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Transfer medicals uncovered at St George's Park

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

ON THE RUN ... a subject takes to the treadmill.

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WHILE Billy Kee was undergoing his medical at Scunthorpe United last week, the Burton Mail was finding out exactly what is involved in the process.

We were invited by Perform St George's Park, the official healthcare provider at the FA national training centre, to attend a mock transfer medical at the Rangemore facility and see first-hand the process that players need to go through if they are to successfully move clubs.

The Perform team is about to enter one of its busiest periods of the year, as the summer transfer window nears its end, with clinical director Dr Charlotte Cowie and elite physiotherapist Steve Kemp prepared for an influx of requests from top clubs to check their potential recruits.

"As the end of the window comes, we get a lot of clubs calling on our services," said Cowie, former chief medic at Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham.

"If a club is making a big investment and want an objective view to see if the player will be fit for the long term, or they want to look at the injury risk, then they'll come to us.

"Or if there's a fixture clash at the end of the window and their own physios are tied up with matchday duties, we can help out then as well."

The assessment is extensive, with Cowie taking and fact-checking a medical history from the player before performing a health screening.

An ECG is performed, as well as blood tests, and if there are any exceptional worries at this point, athletes can be sent to Perform's sister facility at Little Aston for an MRI to check for any hidden damage.

"The clubs are looking for something which might look okay at the moment, but could flare up in the future," said Cowie.

"Someone might look quite good but once we start asking them to do things, we start to see gaps in what might look like a healed injury."

After their time with Cowie, players are passed into the latex-gloved hands of Kemp – recently returned from Brazil as part of Roy Hodgson's England setup.

"Our role is to gain the numbers behind the things that Charlotte and the physios have looked at, and also the strength, endurance and power that they can take to a club," he said.

Players are strapped into a dentist-style chair which tests their quadriceps and hamstrings – and the apparently important difference between the two – before switching to the treadmill, where they run until exhaustion to test their metabolic rate.

They will also wear a mouthpiece for this test, which gathers expelled gasses to measure a player's anaerobic capacity.

These produce similar results to a bleep test, but Kemp insists the facilities at St George's Park are the gold standard.

"A bleep test can have a significant margin for error," he said. "This is the gold test and not a lot of clubs will have that capability."

With deadline day deals, time is of the essence.

"Clubs want to know straight away," said Cowie. "So as soon as everything is done, we would give a verbal verdict, and then follow that up with a written report within 24 hours."

Perform St. George's Park is the official healthcare provider for The FA National Training Centre in Burton-on-Trent. The cutting-edge sports medicine and human performance facility is open to elite athletes and the general public alike. For more information regarding the services provided by Perform at St. George's Park, visit www.spireperform.com/sgp.

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