CHANGING ROOM CHAT: Gary Lewin, Former Head of Physiotherapy at The FA, Arsenal FC, and West Ham FC
Firstly, what do you make of England’s run at the World Cup?
I’m really pleased for them. They’ve got a great bunch of players and a great set-up – and it’s just fantastic to see and really, really good for everyone concerned with football.
How do you think England have managed to keep their players fit and fresh in a tournament format?
It’s all about preparation. They would’ve planned every detail, from the minute they got together – with the backroom staff that they’ve got – who are highly-qualified and very-well respected.
But once the lads get over that white line, it’s down to them. You have to give them so much credit for the way they’ve played, the way they’ve behaved and how well they’ve done.
How difficult is it to juggle the desires of the player and manager against your professional instincts?
The biggest difference between professional and amateur sport, is that from day one, the minute they pick up the injury, you do all the testing, and you know to what extent the injury is. You’re working on them 24/7 from the first minute they’re injured – and so you’re doing a return-to-play plan, which involves discussion with the manager, the player, the doctors, the physios, the osteopaths. The sports scientists will be working out how much load they can put through the player.
Everything is planned to a fine detail – where you are optimising the treat, optimising the recovery period from the injury. But also, calculating how much load you can put through the player, and what risk it is to the player.
You’re calculating these things on a daily basis – it’s not a black-and-white answer.
Amateur and semi-professional sport has really developed in the last decade, with the small percentages really being accounted for. How important is it that athletes take out comprehensive sports insurance like Active Cover?
I touched on it there when talking about getting the players’ injuries sorted early and that’s the biggest problem. Historically, you get the ‘Weekend Warriors’ – people who get injured playing sport during the weekend. They tend to leave things. They get their injury, they leave it. They see if it gets any better. When it doesn’t get any better, then they might seek some help and treatment.
By that time, a lot of the damage is done and a lot of the scar tissue is laid down, and you’re losing vital time in the early stages of recovery.
I think that’s where it has changed a lot. People now are seeking professional advice much earlier in the process, because they know the earlier they get the treatment, the earlier they can get back out and play – and I think that’s where places like CMC would be crucial to encourage that environment.
At CMC, people can get expert opinion, get early treatment, early diagnosis.
Can you tell us a little bit about your association with CMC and the work you do with patients?
CMC is a medical centre that has many doctors, sports-medicine doctors, physiotherapists. We treat patients (many of which I refer to as ‘Weekend Warriors’), or any kind of injury. They’ll come in here and see the doctors, get a diagnosis. Imaging and testing can be arranged and then the treatment can start very, very early, so that the recovery programme starts a lot earlier down the line, so that less scar tissue forms, and you can return to the sport that you enjoy far, far quicker.
How can a premium level of insurance like Active Cover help aid recovery and get you back to fitness quicker?
Obviously it also gives you the reassurance that you can get expert advice very quickly – and you get the right advice and the right treatment very, very quickly.
We’re trying to invest in people doing a lot more sport and a lot more activity, but the actual support for when you get injured is very limited. So, by having that insurance, you have that comfort blanket of being able to get expert opinion, so you continue to do exercise.
Do you have any top tips for injured amateur footballers suffering typical muscular injuries (calf, hamstring strains, etc.)?
The obvious guidelines is the immediate care. When you injure the muscle itself, it’s really important that you use the old-fashioned rice anagram – where you rest it (so you shut down from you exercise) you ice it, and you elevate it.
Really, you’re looking to do that for the first 2 or 3 days after injury (minimum 48 hours). Basically, when you injure a muscle, it bleeds. What you need to do in the acute stage is stop the amount of bleeding and let everything heal. Once that happens, then you can start stretching the muscle and putting heat on there, and rehabilitating it.
The mistake a lot of people make is, they get injured, and then they go and lay in a hot bath. That’s probably the worst thing you can do.
What’s your career highlight to-date?
The highlight in club football has to be at Arsenal in 1989, when we went to Anfield on the last day of the season and we had to beat Liverpool by 2 clear goals to win the League – and we beat them 2-0 with a goal in the 92nd minute by Michael Thomas. That was an amazing night.
Then I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in Double-winning teams – 1998, 2002, 2004 (The Invincibles team).
Internationally, probably my greatest memory was in ’98, when we qualified for the World Cup. We had to go to Rome and get a point to qualify against Italy. Beating Argentina in the 2002 World Cup.
I’ve been very, very lucky in my career to have had so many highlights, and they’re all very special in their own way.
On a more personal player/physio relationship, is there any one player whose rehabilitation programme was particularly challenging – but ‘who’ve come out the other end’ and enjoyed success?
Probably the most well-known one is Eduardo, who had a very serious leg fracture. I actually started the rehabilitation process before I left Arsenal. It was a career threatening injury. He went on and continued a very successful career at Shakhtar Donetsk and with Croatia. I think that’s the one that stands out more, because it was one of the most serious injuries I’ve ever seen.
What’s next for you?
I am looking to get back into football if I can. I’ve got a lot of experience but I am a little bit older, so the sort of jobs I would take back in football are few-and-far-between. I’m just going to be patient and see what comes up. If not, I’m just going to continue doing my private work – and go and watch as much football as I can!
Are you looking for cover for an injury sustained through sport? Get multi-sport insurance with Active Cover. Visit https://activecover.co.uk/ or call 0333 4000 759, today.
Gary Lewin will be holding multi-disciplinary sports injury clinics at CMC, with Ian Beasley, the England Team Team Doctor, looking at sports injury problems to determine appropriate medical care and rehabilitation programmes. Centennial Medical Care is an innovative new private medical practice in Elstree’s Centennial Park, with an on-site pharmacy. Ring 0203 327 7777 to book an appointment, or visit: www.centennialmedical.co.uk
Interview conducted and written by Joe Tyler – Senior Account Executive at Henman Communications.
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