How ‘handbags at 10 paces’ has taken on whole new meaning for Barnsley FC physio

NOTHING quite prepared Craig Sedgwick for the events of March 13.

It was a Friday the 13th like no other for Barnsley’s head physiotherapist.

It started with thoughts of finalising preparations for a familiar trip down the M1 with the Reds’ first-team squad and staff – this time to QPR.

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It ended with implementing contingency plans to deal with a growing national pandemic following a Cobra-style meeting. There was no trip to the capital.

As with millions of other people, Sedgwick’s working life has changed ever since.

Back on that ‘Mad Friday’, injured Reds players were sent away with bits of equipment to help aid in their rehabilitation, with club facilities subsequently closed and all players receiving individual training plans to follow from home.

Exercise work has often involved thinking ‘outside of the box’. Players have used their partner’s handbags to strengthen hamstrings for instance, while sofas, benches and chairs are utilised in strengthening work.

Welcome to the bizarre world of football in lockdown.

Sedgwick said: “It was the Friday before we were due to travel for a game in London and it was kind of thrown on top of us and a case of ‘What do we do?’

“We had a staff meeting with the gaffer there and then and the chief executive and everyone who was going to be affected at the club such as heads of department.

“That is when we decided to sort out training plans for players and things they would need to take for them.

“Especially with injured players, it was a case of thinking: ‘do they need to take this and that home with them?’ It was quite thrown upon us, but we managed to get things sorted by the time they were leaving.

“With a lot of our physio programmes that we sent out, two or three had to be revised again as the players were saying they had not got access to certain equipment.

“We had to take the plans back in and re-write and there was a bit of trial and error. It’s needs must and you have to deal with the scenario you are in.”

On specific examples of improvisation, he continued: “It is just coming up with new exercises. I looked on my Twitter account and saw some guy doing hamstring exercises with his wife’s handbag.

“He got the handbag loaded up with heavy stuff and was swinging it around. I thought that was really good and you can incorporate things like that into a programme.

“Especially for the younger lads and ones with slightly less salaries, you need to be a bit more adaptive and thinking outside of the box. You have to conjure weird and wonderful exercises to fit the purpose.

“We did a sports science driven session on Zoom for lower-body strength and Luke (Dopson – head of science) had players doing exercises off a couch and off benches and chairs. It is just a case of adapting.”

As for when this weird ‘new normal’ ends and Barnsley’s players can reconvene together at their training base just behind Oakwell, the declared hope within the EFL is that training may start in the middle of next month – but it remains a big if.

What Sedgwick is unequivocal about is the need for players to undergo a mini ‘pre-season’ to be ready for when the campaign is hopefully resumed.

Casting aside talk that players will be ‘match fit’ for competitive action pretty much straightaway, he said: “Sensibly, I’d envisage three to four weeks training to get back in before the games restart. Anything less is probably putting some at risk of an injury. If it was my choice, I’d probably say three to four weeks of training.”

Instead of being resident on a daily basis in the medical room at Oakwell and working ‘hands on’ with players, Sedgwick finds himself employing an array of video technology to communicate with the first-team squad and staff.

He admits it could be a lot worse and is at least grateful for small mercies in that Barnsley, do not have too many serious injuries to contend with.

Sedgwick continued: “If it was a club with a lot of acute injuries, it must be really difficult for players and physios.

“I know if it was one of my first-team players (with a serious long-term injury) I’d be feeling really guilty about not helping.

“I dread to think what those physios will be going through and there will be a few around the country.”

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