After a season beset by injuries both major and minor to a host of key players, the Nationals on Tuesday announced an overhaul of their medical and training staffs, one that includes not only personnel changes but philosophical changes to the manner in which they treat and attempt to prevent ailments.
The organization’s medical operation will now be overseen by an advisory board led by Harvey Sharman (formerly medical director for an English soccer club), Dr. Keith Pyne (a New York sports injury specialist), Dr. Robin West (an orthopedic surgeon who will be the Nationals’ new lead team physician) and Bob Miller (the club’s vice president and assistant general manager).
In addition, the Nationals have hired new head athletic trainer Paul Lessard (who has 18 years of experience in that role with other MLB clubs) and promoted Matt Eiden to head strength and conditioning coach after five seasons as assistant.
All of the changes are part of an overall transition of the Nationals’ medical department into one that “utilizes a proactive model, with significant analytic input” in an attempt to “hone in on predictive factors to thwart potential injurious situations,” the team said in a press release.
This comes after a season that saw Nationals players miss a combined 1,030 games due to injury, seventh-most in MLB according to mangameslost.com. Nationals players have missed 3,813 games due to injury since 2010, 12th-most in MLB.
The changes announced Tuesday include the dismissal of several longtime members of the club’s medical staff, including Dr. Wiemi Duouguih (medical director since 2009), Lee Kuntz (head athletic trainer since 2007), Steve Gober (assistant athletic trainer since 2013) and John Philbin (head strength and conditioning coach since 2009).
Sharman spent 15 years with Leeds United FC (a second-tier English soccer club), the last eight as director of sports medicine/science. A physiotherapist, Sharman focuses on movement dysfunction and injury-prevention strategies, which (according to the Nationals) led to a 50 percent drop in soft-tissue injuries by Leeds players.
Pyne, who will serve as chairman of the newly founded medical services advisory board, has been a consultant for the Nationals since 2012 and operates a clinic in New York that specializes in neuromuscular structural integration.
West, who takes over as lead team physician, previously was assistant physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a head physician for the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University athletic departments. She most recently served as medical director of the Inova Sports Medicine Institute.
Lessard, the Nationals’ new head athletic trainer, spent the last six seasons holding that title for the Reds, overlapping with new Washington and former Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker. A veteran of 18 seasons as a big-league trainer, he also has worked for the Diamondbacks and Red Sox and twice was selected to represent the NL at the All-Star Game.
Lessard’s staff will include athletic trainer Dale Gilbert, who spent the last four seasons as medical coordinator for the Rangers; and John Hsu, who was retained as an athletic training assistant.
Eiden, the Nationals’ assistant strength and conditioning coach since 2011, moves up to head strength and conditioning coach. Patrick Panico, the team’s massage therapist since 2013, shifts into a new role as corrective exercise specialist. He’ll be joined by Joe Cancellieri, who spent the last two years as an exercise physiologist and strength and conditioning coach for SportsLab NYC and the John McEnroe Tennis Academy.
Dr. Thomas Cullen (team physician and internist) and Dr. Bruce Thomas (team physician, Florida) also were retained.