Let's get physical I

Thursday 22 November 2001

In the latest in the series "Stories Behind the Faces", Fulham Today caught up with the Club's new Physiotherapist Jason Palmer.

In Part One of the interview we found out what Jason does and what he was doing before joining the Whites.....

Jason, can you tell us exactly what your responsibilities are at the Club?

My role, first and foremost, is looking after the First Team squad of players including the Reserves. In doing that, my primary responsibility is injury management and injury prevention, working closely with the full-time doctor that we now have on board, Charlotte Cowie, as well as the late-stage rehabilitation staff, Roger Propos and Alex Court.

We have a fairly large medical department here at the moment; as well as the Doctor, we have two full-time Physio's who look after the First and Reserve Teams, the Reserve Team Physio being Michael Snelling, two Academy Physio's, Claire Hughes and another person about to start, plus the full-time massage staff. So a large part of my role is about the co-ordination of the team.

We also have a lot of visiting consultants coming to the Club, people like chiropodists and podiatrists who come to check the players, and there are various other things like co-ordinating dental and optical reviews. I suppose that any of the players' health and injury concerns, or anything related to their general well being, is something I would get involved in and organise in conjunction with the doctor. She has more to do with the medically related issues of the players, but we work very closely together.

What does your average day look like?

I get here about seven-thirty in the morning, and try and get a little bit of paperwork out of the way before the injured players come in, which is normally about eight, eight-thirty. I'll work with them until about half an hour before training when all the fit players arrive. They may need some strapping, some massage or some stretching done, general maintenance things. I'll carry on working with the inured players while training goes on, then some more paper work, slip in a ten-minute lunch, and then it's the same process in the afternoon. Quite often the players will train twice a day, so the whole schedule is repeated.

Normally the players will be finished at about five, six o'clock, and after that point there may be some injured players that I'll want to spend some one-on-one time with, so we might continue working through until seven, seven-thirty. I suppose my average day is about twelve hours long, and it's a very busy day, but an enjoyable one.

There's no real routine, which is one of the difficulties about planning; you can't say you're going to do exactly the same thing every day or every week. The number of injured players or what the team might be doing varies all the time. The fixtures change so much for a start, one week we may have a midweek game and one on the Saturday, and then the next week it might be Sunday, and then we might have a week off or we might be travelling. So it's different all the time, which overall is good, variety is essential so that there's no opportunity to slip into a stagnant routine.

The care that players receive these days has moved on tremendously in the last few years. How do you view what is happening here at Fulham?

You always look at things from your own perspective, and you can only judge things from your own experiences. Being Australian, I've come from an environment where training concentrates on certain areas, and these are different from the way that the English Physiotherapists and medical staff have been trained, which is different again to what happens in France. There are things that when you look at them at first you might be sceptical about, but actually work very well. The key to the whole thing is keeping an open mind. There is so much that we don't know, if you were to compile every country's medical knowledge, we still wouldn't have it all. Each country has a particular bias and leaning, and what we're doing here is to harness it all and I think we're creating something very special.

To put in all in context, just in the last couple of days I've gone out to a few sports centres that are considered state of the art in London, because we've been offered services by them. But to be perfectly honest, they're not as good as we are, and it's really become blatantly obvious to me that we have one of the best, if not the best, medical set-ups in the whole of the Premiership.

When I first came to this country to work in the Premiership, I was offered a job by Leeds United. I went up there to have a look, and their facilities are excellent, but Fulham's, in terms of the training facilities, the equipment, the staff, are far superior.

We have a fabulous opportunity here. The Chairman and the Board have done a tremendous job in terms of what they have invested in the Club, and I think that people would be just blown away if they could actually see the set-up that we have here.

The wealth of experience and the different backgrounds that our staff have here is fantastic, and that's something that really helps us to keep progressing. For example, the strength-conditioning staff with their French bias might do things completely differently from the way I might do them, and having a background in exercise physiology it's really interesting for me to see that, and when we work together perhaps we do something even better. And when you add everybody to the mix you can definitely start seeing the benefits. They might only be minor variations on how things are done, but they can make a real impact. There's no doubt that all the different cultures make a fantastic combination.

What exactly is your background?

Straight from school I went to University, and studied for a Sports Science Degree, majoring in exercise physiology and education at the University of Queensland. After finishing that I taught health and physical education for a year at High School. I always wanted to do physiotherapy, so I thought if I don't try it I'll never know, so I went back to University and completed an Honours Degree in exercise physiology, which was a research based Degree. That went very well, and because that was a First Class Honours Degree it meant I was eligible to re-enter the Physio programme. So I went on to complete a Physio degree. After graduating, and after nine years of full-time study, I went to work in a private sports-medicine practice - it was a multi-disciplined practice, which basically meant that we had full-time Physio staff, massage therapy staff, acupuncture, visiting sports physicians, orthopedic surgeons. It meant that we had a whole range of different things available that could be used for treatment.

Through that I became involved in football. Australia has a lot of Academies and Institute of Sport programmes which are considered World leaders in sports development, performance enhancement and injury management. A branch of that is the Queensland Academy of Sport, and I took over the Medical Director role for their men's and women's football programmes, competing in national league competitions. I also got involved with the national league team in Brisbane - The Brisbane Strikers.

Through my affiliation with them I became known to the national team coaching staff, and started to do some work with them. So I was involved with the Socceroos, who I'm pleased to say have just beaten Uruguay in the World Cup play-offs, and also with the Olympic team for the Sydney Olympics, which was a fantastic opportunity for me and really enjoyable.

From that, I realised that I had gone as far as I could go in the Australian system. Sport is huge over there, but there are a whole range of sports, and football is not particularly dominant. I wanted to work at the highest level, so I thought that the only way to do that was to come to Europe. So I made the decision, and came over by myself nine months ago. I didn't have a job in football to come to, although I did have a place in a private hospital. But after about six weeks I was offered the job at Leeds, and I was going to take that but then the opportunity at Fulham came up and I took that instead. I'm certainly glad I did, because career-wise and enjoyment-wise, it's been a fantastic move for me.

The working environment here is amazing. The staff are great, both medical and general, and the players are fantastic. Sometimes you expect players at this level to have a certain degree of aloofness, but that's certainly not the case at Fulham. I came into contact with players in Australia, who aren't at this standard, but have a marked degree of self-importance. There's just none of that here at the Club and it's very refreshing and very pleasant.

You weren't tempted by the Australian connection at Leeds?

I was, and that's where the original contact came from. There's a number of Australian players there, and they had a word with the medical staff and arranged for me to go up and meet them. It was tempting, but when you look at it opportunity-wise, for me to come to Fulham, a Club that had only just entered the Premiership, there was just so much more to aspire to.

Fulham are so keen to build something and grow, whereas Leeds, who are one of the top four or five in the Premiership and have been for a number of years, are already there. So for me, it was more of an opportunity to try and achieve something, rather than join something that's already been done. Plus, the opportunity to come here and put together a completely new medical team, as opposed to joining an already structured system was very appealing. It was a perfect opportunity to have an active input into trying to develop things in the way I think they would work.

Look out for Part Two of this interview where we examine in more detail the techniques used in the treatment of players and find out exactly what goes on behind the scenes on Matchdays.