Head physio John Dickens will spend this summer trying to diagnose the reasons behind one of Doncaster Rovers’ worst ever injury pile-ups.
Dickens may as well have fitted a revolving door to his Cantley Park treatment room this season.
But the situation came to a head last week when FOURTEEN senior players missed the midweek trip to Norwich.
A huge dose of bad luck has been the root cause of the problem and the majority of injuries have been unavoidable, according to Dickens.
But Rovers’ medical man says the unprecedented number of serious injuries means the club must delve a little deeper for an explanation - and to prevent a repeat scenario.
At the heart of the inquest will be the state of the Keepmoat Stadium pitch.
And Dickens has also questioned whether Rovers are carrying too many injury-prone players.
He said: “The thing to note about our injury situation is that 90 per cent of them have occurred in games.
“All but two of those occured in home games.
“We’ve only suffered a couple of serious injuries away from home.
“Whether that’s a factor or not is something we’ll have a look at when the season is over.
“We know the pitch has been a problem in the past and we know it’s a hard pitch with a very soft upper layer.
“But we’ve got no proof that the pitch is to blame for our injury problems.
“We’ll have a look at all the stats and see if there’s anything relevant that we can investigate.
“The good thing is we have a ratio of 90 per cent injuries from games and ten per cent in training,” he added.
“That tells us that our training methods are okay.
“We’re getting a high casualty list from games - but that’s part and parcel of football.
“The only way you’re going to stop that is by telling the players not to run or tackle.
“We’ll also have to look at our squad as a whole and look at their physical make-up.
“Are we carrying too many players that may be more vulnerable to injuries than the average player?
“That’s another factor we have to look at - especially when we’re signing players.
“We have a very tight medical system when it comes to player recruitment.
“But have we now got one or two players more than we should have that aren’t as durable as they should be?
“That’s something we’ll look at when it comes to putting together a squad for next season.”
Dickens was the focus of media attention at last week’s press gathering - but the 57-year-old was showing no signs of pressure as he guided the likes of Martin Woods, Mustapha Dumbuya and Ryan Mason through a light jogging session before making time for the Free Press.
“When you lose a few games people start asking questions,” he said.
“You could have one hundred injuries but if you’re winning games it doesn’t matter - but it’s healthy that people are asking questions.
“The only pressure I’m under is to get the players back.
“The manager wants his players back, the players want to play and I want to get them back as quickly as possible.
“But it’s pointless just getting them back short term, having them for a couple of games and then losing them for the rest of the season.
“You need to look at the bigger picture.
“The players will be back as quickly as it is possible for them to come back - and stay back.
“A few of the lads have been out for a while but what people don’t realise is that they have new injuries.
“Martin Woods, for instance, had a problem with his left groin - and then in the warm up at Wolves he tweaked his other groin.
“Most of the injuries have been either contact injuries or landing injuries where there’s force going through joints.
“It’s just bad luck basically that our players have gone into tackles and got injured, or they’ve jumped and landed and got injured.
“We’re just having one of those seasons.
“This is my 25th season in football and I’ve seen it all before.
“You do get seasons like this.
“In terms of the number of injuries, I’ve had to contend with worse situations during my career,” he added.
“But what is unusual is the number of serious injuries we’ve had in one go - and how position oriented they’ve been.
“We lost all our centre halves in one go, all our midfielders in one go, then we lost all our forwards in one go.
“I feel sorry for the manager really - and it’s more of a nightmare for him than it is for me.
“It’s amazing we’ve done as well as we have done, given the number of injuries we’ve had throughout the season.”
Dickens was physio at Bournemouth when Sean O’Driscoll played at Dean Court.
And he jumped at the opportunity to be reunited with a manager who he says ‘understands the physical side of the game’ - and who has overseen a complete overhaul of the medical facilities at Rovers.
“When I came to the club there was no infra-structure at all,” said Dickens.
“We didn’t have a gym or any treatment facilities that were any good really.
“The club have put money into it and we now have a good treatment room and a gym which doubled in size this season, as well as a sports science lab.
“We have a good backroom staff and we try and improve that every season.
“Because we have a small playing squad we have to put a lot of work into the squad to get them fitter, stronger and faster.
“But if someone blocks a tackle and breaks his foot there’s no way of stopping that - unless we tell the players to stop tackling.
“There’s some light at the end of the tunnel though - we’ve got players coming back all the time.”