30 November 2020

The Physiotherapist Behind the Icelandic Soccer Championships

physiotherapist Valgeir Viðarsson holding 2019 Úrvalsdeild Icelandic Championship cup with team member

Valgeir Viðarsson

Head of Medical at KR Reykjavik FC
Head Physio of Valur Handball Team
Senior Physio at Atlas Rehabilitation
Master of Physiotherapy

For as long as he can remember, Valgeir Viðarsson has been passionate about sport. From his life-long devotion to Manchester United, ardently cheering on his sports teams at both stadiums and on television, to playing soccer and team handball religiously (even earning the ‘attended the most training sessions’ award as an adolescence), it’s no surprise Valgeir has found himself making a career out of what he loves.

With a desire to be immersed in the rituals and high stakes of professional sport, meaningfully contributing to a team’s success, Valgeir has found a natural talent for human performance and physiotherapy as Head of Medical at KR Reykjavik Football Club in the Icelandic Football League and Head Physio of the Valur Handball Team. In his spare time, he also treats this string of elite players at private clinic, Atlas Rehabilitation.

At KR Reykjavik, Valgeir’s responsibilities involve game-day coverage as a pitch-side physio and the multiple club training sessions weekly during the season. His role also importantly includes communication with the Head Coach, Strength & Conditioning Coaches and Team Doctor regarding player’s injuries, rehabilitation, and sometimes even delegation of surgeries.

With his area of interest being the lower limb, load management and ACL rehabilitation, all of which are linked to the particular sport of soccer, these kinds of issues within the team are a big part of his work.

Valgeir (left) as Head Physiotherapist treating a player on court during a game.
Valgeir (left) as Head Physiotherapist treating a player on court during a game. Source.

“Load management is something I believe is important to keep players available for game days and something that is even harder when working with athletes that are working full time jobs or studying.”

“ACL rehabilitation is very demanding too as it is a long-lasting rehabilitation that can challenge the athlete and the physio in many ways. During the rehab I get to spend a lot of time with the athlete and seeing them going back to their sport is very rewarding.”

These past couple years at KR Reykjavik, have been particularly exciting for the club as the team won the 2019 Úrvalsdeild Icelandic Championship last year and as a result qualified for the iconic UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues in 2020.

Yet, despite not maybe achieve the results they wanted; the experience was momentous. Valgeir says playing in the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers is something he would like to do every year, as those games give the Club an important experience and himself a chance to meet fellow colleagues in the game.

“2019 was a great season where KR Reykjavik tied the record of most points in one season and broke the record of winning with biggest point difference in the history of Icelandic football. As a result, the team played in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League,” says Valgeir.

“We drew against Glasgow Celtic and due to COVID we only played one game at their home stadium. It was a great experience, but it was sad that no fans were allowed for the game as most often 40,000 fans show up for Celtic games.

“After that loss we played against Flora Tallinn from Estonia for the Europa League qualifying rounds but sadly lost 1-2. Being a man down for 25 minutes though we should have tied the game to get into extra time and penalty shootout.”

The changeroom celebrations after KR Football Club’s 2019 Úrvalsdeild Icelandic Championship win. Source.
The changeroom celebrations after KR Football Club’s 2019 Úrvalsdeild Icelandic Championship win. Source.

In 2014, despite being already five years into his lucrative physio career, Valgeir made the decision to take his career to the next level and gain a Master of Physiotherapy at the University of South Australia for three reasons; how highly physiotherapy study in Australia is rated around the world, the setup of a clinical master with a combination of musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapy, and of course the draw of Australia with its ideal weather, beaches and exotic wildlife. It was during his time here that has made him into the professional he is today.

“I remember my time at UniSA as being very demanding study wise, but also very joyful as I made many great friends and learnt so many great things,” says Valgeir.

“I do try to keep in touch with those friends. I have organized an online webinar with my dear friend Dave Moen at Form Physio. I did visit Sam Townsley when he worked as a physio at Crystal Palace FC (now at Adelaide United) and he came for a short visit to Iceland where I was able to show him the Northern Lights.”

When he’s not pitch-side at games or rehabilitating some of the country’s best soccer players, Valgeir is being active with his wife and three young kids around picturesque Iceland – riding bikes, going to playgrounds, playing football – or as we call it soccer – and snow sledding.

With Iceland and Australia being (almost) poles apart, it’s surprising there are a couple similarities. Valgeir explains that he enjoyed the way each part of the world is geographically organised with plenty of space to explore as almost all towns, and capital, Reykjavik are built around the coastline of Iceland. He says the biggest contrast between Iceland and Australia is the weather and the wildlife.

Valgeir (right) and fellow KR Football Club player after a game. Source.
Valgeir (right) and fellow KR Football Club player after a game. Source.

“The space we have is great and that is one of the things I like about living in Iceland. I also like that it does not take long to get out of the city to see some great nature sites like Thingvellir and Geysir or to go for a hike in mountains with a great view over Reykjavik.”

“Given the location and the name of my country, Iceland, it is colder than Australia. However, it doesn't get super cold during wintertime, but it doesn't get very hot during summertime either. There is a joke though about Icelandic weather, saying that if you do not like the weather, just wait a few minutes. You can leave the house in a sunny morning and get back home after work in a rainy storm.”

“With all the differences, it took us a few months to settle into the Australian lifestyle, as I also had my wife and 1-year-old son with me at the time, however, luckily, we enjoyed most of the year going to gardens, beaches and wineries."

“We still miss that part, but I hope to be able to bring my wife and our three kids to Australia one day to allow them to experience the great country of Australia.”

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