08 Aug The Medical

Almost everything you buy these days you’ll look at reviews, comparisons and performance. Well, it’s much the same in professional sports.

Hampden Sports Clinic was set up as a non-profit organisation to help smaller football clubs carry out thorough medicals prior to a player transfer. We provide virtually all of the tests at a fraction of the ‘open market’ costs. Our aim is to provide high quality services at an affordable level. Today we provide services and facilities for a range of elite sportspeople.

Indeed, the tests we provide are open to everyone and form the basis of our Health&Fitness packages. Each of us has some responsibility for our own health and wellbeing.

Back to professional sport. With the transfer window still wide open and the cost of player investment becoming ever more important to the success (or failure) of a club’s season it makes obvious sense to ensure that any investment will produce a return and that a player can contribute on the field.

Armed with a dossier that will include injury history and recovery times, as well as performance data the club will decide to proceed to the final pre-transfer check, a medical.

So what does a ‘Medical’ entail?

Good planning is vital especially if special X-rays and scans are required as these are difficult to arrange at short notice.

The examination part of the medical ideally should have 3 parts:

  • General medical and heart examination – this will involve a full medical check with particular emphasis on heart and lung function but will also include abdominal examination, sight and hearing tests and blood and urine tests. Recent events in football have highlighted the importance of ensuring a player has a healthy heart and the use of a heart echo scan and ECG tracing are now routine for many clubs, backed by a programme financed by the Scottish FA which provides the necessary finance and skilled staff to carry out these tests. The Clinic at Hampden, backed by the SFA have run a heart screening programme over the last 5 years open club players aged 16 years and over. Examination of the player’s heart will try to rule out any pre-existing abnormalities and reduce the risk of the sudden tragic deaths seen all too frequently in sport.
  • Musculo-skeletal examination – this part of the medical involves a thorough examination of every joint and muscle with particular emphasis on areas previously injured. Lower limb injuries, especially of the ankle and knee joints are common in footballers and demand special attention, as do areas such as the groins and hamstrings. The examination is normally dynamic, that is with the player using the particular joint or muscle rather than just lying on the examination couch. Many clubs will back up the examination with X-rays or more importantly scans to confirm all is well and will utilise special strength testing equipment to ascertain muscle strength.
  • Fitness assessment – this is particularly important if a player has been injured, not played for some time or is a bit older. This will be done in conjunction with the club physio and sports scientist. Fitness testing involves assessment of body fat, flexibility, standing jump, sprint testing etc and will culminate in a full formal treadmill fitness test – known as a VO2 Max test where the player runs on the treadmill until exhaustion with heart and lung function continuously being monitored.

Not every new signing will undergo even a short medical, as many clubs can’t afford the staff or other costs involved. However I firmly believe that some form of assessment, however limited, is worthwhile. For smaller clubs where money is tight, the loss of a player through a recurrence of a previous injury, not picked up at the time of signing can be as financially disastrous as an expensive player at a bigger club.

Poor medical care should now be a thing of the past. I believe that good medical support is as important for players today as good coaching and facilities. Let’s make sure we look after those who provide so much pleasure for those of us who watch.

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