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The big interview – Dr Mike Stone

Posted: Mon 25 Nov 2013
Author: catches up with the club’s first team doctor for an in-depth interview.

Dr Mike Stone was recruited as the club’s first team doctor three years ago by former-boss Chris Hughton ahead of Blues’ Europa League campaign. He has an impressive CV, which includes ten years in a similar role at Manchester United, as well as working for Cricket England and for the Institute of Sport.

Can you tell me about your background?
"I worked in general practice. Then I started in sports medicine part-time in 1996 and full-time from 1999."

Why did you decide to specialise in sports medicine? Had you previously played a lot of sport yourself?
"In my youth I played sport until I broke both my scaphoids playing rugby. I played for Saracens Schoolboys. I’d always been interested in sports medicine."

How did the move into football come about?

"I was working as a crowd doctor at Manchester United and because they knew I’d got an interest in sports medicine, I attended the Academy games for them on a Saturday morning. If I was doing that I thought I should be appropriately qualified so I did the relevant exams and went from there."

What are the exams?
"Since the 2003 season throughout the Premier League and the Football League you have to have a diploma in sport and exercise medicine or an equivalent qualification, until you can be a newly-appointed club doctor. It’s about having an insight into dealing with a variety of sports injuries."

How long were you at Manchester United for and how did you end up at Birmingham City?
"I was there as first team doctor from 1996 to 2006. From there I worked as one of the doctors for England Cricket for about three years, I’ve worked at the Institute of Sport in Manchester since 2005 and still do a couple of sessions there each week. We deal with Lottery Funded elite athletes. This is my third season here. I got a phone call from Chris Hughton saying could I help? That was when Birmingham were in Europe and they needed somebody that was appropriately qualified to fulfil the UEFA criteria which are quite strict."

Working with different sports, do the sports people have different needs?
"Yes, certain injuries are more common in certain sports i.e. in cricket shoulder injuries are more common than in football. Individual sports have their specific injuries but you can all injuries in all sports."

On a day-to-day basis what does your job involve?
"I’m down here for three days a week and also attend all the matches. It’s basically about overseeing the medical department."

Does that include working with the sports scientists and physios?
"Yes. For a medical department to function properly it needs the doctor and the physios and the medical side to speak to the sports science side because although you can treat injuries it’s better to stop injuries occurring. But in a contact sport like football injuries are always going to occur."

On a matchday if there’s an injury out on the pitch what happens?
"I’m quite happy to let the physio go out in the first instance. If it’s obvious it’s a significant injury I’ll be out as well. Most of the time I’m quite happy to let Pete (Shaw) assess it."

Has the medical treatment improved much since you’ve been in football?
"The medical treatment is significantly better than it was. As part of the rules, there has to be an ambulance with a paramedic at each academy game, development squad game and first team game."

What’s the worst injury you’ve dealt with out on a pitch?
"Fractured and dislocated ankles are nasty injuries in football and there are all sorts of knee injuries. Occasionally with head injuries you’re worried if they’ve damaged their neck. Will Packwood is one of the worst injuries we’ve seen but he’s done very well."

In years gone by were there injuries that players couldn’t back from that they are likely to now?
"Using Will as an example, his was a career-threatening injury. But his injury was appropriately treated acutely in Leeds and then followed up in Birmingham. With his very hard work and the work of the physios he’s back playing again."

Have you ever been put in the unfortunate position where you’ve had to tell a player their career is over?
"Yes, I have. It’s not nice telling people. Stephen Carr for example."

When you’re prescribing drugs do you have to be mindful of the drug testing process?
"Yes, very much so. One of the reasons why a lot of the first team squad will not go to the GP but will come to me is because understandably their GP is not up-to-date with the doping regulations, but it’s party of my job that I should be. I wouldn’t prescribe anything to a player that is a banned substance."

With players being so fit are they less likely to get things like coughs and colds?
"I don’t think that footballers are any more at risk of developing a cold than the next person. If they go home and their kids bring the cold in from the nursery or wherever, they are just as likely to catch it. And they would also get rid of it as quickly as anybody that is fit and healthy would."

Have you ever had to deal with an epidemic of illness within a group of players?
"There have been times when three or four players have gone down with the same thing but I’ve never been involved in a game that’s been called off because everybody is ill. When you’ve got a group of guys in close proximity then infection can travel around the squad. If somebody as an infectious illness such as a bad cold or vomiting and diarrhoea then we will send the home until they’ve recovered"

Finally, do some players cope with long-term injuries better than others?
"It’s very difficult coping with a long-term injury because the player wants to be out on the field playing. The physios and the masseurs that are in contact with the player on a daily basis will probably have as much if not more input into that situation than me in terms of keeping them stimulated and happy or whatever. You try and vary things about and give players time off if possible."

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