St. George’s Park boasts some of the most advanced sports medicine and rehabilitation facilities in the country.
Here, Elite Football Physiotherapist, Steve Kemp, talks about his role at the centre and how St. George’s Park can help to improve sportsmen and women at all levels of the game.
Q: Can you outline your roles and responsibilities at St. George’s Park?
SK: My role is split 50/50 with The Football Association and with Perform (St. George’s Park sports medicine and human performance facility).
In my FA role I am the point of contact at St. George’s Park for all of the visiting teams to ensure that they are looked after as they would be in a club setting.
In my Perform role we offer intensive rehabilitation for athletes who need extra rehab, which might mean they want a change of scenery or another opinion.
So we offer a week or two of intensive rehabilitation with the athlete staying at the hotel. We then refer them back to the club and provide full reports to help to guide them with their rehabilitation.
We also have a private practice side where any member of the public can book and use the facilities here.
Q: Can you give us a quick overview of the equipment available on site and how you utilise it?
SK: Firstly, we have our human performance area where people can be assessed and given a score as to what percentage for injury risk they possess or how close they are to their optimum performance.
We also have the Alter G, which is an anti-gravity treadmill for athletes who are injured. We can make them slightly lighter so it floats them up and they can run on 50% their bodyweight.
So if they have a knee or ankle joint that is inflamed they can still train, but we can offload the joint and put it under less pressure. We can then increase the load on the joint as they get fitter.
There is also an altitude chamber that allows athletes to train like they are at high altitude.
The higher the altitude, the less amount oxygen is in the air meaning they have to work harder to get oxygen around the body.
The theory is that when they come back down to ground level their body can compensate because it has been strained.
Probably the biggest area of the facility is the strength and conditioning room where we have the weights. The RFU and Rugby League teams have been in to use the facility for their training.
And finally we have the hydrotherapy suite, which is where we can do recovery work in the medium of water.
Q: The technology at the centre is extremely advanced. But with technological advancements moving extremely fast, how much of a challenge is ensuring the centre stays up to speed?
SK: The philosophy of The FA here is that we are a centre of education with FA Learning.
But it is also we are pushing forward developing sports medicine and feeding that back to coaches so they hopefully have an effect on how they train their players.
So we have to be aware of changes that occur and react accordingly to make sure St. George’s Park is always at the cutting edge of equipment, research and rehabilitation.
Q: The England teams have their own physiotherapist/sports science support. How do you interact and work together?
SK: We have got fantastic staff and sports medicine staff with the England team and, essentially, I will travel with them, give them my ideas and my feedback.
Then when the 24 England squads visit here I will try and feedback to them about what the best practice is.
That way we can ensure they know that what is good enough for the first team is good enough for all of our squads.
So it about that continuity to make sure they are all working to the same theory and concepts of recovery, regeneration, pre-activation, rest, and nutrition.
Q: How much of physiotherapy is about prevention of injuries rather than rehabilitation?
SK: One of our mantras here at St. George’s Park is, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’.
We have all this great kit and we can measure how strong you are, how quick you are, how powerful you are, how balanced you are; even how symmetrical you are.
Once we have all of this information we can almost calculate what risk you have for future injury.
By knowing that, we can then empower players by saying, ‘you have limited ankle range,’ or, ‘your movement in your hips is poor,’ or, ‘your hamstring strength is slightly down in comparison to your quads.’
Footballers have been renowned for maybe not being as responsible as other athletes, but I think this is changing now and hopefully St. George’s Park is playing its part in that.
With the England team for example, 80% of the team are in the gym prior to training doing their own programmes off their own back, not being told to be in there.
That is how the game is changing. They have been empowered by great medical teams around the country who have told them about where their weaknesses lie and how they can become better athletes.
Q: Having worked in a number of different professional clubs what was the attraction of working at SGP?
SK: I have been in professional football for 12 years and, although I have lost the week to week games, something as big as St.George’s Park, a world leading facility, was too good to turn down.
And the fact that it was something new and that we could change the way that people hopefully develop sports medicine, was also important.
There is nothing like this out there and, I think, even worldwide you could argue that there is nothing that has everything under one roof so to be part of that was too good to turn down.