Leeds Rhinos’ crippling injury toll could not have been prevented, claims physiotherapist Andy Barker.
Rhinos could be without up to 10 members of their first-team squad when they travel to Widnes Vikings on Sunday.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan was the latest player to join the casualty list when he suffered ligament damage to a knee in last Sunday’s defeat at Huddersfield Giants.
Coach Brian McDermott has described it as the worst injury crisis he has experienced but Barker insisted the spate of casualties is down to nothing more than coincidence and bad luck.
Barker said the age of Leeds’ squad and the number of games Rhinos have played over recent seasons have had no bearing on the current situation.
“The injuries have all come at once,” said Barker. “We’ve gone through a block of five or six games when we’ve had one or two injuries pretty much every game.
“From my point of view, all the injuries have been contact injuries. That’s like an occupational hazard of the game of rugby league.
“We look at ways of preventing injuries. We look at injuries like hamstring tears, calf tears, guys missing games through lower back problems, but we’ve had very few of those this season. They have all been contact injuries and there’s no real intervention we can do to prevent things like Magsy (Danny McGuire) breaking his leg and JP (Jamie Peacock) with his knee injury.
“We’ve had four thumb injuries already this season, which is like a record. It has been unfortunate.
“The injuries we’ve had aren’t preventable really, it’s the nature of the game. If you get caught in the wrong position, with enough force, the bone is going to break. It’s unfortunate that those players have had those injuries, but they can’t be prevented.”
Barker said the number of injuries Rhinos have suffered over the last couple of months, beginning when Stevie Ward dislocated a shoulder against Hull KR at the end of April, is unusual.
“If we’d had one of those injuries every five or six games it wouldn’t have been as bad and it wouldn’t have affected the playing squad as much,” he said. “We’d maybe get one player back and then lose another. But we’ve had a spate of them all together.”
Barker is now now focused on knocking time off the injured players’ recovery.
He said: “We are working hard on trying to get the guys back.
“The guys are really good at what they do and they help us out by being really professional and doing everything we ask of them.
“With regard to the fracture-type injuries, for the first few weeks we don’t have much input anyway because they are going to be in a cast and they are restricted in what they can do training-wise.
“From that point of view, it’s more towards the back end of things when they start to get more input from the medical team.”
After Ward’s injury at Hull KR, Rhinos lost Peacock and Carl Ablett (broken thumb) two weeks later in the Challenge Cup defeat at Huddersfield Giants, though both are now back in action.
Brett Delaney collapsed after the following week’s loss to St Helens and though he returned after missing one game, he then underwent surgery on a persistent knee problem.
McGuire, Kallum Watkins (ankle), Joe Vickery (knee) and Ryan Bailey (thumb) were all ruled out after Leeds’ defeat away to Hull and Kevin Sinfield (thumb) and Kylie Leuluai (knee) haven’t played since the International Origin match two weeks ago.
Jones-Buchanan’s injury was the latest setback and Rhinos are unable to call-up hooker Liam Hood, who damaged an ankle playing on dual-registration for Hunslet.
Meanwhile, Rhinos’ Super League game away at London Broncos, originally due to be played on Monday, August 5, has been brought forward to Thursday, August 1 at the request of Sky TV.
The game will kick-off at 8pm.