THIS season’s aim was the same as any other – reduce the risk of injury and maximise player availability.
The only question – how?
As a medical department it is our job to manage the professional players in the squad so that when it comes to match day they are both physically and mentally prepared as possible.
The start of the season is mainly geared around preparation and baseline measures.
Pre-season testing focuses on fitness, speed, power and agility – we use these results continually throughout the season as an indicator of a players’ fitness status as they return from injury.
As a player comes close to a return to play, there is certain criteria he must pass to return to training.
These parameters will differ from club to club, so I won’t be giving away any of our secrets!
We were lucky enough to travel to Spain for a training camp in early July.
Unfortunately we lost Zander Diamond and Billy Kee to foot and thigh injuries respectively and neither featured until mid-September.
This was particularly disappointing for all involved and we knew we had to react.
‘Prehabilitation’ became our main emphasis.
A series of strengthening, stretching and stability exercises allowed us to monitor the players a lot more closely.
This way we could target areas of weakness and make them more robust as athletes!
We changed things this year, and offered the players more modalities to allow bodies to regenerate and repair.
Compression garments, protein shakes, nutrition and ice baths are all available to our players day by day.
We also have a great support team including team doctors, massage therapists and a chiropractor, who all apply their expertise to the performance of the team.
March brought a change in defence due a calf injury to Ian Sharps, which saw Marcus Holness start for the first time in six months – stressing the importance of keeping the players not involved as fit as possible.
Reserve games play a huge part in this, as well as extra fitness sessions with Jack Sharkey, who plays a pivotal role in the department.
Towards the end of the season, it seemed that for some of the players it was going to be a race against time, but for others it was clearly the end of the season and time to re-group for the next campaign.
Damien McCrory was struggling with an on-going knee cartilage problem before surgery was eventually needed.
Jimmy Phillips was the victim of a tackle away at Newport County resulting in a posterior cruciate ligament tear.
Both have been great so far and have excellent attitudes – I know they’ll be fine during their rehabilitation periods.
March also saw the arrival of Zeli Ismail from Wolverhampton Wanderers – a tricky winger with speed and power in abundance.
A hamstring injury meant we lost Zeli against AFC Wimbledon and that kept him sidelined for eight weeks.
He returned at the end of April, but had to substituted at half time of the first leg against Southend due to a reoccurrence.
Post match it looked highly unlikely that he would return for the second leg, which he didn’t.
Some might think he is saving himself for the play-off final on Monday, but regrettably it looks unlikely.
Pleasingly, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Adam McGurk both returned at key times following Achilles and groin problems – both helping us progress.
With Dominic Knowles, Matty Palmer and Phil Edwards available for every game, we approach the final game of the season with a 91 per cent player availability – an improvement from 89 per cent last year.
Recent literature states that injury prevention and lower injury incidence rate is strongly correlated with team success and that certainly is our philosophy.
I hope you have enjoyed the season as much as we have
See you at Wembley!
The Medical Team