Blackpool Teaching Hospitals will be hoping for success on a world scale over the next few weeks as one of their surgeons is on international duty with the England team at the Rugby League World Cup.
Doug Hammond, a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Trust will be swapping patients for players through October and November as he takes on the role of England Rugby League First Team Doctor. Alongside the team’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Brooks, Doug will be charged with ensuring the team’s players are physically prepared for the tough challenges of a world cup tournament.
A former rugby player himself, Doug has spent many weeks in preparation for the tournament, and last Saturday played a role in England’s opening win of the tournament against Samoa.
Explaining his role with the squad, Doug said: “On a day-to-day basis when the players train, I’ll be there in case they get hurt, but with the physiotherapy team I’ll also be managing acute and chronic injuries. This tournament is coming at the end of the season so lads will be carrying injuries in some form that might require surgery in the future, but you could probably get them through a tournament with.
“On game day there’s a variety of painkilling injections. If a player got a fractured rib, you give some local anaesthetic or chronic things like shoulder issues or fingers you might numb those up.
“Once the match is underway you work as a team, assessing what’s going on on the pitch and after the game it is about assessing injuries.”
In many regards, Doug’s role as first team doctor is similar to the traditional football physio, running onto the pitch during play and assessing injuries, but he is quick to point out that the injuries are very different between the two sports.
He said: “Football is very much physio led and unless something very exciting happens, somebody breaks a leg or something, you won’t see the doctor come on. But in rugby league there’s a lot more issues around concussion, there’re a lot more people with cut heads. It’s a more severe injury scale and there’s much more severe injuries happening in rugby league than in football.
“Football you find it is soft tissue injuries so players will pull muscles, they’ll have a hamstring injury, which as a doctor you remove yourself from. In rugby league there are collision injuries that require attention and if somebody’s unconscious, it needs two people. So I’ll be running along the side of the pitch and popping on the pitch when required.”
While Doug will play an important role in ensuring England get their best players fit and healthy for selection, he is also keen to pay tribute to the dedication to which the players prepare themselves for the games.
“These boys are tough, they’re winners, they’re athletes. You watch them prepare when they are with England and it’s phenomenal, you see some of the lads like John Bateman with their preparation and they’re absolutely on it. It’s their mentality and their preparation which is so impressive.”
England’s next match is against France at Bolton on Saturday, but Doug will be hoping that his services are required deep into November, with a place in the World Cup Final at Old Trafford, Manchester the ultimate target.
“I’m very thankful the Trust have released me for this,” Doug says as he reflects on his absence from being a surgeon at Blackpool. “This is an exciting opportunity and I think it reflects well on the hospital that you have somebody here that works here that has been selected for the England Rugby League World Cup team reaching a pinnacle of a sport.
“There’s not many first team doctors for international sports in this country, so they have one of them from Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, which is great.”