Pro footballers not in safe hands

January 28, 2000

They might be increasingly well paid but the medical support enjoyed by England's professional footballers has been found to be woefully inadequate.

A new study has shown that half of all league club physiotherapists fail to reach the professional standards required to work in the National Health Service.

The research also revealed that some players were being sent back into competitive matches before their injuries had healed properly.

The neglect shown could pose a threat to the health of many players - other studies have shown a high level of disability and illness among former professional footballers.

The poor medical standards of English football were exposed by Graham Parker, a senior lecturer in leisure management at Coventry University, and Ivan Waddington and Martin Roderick, of the University of Leicester.

Their report, Managing Injuries in Professional Football: the Roles of the Club Doctor and Professional Physiotherapist, suggested a reluctance to treat the problem of injuries seriously, in contrast to clubs in other European countries.

"We found that about half of all physiotherapists working in English league clubs are not chartered, and as a result would not be qualified to work in the NHS," said Dr Parker.

"Furthermore the majority of club doctors have no specialist qualifications, and tend to be recruited through the 'old boy network'. Overall, most clubs fall far short of good medical practice and fail to measure up to the medical standards in other European clubs."

The report recorded instances of club doctors and physios being put under unacceptable pressure from managers to allow injured footballers to resume playing in competitive matches before being fully fit.

The research, commissioned by the Professional Footballers' Association, recommended that all medical vacancies on a club's staff should be properly advertised and that a medical expert sit on the interview panel. In addition, there should be better training for both doctors and physiotherapists than at present and clubs should upgrade their medical facilities.

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