In a follow-up interview with Rousing the Kop, Liverpool Football Club’s two Andys had another chat with Dave Davis.
Arguably the most overlooked aspect of any football club, medics and physios are the foundation of any successful team and Liverpool are no different.
The two Andys today share the personal connection they have with the players they work with on a day-to-day basis.
Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson. Both have gone through rehab over the summer, both are back in the first-team and now captains of their country. How proud did the medical team feel when that was announced?
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AR – We spend a lot of time with the boys and obviously become quite close to them, so when the news broke about their captaincy roles we were made up for them. Both of those lads work extremely hard and have been through a lot the last few years and fully deserve the recognition they get.
AM – To be honest, the two boys are perfect choices to captain their country. You couldn’t meet two nicer men in football. As a medical team, the best we can do is help the players to perform at the highest level possible, we are just a small cog in the wheel. It is the players who do all the hard work and deserve all the credit… It is just as rewarding seeing two very humble guys receiving such a magnificent honour.
Along with the two players mentioned above, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge have both confirmed they’ve worked with the medical teams over the summer. How have you individually been involved?
AM – Top level football these days is a 12-month cycle. We try and ensure the players get rested in the offseason and come back refreshed, but that rarely means they do nothing. Along with the fitness department, the players will all have individual plans.
Injured players will need more of an input obviously and their rehabilitation plans need to be designed and implemented. If we think a player can benefit from a period of time at an external rehab centre we will often send one of our staff to ensure all the work is carried out.
Some players have done their rehab at Melwood over the summer, some have been in the States and Portugal. Was it rock, paper, scissors to see who went where?
AR – We try and rotate it around the staff, and use each staff members own personal qualities to help with the player. I also want to ensure all staff gets equal time with their families over the summer. Before we send a player away anywhere, we ensure the facility they are going to visit has everything we need to complete their rehab, they don’t just go to nice places!!
AM – it does sound glamorous (although, once we did send someone to Ireland), but as Andy says, it is more time away from your family. We understand this, and luckily so do our families, but if we think it benefits a player and the club, then it is a no-brainer.
We’ve had a number of youngsters break into the first team recently, such as Ben Woodburn, Dominic Solanke, TAA. From a medical perspective, do they have to be managed differently?
AR- Good question, in short, yes. The demands of regular first-team football do not reflect those of regular reserve/u23 games, and we have to be acutely aware of the stresses and strains the younger players’ bodies are being put under when they start to follow our training schedule.
We have a fatigue monitoring system in place for all players, and we use this along with other day-to-day assessments to closely monitor how the lads are responding to the substantial training load at such a young age.
AM- The adult athlete and adolescent athlete are very different. From a medical point of view, they respond differently to loading and they respond differently to injury. We have to be aware of this and it often means treatment strategies and rehab plans need to be adapted.
From a personal point of view, we are both fathers and the players mentioned are not much older than our own kids, so I would like to think we can look after these players the way we would want someone to look after and care for our kids. Ultimately with adolescent athletes we are developing and protecting talent, and the manager helps immensely with this by looking after the younger squad members.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a deadline day signing. Newspaper publications said the FA staff conducted this medical, but the club said it was its own staff. Can you clarify what happened?
AM – Completely false. Alex was misquoted. He thanked the England staff for allowing the medical to go ahead, as he was on international duty. The medical was performed by LFC staff at the England training complex.
We have very extensive pre-signing medicals that can often take up to 7 hours to complete. The idea is that we provide the manager and owners with a comprehensive idea of any medical risk and to allow us to put in place any preventive strategies that can help improve player availability and performance.
From a learning perspective, we saw you both tweet that Professor Jill Cook held a workshop on tendons at the club. Is further learning a key part of your role?
AM – Of course. Sports medicine is an ever-evolving field. We need to keep up to date with innovations that can help us prevent injuries or return players to play more safely. We will often get world leaders in specific aspects of sports medicine (in Jill’s case, this was tendinopathy), in to help us with our continued professional development.
There is always scope to learn from other sports and other disciplines. I heard a stat that by the time you finish medical school, 50% of the stuff taught in the first year will be out of date, so continuing professional development is a huge aspect of our roles.
We’re in the Champions League this season, which brings visits to Sevilla, Moscow, and Slovenia. Do the extra midweek games and climates cause a big change from last season?
AM – The manager has highlighted already that the increase in matches means a decrease in training sessions and more time away from Melwood. It involves a lot more planning, both in terms of the logistics and in terms of the training schedules. Quite often the squad will be split with a number of players remaining behind to train at Melwood, so our staff needs to do the same. This is on top of planning any rehab sessions for any injured players. What it unfortunately comes down to is it means I have to tuck Renners in more nights in the hotel.
AR- It also means communication amongst staff needs to remain as efficient as ever. We need to ensure that the schedule for every individual player works to time to ensure we maintain the quality of what we deliver. As Andy M says, more games = more travel, more travel = more time away, and this can cause chaos for players plans if we don’t communicate well and organise appropriately. As for the ‘tucking in’ bit, he’s tried this a few times and after my last meeting with HR, these instances seem to have ceased.
Andreas Kornmayer and Christopher Rohrbeck have come into the club in recent times, bringing Bundesliga experience. How does their role and experience overlap with your own?
AR – Andreas runs the Sports Science department and has been great to work with. He brings different experiences and practices to what we might be used to working in the English game, but they’ve worked for him for years and they’re working for us now.
