Though MK Dons had SIX defenders out injured for much of 2019, Simon Crampton said last season was actually not the worst on record.
The Head of Sports Science and Medicine has been a busy man this season. Long terms injuries to Peter Pawlett, Ryan Harley and Conor McGrandles on the opening day of the season and Mathieu Baudry's almost continuous fitness problems preceded a defensive injury crisis which almost cost Dons automatic promotion.
Jordan Moore-Taylor, Mitch Hancox, Joe Walsh, George Williams and Baily Cargill would all spend lengthy spells in the treatment room during 2019, but Crampton says the issues were heightened because it all the injuries seemed to be in defence. There were also long spells out for Alex Gilbey, Pawlett and Osman Sow - the latter pair leaving for Dundee United in January.
"It's in keeping with our worst season on record, but it's not the worst," Crampton told the Citizen. "The problem this season has been in the same position, and key players as well. The stats will tell us for every game, we should expect 2.5 players, which we round to three, per game missing. We expect injuries, that;s why he have the department. But when you get so many injuries to the same position, it makes it harder.
"We played Oldham away, and had those two freak injuries. We didn't think much of it. As medical staff, we don't really watch the game, but how people pick themselves up after being knocked down. We dealt with Peter Pawlett, then Conor McGrandles had that horrendous facial injury. I remember driving home at 1:30am with Adam Ross, having tucked Conor up in hospital. I said to him 'I hope that's not a sign of things to come!' and it was!
"Severity-wise, we've had more contact injuries which have had more surgeries and interventions. Joe Walsh has had some strange injuries as well which we've not seen before. But when the back line is out, it makes it tricky for the manager to select his team."
Despite the shortage of defenders, forcing midfielder Jordan Houghton into extended periods playing out of position, Crampton said he was never pressurised by manager Paul Tisdale to rush players back ahead of time, but instead the pressure came from their own desire to see Dons get promoted.
"Tis is very good, understanding and experienced," he continued. "He had a lot of injuries himself, as did the coaches so they're familiar with how it works, so we don't get immediate pressure, but of course there is.
"Adam and I, having been here a long time, want the team to do well as much as anyone so we put the pressure on ourselves more than anyone. As soon as someone gets injures, we sit them down, work out how we can get them back, the realistic time frame, where can we express time, where are our risky periods – that's what our job is about.
"The body is very good at healing, but have to manage the process and the players isn't coming back too quickly and prolonging that period.
"Other managers we've had, there has been that pressure. No manager likes it when I knock on the door. We're not the one who smashed Conor in the face, but we're associated with that bad news."
The medical team drew praise throughout the season from players and manager Paul Tisdale for their work bringing people back to fitness as quickly as possible - including Walsh and Williams for the final game of the season against Mansfield.
Crampton though said there was no sense of satisfaction until Dons wrapped up promotion.
He said: "You don't feel that satisfaction until now. When I send a player back out, I liken it to when my daughter first went to school. You know they'll be ok, you've done all the prep, ticked all the boxes, they've got their packed lunch and uniform, but you always wonder what if. It's the same thing I get when a player goes on the pitch.
"I don't want to tempt fate, but looking at the data over the last 14 seasons, this is an outlier! I'm hoping we go to a below average season in terms of injuries, but an above average one in terms of performance."