SANTA CLARA -- After only a few months in place, the 49ers' new player health and performance department is getting positive reviews from the organization’s brass and players.
The 49ers dealt with a rash of injuries over the past two seasons. In 2018, 18 players spent time on the injured reserve list and 21 players did so in the previous season. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan felt they needed to make a change, and the team hired Ben Peterson as their head of player health and performance and Dustin Little as the head athletic trainer.
The result is a cohesive group that works together on strength and conditioning as well as medical rehabilitation. The 49ers began training camp with four players on the physically unable to perform list, and Shanahan saw that as a positive.
“Yeah, I think we had [18-to-20] guys given not in OTAs and we’ve only got four guys going on PUP today, so I feel very good about that,” Shanahan said Friday. “OTAs we had as many guys out as we’ve had since we’ve been here. But, now going into training camp I feel as healthy and as deep as we’ve had since we’ve been here. So, that was the goal.”
Lynch also complimented the new department. With the medical and training sides working together closely, the general manager thinks each player's opportunity will be maximized.
“There’s people in the medical staff and strength staff working together and with that, all you want to do is give yourself a chance,” Lynch said Friday. “Injuries are part of this business. We’re really proud of that group and the way they’re working with our players to give them every chance to be at full health.”
Richard Sherman is no stranger to rehabilitation. He spent all of the previous offseason working his way back from a ruptured Achilles, and the veteran cornerback believes the process for players going through injury rehabilitation now is more fluid with the 49ers' new structure.
“You can feel the separation and conflict when it’s there,” Sherman said. “When you’re going through rehab and you’ve got players returning from rehab, there are stages that you go through.
“When everybody is not connected, there’s not symbiosis, there’s not understanding, there’s not communication. Then there’s conflict, there’s problems. There’s misunderstanding, there’s miscommunication and I think that has all been eliminated.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was cleared for all football activity Friday, setting up a return to game action after tearing his left ACL in Week 3 last season. He continued his rehabilitation into the offseason, and said it was a more efficient because of the new department's cohesion.
“I think those guys have been doing a great job,” Garoppolo said. “The new staff, all those guys kind of coming together and working together, whether it’s the trainers and the strength staff, or whatever it may be, it’s a lot of moving pieces. So, for all those to work so well together, it’s always a good thing. I think we’ve got a good group put in place here.”
The group has had an immediate effect on the 49ers' training-camp planning, according to Shanahan. The group has altered the intensity level of workouts throughout camp to help players stay healthy, relying on data from previous training camps in order to find the right balance.
“There’s just certain things like that where days, just over a seven-year study, where days five and eight, how much different those are than day six, practices 14-18,” Shanahan said. "Who knows if it's just off one year, but now that you’ve been able to collect this data off the last seven years, there are some consistent things that you can learn things from and make adjustments, and that’s what we’re doing.”