Chris came in July and has been a huge help. He’s a very well experienced osteopath and again brings a different perspective to what we might be familiar with in this country. He works with us in the physiotherapy department and shares treatment and rehabilitation responsibilities with the rest of the lads, and has honestly further strengthened and unified the team.
He is invaluable when me and Andy M have to explain complicated aspects of medicine/physiotherapy as he can translate it into a manner in which the manager understands perfectly.
We’ve seen numerous players come into the club over the summer. What has been your individual role in those medicals?
AM – As mentioned previously, our medicals are very extensive, and take a lot of planning. This begins with our scouting team. They put in a lot of work to provide us with as much of a history as possible, looking at the players reported injuries and playing availability over the previous years. This allows us to focus our examinations and recommendations during the medical. We are very grateful to David Woodfine and his team for this, it helps make our jobs much easier. The players will then come to Melwood for their medicals.
The players will then come to Melwood for their medicals. This consists of a medical and physiotherapy screening (players always comment that the medical examination is much better because my hands are warmer!), bloodwork, cardiac examination, strength and functional movement screen and a long time in an MRI scanner looking at all the major joints.
If needed further examinations are done at this stage too. At the end of the tests, we then report back to the owners our findings and advice. I would never pass or fail a medical (people think medicals are very dramatic), the idea is to give the owners medical recommendations for their investment and to look after the health of the players.
AR- Cold hands, warm heart doc…
There are those who have been critical of the club’s injury record in recent times, without actually looking at the facts. Does it frustrate the medical team?
AM – Because we work for Liverpool, we are constantly in the spotlight. It is easy to be critical of injuries, with any team in any sport, someone will always think of a suggestion to prevent these injuries. As a medical team we will never comment on individual injuries, so we never respond to any of the articles. What I would say is that as a team, we work as hard as possible to ensure players are kept injury free, and as importantly, that we return players from injury as quickly as possible. That is why we are in the jobs we do.
AR – Without question. Our team of staff truly is exceptional at working together to keep players on the pitch and to return injured players back as safely and as quickly as possible. There’s always going to be talk about our injuries because we’re a big club, but anyone who knows what they’re talking about will understand which injuries are actually preventable.
How can you prevent an injury like Sadio Mane’s last season when a tackle on him causes him to require surgery and miss 14wks from training and games? The facts are simple, I started in July 2016, and during that season we reduced preventable (non-contact, soft tissue) injuries by 63% compared to the season prior. The days missed due to these reduced from 623 days for season 2015-16, to 144 days missed during 2016-17. The number of these injuries also reduced from 30 in 2015-16 to 11 in 2016-17. In 2015-16 there were 17 hamstring injuries, last season we had 3, I could go on believe me.
The manager, the coaching staff, the sports science staff, and the medical staff all work communally to keep these figures low, whilst trying to maximise performance, so when our results are outstanding and people still publish false information – yes that’s a tad frustrating!!
Gameday. Jurgen and Zeljko watch the opposition, Pep Ljinders takes the first team through drills and John Achtenberg warms up the keepers. What does a standard match-day look like for you?
AM – I usually sit back and watch Renners do all the work (AR interjects: this is true – though not just on a match-day). Seriously though, at the match, I usually ensure there is a valid emergency action plan in place, so that we all know who does what if there is a serious illness or injury.
I work closely with the tunnel doctor either at Anfield or the away grounds. Then it is a case of prescribing any medications that are needed before and during the match or assessing any injuries that occur. At the end of the match, we will assess all the players and hopefully not have any drug testing, which can add a few hours onto the day!
AR- I’ll be in the treatment room with the other staff (Richie Partridge, Chris Rohrbeck, and Paul Small). Matchdays are always chaotic from the moment we arrive, and we spend the whole time going through everything each player requires pre-game. For some players it’ll be soft-tissue work, others joint-based treatments, balance work, strappings, core work, pre-activation work, each player’s game day preparation is different. When that’s done it’s time to get the boots and radios on, ensure they’re all working and we can all hear each other, and off we go outside for the warm-up.
When Andy R runs onto the pitch, we sometimes see you talking into your headsets then Dr. Massey runs on. Is that because it could be a serious injury or another reason?
AM – We helped develop a video replay system (with a company called MyPlayxPlay) where we are able to wirelessly send clips of injuries to an iPad beside the bench, which are very proud of. We have one of the physios who can slow down the footage and zoom in and uses this to explain exactly the mechanism of any injury. This gives us valuable information as we run onto the pitch. If I don’t think the injury is serious, I will often have a look at the incident on the iPad and can help feedback to Renners.
AR- An additional benefit of having the radios (and the iPad system) is we can provide the manager with specific information about each injury we have to run on the pitch for. I’ll radio back the info and Chris can then translate it for the manager to have immediate details.
Final question, medical team 5-a-side. Richie Partridge is a football manager legend and Dr. Massey had a successful career in the Irish League. Would Andy R definitely get in?
AM – No, I’d prefer to just play with 2 in our 5–a-side team
AR – Scandalous. Who does your research?! – a successful career in the Irish league?? – from what I was told he was a filler who stood in at centre half and never moved for 90mins?!! I remember when it was announced that Jurgen had offered me the job of Head Physio that a few people commented on Twitter that they’d done the same on Football Manager and it was a great move. But that computer game also had me aged 52 and on £6k a week, I’m not sure what happened there – maybe they got me mixed up with the doc??