Phil Hayward: Managing a Medical Department in the Premier League

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Since we began collecting Premier Leagure injury data, no club has come close to replicating the numbers that Wolverhampton Wanderers produced following their return to the Premier League in 2018/19.

After suffering back-to-back relegations, something needed to change and having worked his way through the ranks: from Head of Academy Medical Services to First-Team Physiotherapist and then as Head of the Medical Department. Phil Hayward talks us through his time at the club.

Topics covered include

  • How his department and daily role changed following relegation from the Premier League and the impact of budget cuts on resource and staffing level.
  • The influence of Kenny Jackett, who replaced Mick McCarthy as manager in 2013. Described as “forward-thinking”, he allowed the medical department to begin implementing new strategies which had not been possible previously.
  • Culture shift and a change in mentality for a squad that were unmotivated.
  • Switching from a training-led model to a medical based programme whilst understanding that injury prevention is key, laying the foundations for the next 5-6 years.
  • End-stage rehab and player reintegration into the group. Recovery and the benefits of an early return to the squad.
  • Questioning your beliefs and methods when you see an increase in injury incidence:
    • What is really happening behind the scenes?
    • Managing expectations: stakeholders.
    • Collective approach: from recruitment to coaching and what can be done to ensure injury incidence remains low.
  • Transitioning from the Championship to the Premier League and a new record in terms of low injury incidence:
    • Following their Medicine and Performance Team Award in 2017/18, Wolves suffered only five time-loss injuries totalling 88 days in their first top-flight season.
    • There were no reported training ground injuries during the first two years of Wolves’ promotion!
  • Maintaining a healthy squad: medical department backing themselves to keep players fit.
  • The arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo and his team: the introduction of new strength and conditioning methods for injury prevention:
    • Recovery protocol.
    • Pre-match strategy: travel, nutrition…
  • The transition from physiotherapist to Head of Medical at Molineux.
  • Moving to LA Galaxy and the MLS.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Phil for his time and for providing such an excellent insight into the inner workings of a Premier League medical department.

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