|INJURY| how does Britain fare in the treatment of
Inside Out investigates how many professional
footballers are receiving sub-standard medical treatment. It's a problem that can destroy the careers of even the most highly paid players.
When a professional footballer, worth millions to the club, is sidelined
through injury, you would be forgiven for assuming they would receive
the best medical treatment available.
However it may surprise you to learn that in many cases
the treatment you or I would receive at our local NHS far exceeds the
standards of treatment received by many professional footballers.
Surprised? Inside Out was, so we sent Dr Ralph Rogers,
sports medicine specialist to investigate.
Derek Dougan the Wolverhampton Wanderer’s legend knows
all too well how substandard medical treatment can destroy careers.
Thirty years ago, Derek was a household name, yet his
glittering career was nearly ruined by a wrongly diagnosed injury. During
the second match of 1959, Derek seriously injured his ankle.
career was so very nearly destroyed through injury|
It took eleven weeks before doctors realised that his
ankle was actually broken. Never accepting responsibility for the mistake,
the hospital simply claimed it was "one of those things."
If only it had just been one of those things, but the
1960s and 70s were legendary for stories of misdiagnosis.
Dr Ralph Rogers is doubtful as to whether medical care
in English football has really improved since then.
A revealing report by Dr Ivan Waddington of Leicester
University investigates the extent of the problem and reveals some startling
- Out of 58 club doctors involved in the report, only nine are specially
- Half of the physiotherapists involved in the report had no training
The FA’s response to the report is that the 92 football
clubs in the League all have very different budgets. It is therefore unreasonable
to expect a second division club to be in a position to afford the same
medical care as a premiership giant.
|Dr Ralph Rogers
gives Nuneaton Borough FC a thorough check-up|
This indeed is reflected in the fact that all new club
physios in the Premiership must be qualified. But that’s only 20 clubs
out of 92. So what’s the prognosis for the remaining 72?
Many of the big clubs refused Inside Out entry. It was
only non-league Nuneaton Borough that gladly opened its doors to us.
Here the team physio Paul Eagon, is a full time fireman.
His work at the club is only part time so the majority of rehabilitation
is undertaken by the footballers at home.
Willing to change
Dr Ralph Rogers was impressed with Nuneaton’s positive
attitude towards injury and willingness to take on board his suggestions.
|Dr Ralph's Suggestions|
the dug out
- players sit in the freezing cold prior to playing. Cold muscles
are more prone to injury. Dr Rogers cheap and simple solution? The
good old hot water bottle
the heat lamp
- this is an antiquated piece of kit and there is little proof that
it actually helps
- footballers' boots are normally half a size down to ensure a tight
fit and good contact with the ball. This can cause blistering. The
footballers' solution is to smear their socks in Vaseline to give
more flexibility. Dr Rogers' is highly sceptical of this method
Nuneaton may have a forward thinking approach, but not
all clubs are as willing to change. As Derek Dougan can testify, it’s
the players that are suffering in the long run.
"I am no longer able to run. I have a serious back problem.
I need a knee replacement. I have challenged club doctors. I have challenged
the club physiotherapist. I have challenged the club trainer.
With hindsight I have been completely vindicated because
my stand in all of this has been correct."
The FA seems to be full of contradictions. With players'
salaries reaching astronomical figures, it seems inconceivable that something
as important and fundamental as medical care should be so neglected.
As Derek Dougan concludes; "The most valuable thing today
in soccer are the players…If there had been a bit more care, a bit more
understanding… Then I think we may not be in the state we are today."