Owls set example in fight against injuries

Rare blow: Mark Beevers with Paul Smith (left) and Dr Richard Higgins but injuries have been reduced
Rare blow: Mark Beevers with Paul Smith (left) and Dr Richard Higgins but injuries have been reduced
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WEDNESDAY are the envy of Premier League and Championship clubs because of the way they have kept players fit.

The Owls used to be known as a club with continual injury problems.

But the physio department headed by Paul Smith - who today reaches the second anniversary of his appointment - has seen the player availability rate for the last two seasons rise to more than 90 per cent.

A figure of around 70 per cent was the norm before that.

Smith confirmed: “Last season it was 93 per cent. This season it is 92 per cent.

“I have spoken to physios at Championship and Premier League clubs, and they have said there won’t be a club at those levels that achieves those results.

“One did say there’s a Premier League club that will get 84-85 per cent and they’re very happy with that.”

With 56 games having been played, the club head into Saturday’s finale with only one injury: Mark Beevers’ fractured cheekbone.

Smith gives an insight into the “seven days a week, 365 days a year” job done by the Owls physio team: “We have a great team and we all work together.”

It includes assistant physio Dean Taylor, masseur Ben Parker, soft-tissue specialist Derry Suter, who is at the club two mornings a week, and works with athlete Jessica Ennis; and osteopath Sam Morris and podiatrist Lee Bray, who come in one morning a week.

“The players all have individual injury-prevention programmes, which is a key factor,” added Smith. “We work with fit players daily.

“Before training we’ll be massaging, manipulating, strapping, doing mobility and soft-tissue therapy. We also have have plenty of work to do with the fit players after training. It all helps to prevent injuries. We’ll do rehabiliation of injured players while the others are training, but it’s not all about injured players.

“We do a lot of work to keep the fit players fit. We have eight players who haven’t missed a day’s training and have been available for every game, out of a squad of 22.”

The medical team also includes doctors Richard Higgins - who has also been picked to work with England Under 21s - and Alistair Park: “We’re lucky to have sports physicians of their quality associated with the club.”

Paul can also seek the advice of his dad if necessary: Alan, a former Owls physio, helps the club on a consultancy basis. “To be able to tap into his knowledge and experience is a good thing.”

But the Beevers injury is of the type that no-one can prevent: “You’re never going to eradicate traumatic injuries; Mark’s is a classic example of that kind. It’s the minor ones and soft-tissue one we’re trying to reduce.

“On top of that, we’ve got recurring injuries down to an absolute minimum; that’s down to sound rehabilitation.”

The reduction of injuries has also saved the club money. For example, in 2008-09, they paid out £122,000 for medical costs such as scans, specialists’ fee and operations; this season the figure has been £47,000.

There has also been little need to bring in loan players just to cover for injured men.