Behind the scenes, away from the fans, Mike Hine and his team work tirelessly to ensure that Lincoln’s players are fit and ready to play. It is role that often goes unnoticed by the club’s faithful supporters. After a fantastic 18 months for the Club, I sat down with Mike to get a little insight into his role as Head of Sports Science and Medicine.
FA4S: Can you give us an overview of your responsibilities at Lincoln and you typical working day?
MH: The job title is Head of Sports Science and Medicine. Normally arriving at 8am, the morning involves prepping and planning the day with the Sports Science and medical staff as well as meeting the management team to provide injury updates and training status of each player once the players’ injuries have been assessed. Each day we split the players into various groups and rotate them around different injury prevention exercises before training. During the actual training session, any injured players are put through their paces in the gym and rehab work takes places. After training the club’s team of therapists and myself will assess any knocks from training and provide afternoon treatments to the squad. Once the day has been reviewed and all paper work is done it can be anything from 6pm to 9pm! That’s the day-to-day, in addition to this, I perform medicals on new players, liaise with the club’s doctor over any medical matters, oversee and support the sports science provision, develop relationships with surgeons and consultants/specialists and deal with gym/medical equipment purchases.
FA4S: What are the most common injuries you come across?
MH: In football we see predominantly ankle, hamstring, groin and knee issues. These are generally the most common injury sites due to the nature of the sport but we do still see a wide variety, from little toes to concussions too.
FA4S: Is it always straightforward to judge when a player should be rested to protect an injury, or do you sometimes rely on a player’s honesty?
MH: There are always varying factors involved in a player’s match/training participation. We have to take into account their subjective feedback, combine it with the objective assessment and then respect the tissue healing time of the injury. Sometimes the pressures of the game mean we have to bring players back into player with some element of risk. It is very different to a clinical setting where extra caution is a given.
FA4S: How closely do you work with Danny and Nicky Cowley? Do they ask you for updates before team selection?
MH: I do in fact live with Danny and Nicky in our rented Lincoln household, so we are very close, I can’t really get away from them! We work very closely, several conversations a day to keep them updated on the squad before the players arrive, after the morning assessments, after training and then again once the players go home. We often will discuss the recently injured players’ risk/reward of being involved in training/matches to help the selection process.
FA4S: Rehabilitation can be frustrating for players. How do you help those who are dealing with a long-term injury and what can help recovery faster?
MH: I try my best to freshen things up for players, whether that is the environment (i.e. taking them to gyms offsite), exercises (mixing up their rehab/fitness components) or sticking them under the supervision of a different staff member for the day, it can be tedious hearing the same voice all the time. We try to set goals for the long-term players in terms of strength/mobility targets which build up into longer term, return to play targets to try and keep the players motivated.
FA4S: Do you ever speak to Physios/medics from other clubs? Do you share each other’s expertise and advice on how to treat players?
MH: I regularly speak with other therapists. It’s always common courtesy to introduce yourself to the opposition medical staff on a match day, I like to use this conversation to find out a bit about them and how they run their departments to find out if we are missing anything ourselves. When a player comes in from another club, there’s great value in speaking to their previous physio in order to get a picture of the player and how they kept fit during their time at the previous club. I find it useful to speak with other club’s staff in order to find out about the best consultants and surgeons on offer too.
FA4S: Mental Health has been in the spotlight with football lately with the likes of Nathan Arnold speaking out. Do you find that more players are open about their mental health and is it something you find has come under your umbrella so to speak?
MH: It’s something that I certainly have come across with different players and here at Lincoln City, we do have a psychologist who is on offer to the players on an ad-hoc basis. It’s important to build a trusting relationship with your players as they feel they can open up to you, knowing that you will respect the confidentiality of the matter. As someone who is always dealing with frustrated, injured players, a bit of counselling is certainly part of the service for the players who want to talk.
FA4S: How do you look after your own physical and mental health?
MH: Physically, I will sometimes join in with the injured player’s rehab sessions but ill often go to the gym after work. I tend to work 6.5 days a week so its difficult to switch off but I love my job so my mental health takes care of itself.
FA4S: Finally, how did you come into this profession and what advice would you give to somebody who wants to follow a similar career path?
MH: I completed a Sports Science degree, followed by a Masters in Sports Therapy. Dan Cowley picked up my CV straight out of University and gave me my first job at Concord Rangers FC where we spent two years working together. He then gave me a call two years later to bring me into his project at Lincoln City FC, where I am now in my second season. Anyone wishing to go into the same line of work as myself, I would advise putting yourself out there into voluntary roles in football to gain valuable experience and developing your understanding of the environment and practical skills. Also undertaking as many CPD and additional workshops as possible alongside your educational degrees. That’s what has worked for me!