Powered By
MGM Logo
Scores / Schedule

Karen Nichol Helping Warriors Be ‘Best Versions of Themselves’ 

In the dynamic realm of sports, where grit and determination intersect with the pursuit of peak performance, having a strong training staff is important.  

Vancouver Warriors’ lead physiotherapist, Karen Nichol is a key piece of the puzzle for the Warriors’ training staff; her expertise and passion earning her the respect of coaches and athletes around the Lower Mainland.  

The founder of Royal City Physio, she has spent her professional career serving New Westminster and the surrounding area. Her clients range from children to seniors, minor, semi-professional, and professional sports teams and their athletes.  

Over two decades into her career, Nichol says there’s never a dull moment and she loves what she does. It’s all the motivation she needs to be up and at ‘em with some early morning wake up calls. 

“I love being able to work with some of the best athletes and push them to that next level. Being part of their journey – whether it’s optimization of performance, or just getting them through a tough injury – being able to help them be the best versions of themselves is gratifying. To see them work through tough problems physically, mentally, or going through a tough season, is all part of the journey. We’re all in it together,” Nichol said.  

While she works with many high-performance athletes, Nichol has a passion for helping people continue to lead active, healthy lifestyles. Every day she’s inspired by some of her patients who overcome challenges and embrace wellness in all aspects of their lives.  

“I think of when I started my career over 20 years ago, the average 60- or 65-year-old that we see used to be someone that was just trying to keep moving or getting up and down the stairs, now we see 65-year-olds that want to walk the Camino trail for a month or bike 500 kilometers through Tuscany. We’re seeing that 60 is the new 40 and people are coming to us to be able to go on adventures and live their best lives,” she shared.  

Her team at Royal City Physio also consults teams and hosts injury prevention seminars for coaches and groups. A few of the teams they work with include the New Westminster Salmonbellies Junior A team, Burnaby rugby, Royal City soccer, pickleball enthusiasts and individual athletes like skiers and hikers.  

A former collegiate basketball player, Nichol knows the nuances of how the body reacts and a nagging injury in one area of the body could potentially mean there are half a dozen things to correct or tighten up.  

“For example, if there’s a low-back issue you can do mobilization work in the area, but I always ask, ‘How can we make this injury better long term?’ We figure out how to get the core firing to protect that area, how to create stabilization through that area, how to get everything working around that area. We look at how we can change how they’re loading off that leg, so they’re not always making their back sore. When they’re striking the ground, we want to get better placement of the trunk so that the back is staying more in line so to speak, so that they’re not encountering extra shearing forces,” Nichol said.  

Nichol graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and the Physiotherapy Association of B.C. She has also completed post-graduate certifications including Orthopedic Division Levels, various manual therapy courses, Anatomical-Neuropathic IMS, and holds her First Responder Certification.  

In addition to treating the injuries at her clinic through manual treatments, specific stretches and education, she also trains athletes how to react quicker with muscle activations and fine-tuning exercises to engage the core and sync the body from fingertips to feet.  

For the Vancouver Warriors, she works closely with strength and conditioning coach, Matt Holtzmann, to help the team use more efficient movements whether they are coming back from injury or not.  

“With guys at this level you can’t just go from passive treatment to strength and conditioning. So, I’m that middle ground from the manual work and functional strengthening to getting body systems syncing together, creating good habits and optimizing neural patterning,” Nichol said.  

Warriors’ leading scorer Adam Charalambides tore both ACLs in college and continues to work on his overall strength every offseason to build his speed, working on his ankle and hip control and overall athleticism. Charalambides and some of his teammates see Nichol twice a week for training and physiotherapy if needed.  

“I have to give a huge shout out to Karen Nichol, our on-staff physiotherapist and Matt Holtzmann our strength and conditioning coach, living in Vancouver and work with them twice a week is the main reason why I’m able to go out and perform every Saturday, big shout out to our training staff,” Charalambides said.  

Warriors General Manager and Head Coach Curt Malawsky met Nichol over 20 years ago when he was still playing pro lacrosse. She helped him with his rehab and fitness to stay game ready week to week through the end of his long career. She was mentored by physiotherapist and sports science consultant, Randy Celebrini, and was on the ground floor for the rollout of the On-Field Clinic that provides sport specific rehabilitation for pro and amateur athletes.  

Malawsky respects Nichol’s dedication to her craft and their mutual belief in a team-first mentality has led to the longevity of their partnership. It started with Burnaby Junior A lacrosse and Coquitlam Senior A Adanacs, with Nichol ultimately staying with the Senior Adanacs as the team physio for the past 19 years. She also worked with the Vancouver-based players for the Calgary Roughnecks while Malawsky served as head coach, and physio for Team Canada men’s indoor box lacrosse winning gold in 2019 when Malawsky was an assistant coach.  

“She’s an unbelievable therapist and even better person. She just aligns so well with what we want to do about hard work, honest effort and preparation,” Malawsky said. “Her preparation is top notch and I think the biggest thing I admire about her is she’s so calm – her demeanor is just amazing. Even in a pressure cooker situation she doesn’t waver, and she does her job like that, which is absolutely outstanding. She doesn’t change on a situation which makes her one of the best.”  

Being in the middle of the action is where Nichol thrives. While not every situation is the same, she said it all boils down to putting the player’s health first, following her process and providing a quick but thorough assessment.  

Nichol quarterbacks the Warriors’ medical and training team, writing biweekly injury reports, getting feedback from the rest of the training staff and relaying that information to the entire medical team, coaches and management so that everyone is on the same page. She understands Malawsky’s thought process and speaks the same language when it comes to the severity of an injury and what the rehab process looks like. 

“I trust Karen. Any decision that she makes I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash at it. I trust it, I believe in it 100 percent,” Malawsky said.  

Through her unwavering commitment to the well-being of athletes, Nichol helps recovery but also cultivates a culture of resilience and excellence. As athletes continue to push boundaries and redefine limits, Nichol is there leading the charge, ensuring that they stand strong, both on and off the field.  

To learn more about Royal City Physio you can visit the website at https://www.royalcityphysio.com/.

Vancouver Warriors