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The Doctor is in

Geoff Davies is a consultant sports physician for the Welsh Rugby Union. He has worked in the game for almost 15 years, and travelled with the team to almost every corner of the globe.

He lives in Dinas Powys, which is about 10 minutes out of Cardiff. Finding his house to meet him was enough of a task, in a quiet part of the town called “The Common”. A long loop of road, around a common green, lined with cottages and excellent hill views. The local rugby club is situated on The Common, and Geoff will often receive a knock at the door on a weekend morning asking for an expert opinion on an injury or two. We spoke in his conservatory, which overlooked a fine view of the town and beyond, and there was not a noise to be heard outside the house. A picturesque setting with a serene ambience. This was certainly the home of someone who had the job they wanted, and weren’t planning to move.

“I worked as a GP between 1990 and 2006, in Barry just up the road…but during that time I was doing sports medicine. I did an MSc in Bath University to try and get involved more in sports medicine, as I felt it was going to become a speciality.” Geoff had always had a keen interest in the field, but it’s not possible to become a consultant in a certain field of medicine, unless it becomes a speciality. “I foresaw that things were going to change with the Olympics, and sports medicine was to become a medical speciality, and I thought this going to be the time for me to go [into that field].”

Geoff went on to carry out top up training and a number of muscular/skeletal jobs, to help himself financially, and even went on to set up a muscular/skeletal clinic in the NHS. “I’d still be doing that now if they’d offered me a consultancy position, but they didn’t.” The NHS’s loss turned out to be rugby’s gain however, as Geoff worked as club doctor for the Cardiff Blues. “I worked at the Blues for about 10 years, then in 2011 I applied for specialist recognition…then in 2012, I knew the Welsh Rugby job would come up at some stage because the previous doctor had been there for some time.” As it turned out, leaving the NHS to focus on being a specialist paid off for Geoff, “I felt that you’d probably need to be on the specialist register [to get the WRU job], and that was my other driver as this is a job I’ve always wanted.”

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“I was shortlisted for the job in May 2012, and the application was for a specialist in Sports and Exercise Medicine, so had I stayed where I was I couldn’t have applied. I then got the job in October.” Geoff travels everywhere with the Welsh team, while in camp, as they need someone with Sports medicine, but also GP experience. As a results he’s been on tour to “Japan, South Africa and New Zealand, and will be going to Argentina and then Japan again for the World Cup in 2019.” He finds the commitment to be much heavier for the national side than at club level, and finds that players are very committed for the national side too, which he feels is a part of Welsh Culture. For example, in English football, the plays are part of their clubs first and foremost, and will then represent their country if the club allows. “In general terms the National Side comes first, but it also depends on the club, and the sort of contract that the player is on… but we are a small country and generally feel as though we’re punching well above our weight.” It was the first 6 nations that Geoff was part of the team for, in the Spring of 2013, that Wales won, “we lost the first game to Ireland, but then won the next four to win the championship, so it was a nice start!”

Despite his rise to the top level of Welsh Rugby, Geoff still keeps up with the form of Cardiff Blues, “I always look after their results, having been there for 10 years, but in my world you have to remain impartial. But I see a lot of the players, they’ll contribute 8-10 players to the squad.” Another insight into the Welsh ideology, Geoff is more a fan of Welsh clubs in general, rather than any individual teams, “if a welsh club is playing a team from a different nation then of course I’ll support them, but if two Welsh clubs play each other it’s hard to come down on either side. I just hope that the players remain injury free!”

Geoff has a strong opinion on concussion in the game. The #recogniseandremove is strongly followed on social media. “Concussion is the biggest match-day injury by far. It’s very important to recognise, if you can’t recognise it then you can’t manage it.” While professional rugby is coping with concussion, the junior game is less so, “the teenage brain is still developing, and so the head requires as much protection as possible. Its important to recognise the concussion, and then remove that player from the game.” He finds that scrum caps worsen the problem, as they only protect against cuts and abrasions, and while wearing them, young players tend to use their heads as weapons, which clearly is an unsafe practice in such a physical sport.

 

The worst injury Geoff had ever had to face though was a mans ankle rotating 180 degrees the wrong way. But, pro that he is, Geoff spun it back the right way, and sent the player off to hospital. He’s seen broken bones and dislocated shoulders and even some more scary injuries, but it’s unlikely that any of these will stop him from doing the job he loves.

He’s worked with some of the best in Welsh Rugby, and judging by how it’s gone so far, I’m sure he’ll work with a lot more.