Phil Rippon: Nottingham Panthers and PhysioDirect Physio

Having spent some time over the last few years working in one of PhysioDirect’s more northern clinics, in the old mining town of Mansfield, I have had the pleasure of working alongside Phil Rippon. I will always remember my first day working for the company, starting off in Mansfield. I arrived like an eager beaver; early and slightly nervous as anyone does on their first day, waiting in the carpark for the place to open. Phil turned up a few minutes after me a look of what can only be described as complete exhaustion on his face. My first thought was “oh dear god, I hope they don’t work me as hard as this guy”, but as I chatted to him later that morning, my initial worries about PhysioDirect were eased as it emerged that Phil had only had a few hours sleep the previous night, having travelled back from near Scotland with the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team.

The other week Phil hobbled into work equally exhausted after completing the great north run, but in spite of his tiredness, he has kindly agreed to give some of his time to answer a few questions around the interesting work he does at the Panthers, and a little bit about the work he does here at PhysioDirect.

To kick things off, I thought I’d find out a bit about Phil’s journey into physiotherapy.

Phil Rippon Nottingham Panthers Physiotherapist
Phil Rippon Nottingham Panthers Physiotherapist

B: So Phil, I know we’ve talked a bit about this before but tell me a bit about yourself, what made you decide to become a physiotherapist?

P: I guess it came from an early age when I remember looking through biology related books with my mum and grandma (both were nurses) and gaining an interest how the human body was made up and how it moved etc. Then as I went through school, biology was the one lesson I looked forward to and excelled in. I was pointed in the direction of physiotherapy when I met a careers advisor at school.

B: Awesome, it seems like it was a natural path for you. Did you always plan to work in professional sport when you decided you wanted to be a physiotherapist?

P: When I finally decided to be a physio I tried to gain as much experience as possible in various areas of the profession. One of these was with the physio department at Notts County FC. I really enjoyed watching how the physio’s worked and how they got players ready for upcoming games. It was a very intense atmosphere and very fast paced but it was where I could see myself working. After qualifying I worked with a semi professional team in Newcastle for a few season alongside working in the NHS and I really enjoyed my time working with both.

B: So you liked to keep busy right from the start! All the initial sports work you did was in football, how did you end up working in ice hockey for Nottingham Panthers?

P: Well I decided I wanted to move back to Nottingham, and when I came back I started working for for PhysioDirect. A colleague there, Scott Poundall, was already working for the Panthers as their therapist. We worked together for a while at PhysioDirect and also on a Sky Sports programme called ‘The Masters’ which was a five a side competition for ex professional footballers that was held throughout the country. Initially I helped out at the Panthers when Scott wasn’t available (which was probably once/twice a season). When Scott went back to university I was asked to be part of the medical team on a regular basis….that was 3 years ago and I have enjoyed my time there since.

B: Tell me a bit about the work you do at Panthers. What are your main responsibilities as their physiotherapist?

P: The job depends upon where we are playing that day, if I’m working a home game then I have to be at the rink in the morning as we have a light pre-game skate as I have to oversee the training session incase of injury. After the training I’m available to any players carrying niggles/knocks for assessment and treatment or wanting a ‘flush’ (a type of deep tissue massage that releases the tension in the muscles). Game time begins approximately 2 and a half hours before face-off when players that are needing treatment prior to the game come to see me. We also have a sports masseuse that comes to home games to help out. During the game I’m rink-side to offer medical support for any on ice injuries (thankfully we don’t get many that are serious). If it’s an away game then the role is pretty much similar just without the pre game skate in the morning.

Phil Rippon
Nottingham Panthers Medical Team

B: What are the best and worst parts of working in professional sport?

P: The best part of working in sport; be it pro, semi pro or amateur, is being part of winning games and trophies and it always gives the team and staff a buzz when we get the right results. The panthers have been successful over the past few years with winning league, play-offs and challenge cups over the past 4/5 seasons which has enabled the team to represent GB in European competitions across Europe. On the other side of the coin, the worst part has to be the loses. No one likes losing! However with the games coming thick and fast there’s little time to dwell on the defeat.

B: Nice, I suppose you’ll feel the ups and downs as much as the players. Keeping all the players injury free must be a big part of the winning formula though? When they do get injured, what are the most common injuries you tend to see and treat?

P: There is such a wide variety of injuries I’ve seen over my time with the panthers ranging from serious injuries such as broken ribs, punctured lungs and concussions to not so serious strains and sprains of muscles and tendons. The most common injuries I have to treat are around the ankles, knees, shoulder and neck.

B: Going back to keeping players injury free.. Can you tell me a bit about the kinds of pre-hab and testing/training you do with the players to help with this?

P: We have a real MDT feeling to the medical side with myself and Scott, a chiropractor, strength and conditioning coach and sports massage therapists to help deal with the prehab. When players come into the country from North America they have to biometric tests done before they can get their visa. As a club we use a bunch of body measurements and test to highlight weaknesses or mal-alignments and then we work to help correct them during training camp.

B: That is a theme you see across all successful professional sports teams I guess; everyone on the medical team with working towards the same goal, with good communication helping keep each player at their best. Finally one last quick question and I’ll let you get away; does the work you do at Panthers influence your work here at PhysioDirect? If so, how?

P: I guess it does influence my work as I have had a few clients with undiagnosed concussions and I was able to direct them to the right place, and knew what procedures needed to be followed. Deep down under the skin we have the same body make-up wether we are pro hockey players or a company director, we just use our bodies differently.

B: Great, thanks for your time Phil. Definitely some gold nuggets there for anyone interested in working as a physio in high level sport or just interested in what goes on behind the scenes.

