THE appointment of Max Hartman as rehab therapist was the final piece of the jigsaw in Coventry’s restructured medical team, providing a link between head physio Hannah Walker and head of performance Rob Norman in the quest to minimise injuries and ensure that those players who do get injured can return to action as soon as possible.
It’s an ideal role for Birmingham-based Hartman, who has an undergraduate degree in sports therapy and is currently studying for a Masters in strength and conditioning, and one he is enjoying to the full.
“Bringing the two together is really nice,” said Hartman. “Often in the past there could be quite contrasting ideas about how players should be managed from a strength and conditioning coach’s point of view and from the medical point of view, so making sure we fit together nicely is very important and my role is trying to bridge that gap.
“I think it’s working well and we have got the balance spot on.
“What’s happening at Coventry is really good. Some of the ideas and goals that director of rugby Rowland Winter has got and the way in which the performance staff are coming together is really exciting.”
Hartman, who spent two years at Leicester Tigers afters graduating and has also worked with Leicester Lions, Loughborough Students and, last season, Ealing Trailfinders, believes that the work of the medical and support teams is becoming more important than ever as the game evolves.
“Especially at the top level, you see that guys are getting bigger and bigger year on, year out, and faster and faster. The collisions are getting harder, so by the very nature of the contact there are more injuries.
“In and around that, even if players aren’t necessarily injured or unable to play, they still get niggles and things they can work on.
“Trying to stop players actually getting injured in the first place is a big thing. Once they are injured the aim is to get them back playing as quickly as possible, but we are as proactive as we can be in minimising the injuries before they happen with individualisation of programmes based upon injury history and pre-season screening data, as well as being informed by daily monitoring and wellness scores.
“On training nights I’m primarily involved in clinic, in a similar capacity to Hannah who obviously takes the lead on the main injury assessments, and my job is looking at what we see in that assessment and how to move forward – if a player injures their knee or hamstring, how can we maintain as much positive work as possible to their upper body, how can we get whatever injury it might be working again as quickly as possible with minimum disruption to what they’re doing on the pitch, in the gym, and in a way that really optimises their return to play.
“It’s still a really positive thing and important to have injured players involved in the sessions with the rest of the squad. They will have to do a slightly altered session and different exercises, but I think it’s important for their own head space because when you are injured you can really feel isolated.
“Equally it’s important that the guys are together as much as possible in environments like the gym and training sessions on the pitch.”
Hartman will have added responsibility for the next few weeks while Walker is away at the Rio Paralympics with Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby squad.
“It will be a blow not having Hannah, but again I think the way the team has been put together and the way that Hannah, Rob and myself have structured things there is that flexibility if someone is away. It’s working life.”