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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 04:31 GMT
Footballers 'receive poor medical care'
The survey says some club physiotherapists are not qualified

Footballers are being treated by unqualified physiotherapists and inexperienced doctors who come under pressure from club managers to make them play while unfit, according to a survey.

Some clubs are investing huge amounts of money in players but failing to invest in proper medical care
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Some club doctors in the Premiership and the Nationwide League admitted that they lacked past experience of sports medicine, while physiotherapists sometimes did not have formal qualifications.

On occasion, they said they breached patient confidentiality by passing private information about footballers to their employers.

The survey, commissioned by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) and carried out by the Centre for Research into Sport and Society at the University of Leicester, used evidence from 49 interviews and anonymous questionnaires completed by 58 doctors and physiotherapists.

It found that just three club doctors took up their posts after replying to advertisements, only one of which was in the medical press. The others were generally appointed on a network basis.

Just nine of the respondents had specific qualifications in physiotherapy.

'Not qualified to work in NHS'

The director of the Centre for Research into Sport and Society, Ivan Waddington, said: "All these football club players are being looked after by somebody who is not qualified to work in the NHS.

"Practice is no better in the Premiership than in the third division. There is more money but just as much bad practice."

Among the cases uncovered by the study was one of a top division player, who was attracting the attentions of three other major English clubs and two continental sides, being summoned to the physiotherapist's house where he was also met by the surgeon who had recently operated on him.

He was then told he had only a year left to his career and that his value on the transfer market was therefore negligible. The player went on to play for another 11 years.

In another case, a Premiership footballer played for several months on painkillers for an injured toe and was not told until the end of the season that the bone had been broken, though the club's medical staff were aware of this throughout.

'Timely reminder'

The chief executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, said: "It is a timely reminder that we need to carry on improving matters."

All physiotherapists in the Premiership must now be qualified and Mr Taylor called for this to be extended to the Nationwide League.

This plea was supported by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, whose chief executive Phil Gray said: "Some clubs are investing huge amounts of money in players but failing to invest in proper medical care."

Mr Waddington demanded a series of measures to tighten controls on physiotherapists, including compulsory advertising for posts in appropriate journals and possession of qualifications in sports medicine.

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