player from a big injury back to the field, and knowing that you did that.
What is the least satisfying or most challenging thing about your job?
The most challenging thing in my job is keeping the balance between players, coaches and returning to games. Players and coaches would do everything instantly, which in some cases is not possible. Athletes are very dedicated, eager to play, motivated, and sometimes it is difficult to balance between rehabilitation that is appropriate for that moment and exaggeration because the player thinks he can do everything and that he will be on the field tomorrow.
What do you think makes a good physiotherapist?
A good physiotherapist is primarily the ability to say that he does not know something and not to meddle in things he is not sure about and knows nothing about, furthermore persistence, the desire to learn.
What are some main important tips you can give sports people to help them prevent any injuries?
In order to prevent injuries, it is important that athletes are aware of their capabilities, that they warm up well before training or any activity, that they work on their mobility, get enough sleep and, of course, regenerate properly.
What is next for you and what are your goals in your profession?
The next step is some bigger course that will frame me as a physiotherapist, while on the sports side, my next goal is to take care of athletes at some world or Olympic games.
Good luck, Lukrecija.