Thats it for another blog, if you want to see Phil in action you can always pop down to the Nottingham ice arena, as he will be rink-side most matches. If you’d like to book a private physiotherapy session with Phil at our Mansfield Clinic, call our admin team on 0115 956 2353 and they will be happy to book you in with him.

The Success of Leicester City: How did Physiotherapy Help?

This article may be a little late to the party, but as PhysioDirect has several clinics in Leicester I thought it would be silly to pass up on the opportunity to jump on the Leicester City bandwagon! Incase there is any ambiguity about the bandwagon I am referring to, it is of course the historic rise of Leicester City Football Club to win the English Premier League this season at odds of 5000/1.

A Winning TeamFox pic

One of my friends who regards himself as an amateur football pundit had this to say on the topic of the Foxes victory:

“Leicester City’s success can be attributed to one key component above all else: TEAMWORK! Put quite simply, the old adage that a good team beats a team of good individuals is very apt… There’s no doubt the individuals that took to the field demonstrated the necessary skill, pace, power, stamina and tactical awareness which is required to finish top of pile at the end of a gruelling 38-game-long campaign. However, anybody who has an ounce of football knowledge would agree there were squads in London, Manchester, even Liverpool with a greater depth of known ‘talent’ in their ranks. Yet non of them showed the same togetherness, understanding and clinical football that make up the ingredients of good teamwork. Above all else, this is what led Leicester to Premier League victory. They capitalised on the short-comings of others and at times romped to success, picking apart teams with ease and making established international superstars look ordinary. Their achievement is nothing short of extraordinary and it was a pleasure to watch eleven men work with so much cohesion and selfless work rate for the benefit of their collective success.”

The Role of Physiotherapy

What prompted me to write this article however was a recent podcast I listened to with the 1st team physio Simon Murphy. During the interview Simon noted that although the medical team might not be able to take any direct credit for the win, the low number of injuries through the season meant the Foxes were able to consistently field their best team. This in turn did help ensure the amazing victory at the end of the season!

A Risky Business..

If you consider yourself wise, you may be familiar with the phrase “prevention is always better than a cure”. This statement usually reserved for the world of medicine, applies just as much to injuries in professional sport. Effective physiotherapy in sport is all about reducing the risk of injuries happening in the first place.

So what increases risk? In the medical/scientific world, when discussing risk, we tend to talk about ’risk factors’. Risk factors can be broken down into ‘non modifiable risk factors’ – ones we can’t really change, and ‘modifiable risk factors’ – ones we do our best to influence. One of the most important non modifiable risk factors is a history of previous injury. We can’t change history, which is why the ‘prevention is better than a cure’ motto is so relevant!

Onto the stuff we can actually influence then..

  • Warm upsWith so much at stake in professional sport, players can’t get away with the bacon sandwich and cigarette approach to warming up that you might find in your Sunday pub leagues. A well planned out warmup that addresses all areas of achieving optimal mobility and muscle activity, raising body temperature and get the heart rate going before playing is key. In professional sport, warm ups these days can be quite different from player to player based on their individual needs, with specific areas they need to target.
  • Biomechanical factorsThis includes things such as strength imbalances, lack of flexibility, reduced stability and co-ordination. These are all things that are screened for before the season and which can be monitored as the season goes on. If a player shows to to have an imbalance in strength between their quads and hamstrings for example, changes can be made to their individual training program to help correct this.
  • RecoveryCooling down after a match is also an area not to be missed. And no, a pint down the pub after the game does not count as a cool down.
  • FatigueThis term is usually used in relation the game itself as there appears to be a pattern of players sustaining injuries in the latter part of games. Fatigue can also be of relevance through the training week and through the season. We tend to to discuss this in terms of ’training load’. This brings us nicely onto the topic of load management.


Load Management

Load management is a hot topic in physio at the moment, and was a good point of discussion in the recent podcast with Leicester physio Simon Murphy. A big part of managing training load is having a good weekly training diary. The Foxes go about this by ensuring a good few days rest after a game (as the medical team know they are still recovering 48 hours after a hard match). Training usually commences on Tuesday, but on smaller pitches to stop players reaching high running speeds (and risk a hamstring strain). Some strength work is also done in the afternoon on the same day. A few days after that the players are allowed to train on bigger open pitches to allow them to work upto their top speeds and train hard, with rest days again afterwards to let them recover before the game at the weekend.

Leicester’s approach is all about training the players hard to prepare them for the fast counter attacking game they have been known for, but giving enough rest time between sessions to let them recover properly. Ensuring players build up their training volumes gradually in the offseason and keeping things consistent during the season are also factors that help keep risk low. Load management also needs to consider under training, which can be just as bad as overtraining! Football clubs these days use many methods to track training load such as GPS technology, wellness reporting questionnaires and psychological status evaluation.

Onwards and Upwards

Next season Leicester face many challenges. The possibility of retaining the league title, playing in the Champions League for the first time, and from a physio’s perspective; keeping injuries to a minimum. The task of keeping injury risk low when thinking in terms of load management is going to be a particularly difficult one. Leicester will face the challenge of a much higher workload, with more games per week, more travelling and less time to recover. Leicester also (compared to other top flight teams) have a relatively small squad at present. It will be interesting to see how Leicester approach things, and what changes they might make to keep up last seasons success record!

Well I hope you’ve found my musings on Leicester City thought provoking and interesting. Keep checking for my next blog which should also be up soon. If you want to know how physio can help in your sport, please give us a call or come see us here at Physio Direct!

With special thanks to Charlotte Wade and my mate for their contributions.