As part of our new Health and Wellness series, we're taking fans behind the scenes at the City Football Academy to meet the staff responsible for ensuring that our young players and both the Men’s and Women’s First teams are in peak physical condition.

Ahead of MCWFC's first 2016 Women's Super League game we spoke to Lead Physiotherapist, Dave Clark.

Since graduating eight years ago, Dave has worked in a variety of roles. He spent five years in the NHS before joining Celtic Football Club, where he was Academy Physiotherapist. He joined City in a similar role before taking a secondment to become Lead Physiotherapist at MCWFC.

Can you give us an overview of your role?

My main responsibilities are to deal with injuries and to look at what strategies we can use to reduce the number of injuries we have as a team. We do this through screening, pre-activation and gym conditioning, which is led by sports scientists, who we work closely with.

On a matchday I am responsible for player preparation, such as strappings, soft tissue mobilisation and if necessary assisting with the warm up. Once the game kicks off I am there to attend to any injury on the pitch. If we do have any significant injuries, I lead on organising scans with our administrators and arranging consultations with specialists.

What does your typical week involve?

In a normal fixture week, we will have a game on a Sunday and the players will have Monday off. Potentially we could have a second day of recovery on Tuesday, but it is dependent on what players have played what minutes. 

There are certain players in the squad we would seek to manage differently if they have had significant injuries previously. Or, if we deem they have had a high workload recently, we would reduce their training volume. Some players may need recovery in the pools or to see me for physiotherapy.

On Wednesday the workload starts to build up for the following game. There will be days in that week which will be tailored by sports science, when the players will have both a morning pitch based session and an afternoon gym session. The day before the match they will have a light training session.

How does your work fit into that of the wider Performance team?

We work closely with sports scientists on injury reduction strategies and assisting players in the gym. It’s a real collaborative effort. We look at any issues that might be identified by a physio assessment, or how a player may move on the pitch or in the gym.

We meet every Thursday before the weekend game, so there is constant collaboration between all members of the Performance team.

How does your approach differ depending on what player you’re dealing with?

You can’t treat everyone the same, not even within the same age group. You need to identify what sort of personality you’re dealing with. We can give adults more responsibility in terms of what their goals are and what they’re looking to achieve. At a younger age, players may need a bit more guidance.

We try to get Academy players to think for themselves, but we understand they might not have the life experience of a senior player in the Women’s First Team and the experience of injuries that they have.

In terms of rehabilitation strategies we might employ, some players respond to a lot of detail. They want to know their numbers and figures and how they can progress, and what the next step is until they achieve their final goal. Some players just want to know their end goal in terms of getting return on the pitch.

What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge coincides with some of the biggest rewards. Seeing a player suffer a really significant injury that’s going to rule them out for a prolonged period is something you would never wish on anyone. 

Seeing someone at their lowest ebb is one of the toughest things to deal with because emotions are riding high and they’ll be struggling to understand their injury. You try and explain it the best you can, but ultimately they’re probably not in the best frame of mind. 

Taking them from that lowest ebb to seeing them get back on the pitch is the best thing about the job.

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