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Special Feature: Medical Matters


08:30 13th May 2014

Player availability hits record high

It may have been a record-breaking season for Wolves on the pitch with many previous landmarks overhauled.

But the same applies off the field as well in the area of injury prevention, with the medical department posting their lowest rate of injuries since those measurements started over ten years ago.

In doing so, that gave Head Coach Kenny Jackett a largely fully fit squad for much of the campaign, and particularly through the gruelling spell of nine games in 28 days where results actually helped propel Wolves to the brink of promotion.

Being able to call on the vast majority of his squad, and the work of the medical, fitness and sport science staff in keeping those players in good condition, helped Jackett ensure his selections maintained a rhythm and consistency which offered the platform to show their ability right where it mattered.

A target had been set of keeping 85 per cent of the first team squad available for selection through the season but, as Head of the Medical Department Phil Hayward explains, that was one of many Wolves ambitions comfortably surpassed during a memorable campaign.

And so, while the medical room is a hive of activity both before and after training with all the different pre-hab work taking place, it has often been fairly quiet while the players are outside, as shown from the accompanying picture!

Hayward says:  “We have had an exceptional season in terms of the low levels of injuries that we have seen for which the entire Medical and Sport Science Department deserves great credit. 

“This is not only the case with the first team but also at Under-21, Under-18 and Under-16 level and is an indicator of the way our strategies run right the way through the Football Club and the work that is being done at every level. 

“Monitoring and auditing injury rates is something we place a lot of emphasis on as it allows us to see any trends that develop over time and also allows us to benchmark ourselves against other clubs.

“We have seen the availability percentage this season at an all-time high of 94% which has meant that the Head Coach has had a largely fully fit squad to choose from for the majority of matches.”

There is of course very little Wolves’ medical staff – or any club’s medical staff – can do about impact injuries picked up in training and matches, apart from ensuring as smooth and speedy rehabilitation process as is possible.

But it is in the reduction of muscle injuries via various preventative methods where Wolves have made major gains in recent seasons.

“At the end of the day, our job as a department is not only to get injured players fit, but to put measures in place in order to prevent the injuries in the first place,” says Hayward.

“As the science of injury prevention continues to evolve, we are at the cutting edge and are very forward thinking in the approaches that we implement.

“Not wanting to give away too much inside information, I don’t want to go into too much detail as at the end of the day, our preventative strategies give the first team a competitive advantage. “Essentially, a lot of the work we do is based around good biomechanics and sound movement patterns to minimise the load on the joints during landing type activities. 

“Additionally we ensure that the stabilising muscles around the lower trunk, hips and pelvis are all working optimally as these have a key role to play in the loading patterns further down the movement chain at the knee and the ankle.”

Hayward oversees a department where it is very much a team effort with different physiotherapists with different skills and specialisms working with the club’s entire playing staff from first team to Academy.

Among that dedicated group, first team physiotherapist Carl Howarth is the Injury Prevention Lead.

“Carl does an excellent job spending a lot of time with the fit players monitoring their movement patterns and providing individualised programmes in order to ensure they are functioning optimally,” says Hayward.

“Carl’s role has developed over the last few years to a point where he now spends the majority of his time working with fit rather than injured players. 

“This modern approach to injury prevention is a continually evolving field but we feel that the framework we have in place should allow us to keep injury levels at a low level in order to continue to maximise the availability of players to enhance the first teams’ chances of success.”

There is however no time to rest on any laurels with the medical department already planning now for pre-season and a return to the Sky Bet Championship.

A repeat of the excellent record this season will give Jackett and the coaching staff the best possible options available as Wolves look to build on the on-field achievements of a hugely successful campaign.

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