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Nats announce overhaul of medical, training staffs

Nov 17, 2015, 3:46 PM EDT

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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 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 will continue to serve 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.

  1. npb99 - Nov 17, 2015 at 5:22 PM

    I have no idea about these individuals, but really glad to see the Nats take this seriously. It was due.

  2. Doc - Nov 17, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    Looks impressive on paper.

    Now we need someone besides Rizzo to articulate injury status to the press.

  3. deelizzle - Nov 17, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    I dunno. 10th most and 12th most in a 30-team league is middle of the pack. Putting actual stats behind what we’ve been feeling may have revealed that baseball is just a sport where players get injured.

    Now, if there’s something that the 29th and 30th teams are doing that keeps them at 29th and 30th, I’m all for emulating them.

    • ehay2k - Nov 17, 2015 at 5:39 PM

      There really ought to be a stat to show how long players with similar injuries are out, but I’m not sure how you could do it because the severity of the injury and each players recuperative ability vary.

      But, they need to break down by the nature of the injury – “broken wrist due due to HBP” is not as preventable as “strained oblique” or “grade 2 hamstring strain” or “injured while rehabbing”. The Nats had far, far too many of the last variety.

      Lastly, I’m glad they finally made a move to kick that harmful young greek lady out of the clubhouse. I’m talking of course about Miss Diagnosis. She was Dr. Duouguih’s constant companion.

    • Candide - Nov 18, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      Missed games all by itself doesn’t say much. Tyler Moore out for a month with a broken finger would be a lot worse than Bryce Harper out for that month. Have to figure someone has done some numbers-crunching that factors in (previous season’s? season-to-date?) WAR or something.

  4. mauimo22 - Nov 17, 2015 at 6:18 PM

    I applaud this. It’s all about risk management really and not rushing players back. Conditioning and being smart on the field are also important. Bottom line is to build a strong bench and monitor health carefully. Also removing stars when we’re up by 5+ runs. I think Dusty will help out here by giving key aging players like Zim and Werth generous days off while growing new talent.


  5. letsallbaseball - Nov 17, 2015 at 6:23 PM

    Off topic: Brandon Crawford reportedly signs a 6 year with the Giants for $75, buying out two arbitration years before locking up four years of free agency. I know I’m just a jilted lover here, but that’s basically the deal we offered Desi, who talked shortly after the reported offer about wanting to be the captain of the team but not wanting to hurt future players in arbitration. I know Desi is gone, but just wanted to know what people’s thoughts are on that.

    • unkyd59 - Nov 17, 2015 at 7:23 PM

      I was a Desi Booster for years, love him, wish him all the best….. And I’m thrilled that he didn’t accept the offer (which I recall as being rumored in the six figgers…). You gotta make choices, and Tony and Harp are far more $$$ worthy than Desi.

      And congrats to BC!!

      • Sonny G 10 - Nov 17, 2015 at 8:41 PM

        +10 Same here.

  6. edshelton2013 - Nov 17, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    This has the Lerners’ fingerprints all over it. Starting with MW, they’re cleaning house. And why not? If you’ve got unlimited resources and you’re 87 years old, you want a championship before you go to that great ballpark in the sky.
    Look for some major deals this winter. Just sayin’.

    • philipd763 - Nov 17, 2015 at 10:05 PM

      Ted Lerner is 90.

  7. Sonny G 10 - Nov 17, 2015 at 8:43 PM

    I think this medical overhaul has to help our injury problems. The Nats had to do something different.

  8. sunshinebobby - Nov 17, 2015 at 9:43 PM

    I just this means Tatianna is gone too (SIGH)

    • trfwans - Nov 17, 2015 at 10:43 PM

      Tatiana has been gone for years. Maybe she ran away with Dmitri Young.

      • sjm308 - Nov 18, 2015 at 2:45 PM

        She is doing wonderful work at Ninotch An Urban Spa in Bethesda. She has owned her own business for years before joining the Nationals.

  9. mwgchess - Nov 17, 2015 at 10:34 PM

    I am pretty sure that the Nats are the first team to use “poor medical staff” as an excuse for a bad season. Just work on fixing the bullpen and we will be fine next year.

    • ArVAFan - Nov 17, 2015 at 10:55 PM

      I don’t think it’s an excuse, but

      1. The previous staff missed two broken wrists in the last three years. That’s two too many.

      2. The players were complaining privately about the medical treatment (see Werth, Jayson getting his own doctor, and see Anthony getting a 2nd and 3rd opinion).

      3. The new team is focused on prevention, and has a track record in that area. That’s a significant upgrade.

      • trfwans - Nov 17, 2015 at 11:00 PM

        The new team worked for Manchester United, a soccer team. They may not be much help with broken wrist diagnoses.

  10. ccallahan15 - Nov 18, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    I hope an overhaul on the sabermetrics team is next. I hear from folks who know data that our guys are not very good.

  11. edbrinkman - Nov 18, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Big staff. Surprised they didn’t hire a witch doctor, too.

    • Candide - Nov 18, 2015 at 10:38 AM

      Now I have to clean all that coffee off my keyboard, you God damn son of a bitch…😜

    • ArVAFan - Nov 18, 2015 at 11:39 AM

      Or at least have the chicken man on retainer!





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