“Has the Doc had a look at him?” “What does the Doc think?” “The doc has arranged for him to see the specialist.” “He is asking the doc for a scan.” I could go on forever with the times the word â€˜docâ€™ hasÂ been mentioned throughout football.
And the list would be very long as to how many â€˜docsâ€™ your average manager would have worked with.
Despite the varying demands and changing roles of being the medical practitioner in professional football,Â theÂ clubÂ doctorÂ continues to beÂ a vital part of any clubâ€™s backroom staff, along with theÂ physio.
The doctorâ€™s role in football is a mixÂ ofÂ general practice, sports medicine, acute injury management and occupational health.
Doctors come more into their ownÂ and are noticed more by the staff ifÂ there are lacerations or wounds to beÂ attended to, head injuries to be assessed, or if there are acute chest or abdominal problems.
We saw in the Arsenal v Wolves gameÂ recently clash of heads which put Raul Jimenez into hospital for two weeks with a fractured skull.
After he collided with David Luiz when contesting the ball from a corner, he was given oxygen on the pitch, stretchered off and immediately rushed to hospital where he would be under the care of the doctor.
But doctors are also relevant in the assessment and treatment of the many, fortunately mainly minor, illnesses and afflictions.
Only doctors can give immunisations, injections and prescribe drugs other than simple remedies – or order investigations such as blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound and other scans and much more besides – including the famous pre-signing medicals.
If you can trust yourÂ medicalÂ team, then the players can really push themselves harder and harderÂ and know they are not going be taken too far that they will be injured and out of the game, or not performing to the best of theirÂ ability.
ButÂ this year hasÂ highlighted like never before how important the manager and his medical team partnership is within a football clubÂ whenÂ the gameÂ closed its doors in March due to COVID-19.
The pandemic was andÂ stillÂ is a medical issue and the challenge was rightly laid at the feet of club doctors and theÂ Premier League, EFL and Scottish Football LeagueÂ to come up withÂ a solution which wouldÂ enable football to return.
Rangersâ€™ manager Steven Gerrard paid tribute to club doctor Mark Waller for helping guide the club through the COVID-19 pandemic and admitted he had been desperate to bring him to Ibrox.
Gerrard workedÂ closelyÂ with Waller at Liverpool through his own injury problems as a player andÂ saidÂ he was â€˜outstandingâ€™ forÂ Rangers in recent months.
Gerrard said he had no doubts they would be on the front foot in the fight against the disease with Waller in place and praisedÂ his professionalism throughout the crisis.Â Â
He said:Â â€œI had no doubt when coronavirus first started-in the early daysÂ that the Doc was on the front foot which I expected.
â€œI have known him for 20 years and I have the ultimate trust in him. I knew we would all be fine as a club – he has looked after the whole club on his own really with the services he has provided.
â€œHeâ€™s had Jordan [Milsom]Â and the medical team as fantastic support, but I think everyone else who doesnâ€™t know the doctor as well as I do is seeing now what a top professional he is, and how good he is withÂ the skillset he can bring to the table.
â€œIt is the exact reason why I was so desperate to get him hereÂ beside me.â€
Waller spent 17 years at Liverpool and also had stints with Hull City and Aston Villa after leaving Anfield.
The doctor was credited for saving Gerrard Houllierâ€™s life in 2001 after he suffered chest pains at half-time during a game against Leeds United. The then-Liverpool boss was rushed to hospital after Wallerâ€™sÂ intervention and required surgery which forced him out of football for five months.
It was not only Gerrard heaping praise on the Doc.Â Romanian midfielderÂ Ianis Hagi said heÂ was really impressed with the way Waller kept the players updated throughout the shutdown, taking care ofÂ them, being there when they needed something and constantlyÂ providing updates on the situation.
Another exampleÂ of the value of a club doctorÂ isÂ at QPR, whereÂ Dr Imtiaz AhmadÂ is in place to assist manager Mark Warburton.
Earlier this yearÂ wasÂ theÂ Cheltenham Race festival,Â well knownÂ asÂ a team bonding occasion for professional footballers,Â many of whom like a day at the races. So, QPR had planned a club trip.
Only this was just before what became the first lockdown and the famous event narrowly avoidingÂ being scrapped because of concerns over COVID-19.
Amidst growing public health concerns, DoctorÂ AhmadÂ decided to speak with manager Mark Warburton, highlightingÂ the issueÂ that would later not only impact football clubs but the whole of society.
He insisted they needed to make an unpopular decision by cancelling the trip in the wider interests of playersâ€™ health.
Ahmad is also trained on mental health withÂ an attitude of ‘no off buttons’ for players nowadays -something that was a big concern during lockdown and beyond.
SoÂ it is essential to have that environment in clubs to support players. As we have already seen, club doctors throughout football provide a duty of care and support to both players and staff in all aspectsÂ of day-to-day life at a club, not just on a Saturday.
Dr Matt Perry has been at Wolverhampton Wanderers for the best part of two decades and was given an outstanding contribution awardÂ in theÂ 2019/20Â season.Â ItÂ recognisedÂ his hard work, sacrifice and above all planning for project restartÂ allÂ to keep players safe and protected so they can focus on football.
He is theÂ first person to be given the award by the clubÂ and captain Connor Coady paid tribute to Dr Perry, calling him: â€œAn incredible and fantastic person.â€
He added: â€œTheÂ reassurance heÂ has givenÂ us, what heÂ hasÂ done for this football club over the lockdown periodÂ and the re-starting of games, he was involved with absolutely everything.â€
Matt himself also gave some fascinating insight to the role, both from project restart, the initial impact, implications andÂ the challenge of not only the club but the hospitals, GP surgeries and those colleagues on the front line.
He also talked about looking after players health and well-being on a daily basis saying: â€œA group of players who have high standards themselves make the job a lot easier in following advice and taking onboard instructions.
â€œItâ€™s times like this you realise how important that message of personnel responsibility is.
â€œWhat is also important is the ever-present risk of serious injury which isÂ a vital role of a club doctor and medical staff.
â€œThat doesnâ€™t respect status or days of the week it can happen in a youth team game on a Saturday morning as it can live on Sky on Sunday EveningÂ as we saw at Arsenal with Raul.
â€œThe care of players is paramount andÂ the medical updateÂ after the Jimenez incident read, ‘Any injuryÂ of this natureÂ isÂ complex and timescales are uncertain.’ As his doctor, I am not going to disclose any more details of his injury, his surgery or provide daily updates.
â€œOnly that it is safe to say that Raulâ€™s most immediate needs are simple: space, rest and peace. â€œ
Wonderful words from the doc.