Lancashire's players in the UK reported back for pre-season training in December, under the watchful eye of LCCC physio Sam Byrne who has just completed his first full year with the county.
No professional sports team could perform at their best without access to the best in sports medicine. And since taking charge, Mike Watkinson has ensured that Lancashire has the best medical support and resources in county cricket. The most recent addition to the Medical Staff is Squad Physiotherapist Sam Byrne. The 28-year-old received his Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of South Australia in Adelaide in 2001, and ever since has travelled the globe working his magic on a host of sporting stars.
Rebecca Trbojevich met up with Sam recently to see how his first year has gone....
Talk us through your road to Old Trafford.
When I first graduated in 2001, I spent two years working in a private practice in Adelaide before heading to the Athens Olympic in 2004 where I was a volunteer Physiotherapist. This meant I was working with athletes who didn’t have their own physiotherapists at the Games, and I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time assisting some of the African athletes competing in the athletics. I managed to see a lot of the Olympics first hand which was amazing and after that I spent some time travelling around the UK before being offered a job with the Bangladesh National Cricket Board in 2005.
How did you find your Bangladeshi Cricket experience?
Very interesting and an experience I will always look back on with good memories. I initially went for 3 months, but enjoyed it so much I stayed on for 2 years. I made plenty of good friends and saw a lot of the world travelling around with their cricket teams. It’s a very different culture, but they are cricket mad and really passionate about the sport.
How did you cope with the language barrier?
I learnt bits and pieces along the way. But they seem to understand me better than I understood them, which was to their amusement at times.
What are the most common cricketing injuries?
Fast bowlers are probably the most injury prone simply due to the nature of what they do. Side strains in bowlers, shoulder problems from a lot of throwing over the course of the season, and ankle problems with fast bowlers who put huge forces through this area as they run through the crease.
There were points this season when Lancashire had more players’ injured than fit – what part of the season was the busiest time for you?
The beginning of the season was certainly a very busy period. We had 6 or 7 players out injured at the same time for considerable periods which was difficult. But as always I had excellent support from David Roberts and the rest of the team at David Roberts Physiotherapy, Alex Horn (Strengthening & Conditioning Coach), and Dr. Simon Morris, who really chipped in to help provide a 24 hour, 7 days a week service while the players were going through their rehabilitation.
There will be some players who will be on your bench when they stub their toe and others who will want to carry on playing with their arm hanging off. Are there any hypochondriacs in the dressing room?
No, there are definitely no hypochondriacs in the dressing room, although some of the young players like a shoulder rub from time to time, they know who they are! Most of the players just get on with it in what is a very busy cricket season. Some are a bit more resilient than others, the fast bowling stocks of Saj Mahmood and Glen Chapple are examples of players who back up day after day with a bit of help from the medical team, and Francois Du Plessis and Steven Croft didn’t miss a match all season despite carrying injuries through some.
On the other side of the coin, it must be difficult to tell a player who is carrying an injury “sorry, you have to miss a few matches?
It is difficult. They obviously want to be out on the field playing and that’s where we want them as well. It’s important though to do a full rehab and to make sure they don’t come back too early, even though they are often bursting to get back out on the park.
What is the difference between the old fashioned masseur and the modern day physio?
Old fashion masseur’s still have a place; sports massage is important in recovery and preparation of players before they go out onto the field, and Alex helps a lot with this. Physiotherapists these days aim a lot of their work with athletes towards preventing injuries, and when they do happen, guiding the players through a specific rehab program to prepare the player for a return to high intensity play.
As you’ve mentioned, physiotherapy is not just about repair or recovery, it’s a lot about the prevention of injuries. How do you divide your time?
At the beginning of the season we do a thorough musculo-skeletal screening and medical with each player, and these highlight any areas that are particularly weak, tight or need attention. From this, each player gets their own individualised prehabilitaion program which we help them to do regularly and monitor throughout the season. This preventative side of the role is very important. In addition, this year we have also introduced new screening programs for any cardiac abnormalities and skin cancers so they players are well catered for.
Does your role change now the season has finished?
The first thing we do is carry out post season reviews, and if players have picked up any injuries towards the end of the season they may require ongoing treatment. Sometimes players require end of season surgery and their rehabilitation is looked after by myself or David Roberts and his team. Following a holiday break, it’s now back into Pre-Season training for those players not playing overseas.
Ashes next year, who will you be supporting?
Fred and Jimmy! (very non committal for an Aussie)
I’ve always wanted to ask a physio or masseur this; do you ever get sore thumbs?
All the time.