SoccerToday Interview Series on Injury Prevention – Part 1
Making sure that a professional soccer player can get back to the field healthy is a crucial job. The owner, teammates and fans are all relying on these professional athletes to perform on the pitch – how do the pros in the MLS minimize the risks of injury and what do they to to recover? Learn from the MLS Medical Coordinator!
John Gallucci, Jr., is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS) and oversees the medical care of 600 professional soccer players and shares his wisdom on this painful youth soccer issue. Gallucci is a dynamic expert in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine and athletic conditioning and the former Head Trainer of the New York Red Bulls.
SoccerToday interviewed Gallucci to learn more about the MLS aspect of his profession.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the most frequent injuries in MLS?
John Gallucci, Jr: As a head athletic trainer in MLS, you’re dealing with a tremendous amount of athletes throughout the year. Our rosters go as large as 30 professional soccer players per team as well as our USSF Development Academy and USL teams. When I was a trainer for the MLS, we saw a lot of lower extremity injuries: hips, knees, groins, ankles, shins and feet are the most common.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your duties as Medical Coordinator for MLS?
John Gallucci, Jr: As the medical coordinator for MLS, I have the opportunity to work with the medical staffs throughout all of our clubs in the league. I assist them with the policies and procedures, and take care of whatever needs to be done at the club level along with being an assistant through MLS headquarters in New York.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the greatest challenge working with the MLS?
John Gallucci, Jr: In Major League Soccer, I think it’s important to understand that each and every day — between all of our clubs — we have many different personalities. We have an international thought process on medicine and as we know, the United States of America is the leader when it comes to sports medicine.
It’s very difficult to explain to some of our international players the process of the way we do things and how important it is for them to take proper care of themselves. Whether it’s nutrition, hydration or education of biomechanics, here in the USA and in Major League Soccer, we do a great job of educating our players. I think in the last 5 years you’ve seen unbelievable respect for the entire Major League Soccer medical community throughout the world in the soccer community.
More and more of our professionals are being asked to educate abroad and to be involved in different programs as well as work in consortium with FIFA and US soccer.
Major League Soccer has definitively put together some of the best minds of soccer medicine in the world.
Diane Scavuzzo: How did you become involved in physical therapy? What inspired you?
John Gallucci, Jr: When I was a young boy at 13 years old, I had the opportunity to work for my dad who owned a medical supply business in New York City. I delivered medical supplies to different physical therapy companies throughout downtown Brookyln and one of those companies was the International Longshoreman’s Association, who had their own medical center. There, I met a physical therapist by the name of Sam Feather, who took a liking to me and I used to see patients with him — even thought I was only a young teenager. This had initially inspired and motivated me to strive to become a physical therapist.
My cousin, Rich Giordano was a sports medicine physical therapist who worked for over 25 years with the New York Rangers. I saw first hand, each and every day, what’s done by a physical therapist in the sports medicine realm.
Giordano motivated me unbelievably, so as I worked each and every summer and holiday with him, learning different things in the private world of physical therapy, as he owned several of his own private practices called Sleepy Hollow Physical Therapy as well as in the sports medicine world. I worked alongside him, treating athletes from many different high schools and colleges.
Giordano inspired me the most at a young age to become a physical therapist and also a certified athletic trainer as he allowed me to be around the sports medicine scene from high school and college athletes to professional athletes.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do players improve more with frequent treatment?
John Gallucci, Jr: When you work for a team in the sports medicine world, we can treat people the way they should be treated, which is as often as needed. Working in the sports medicine realm, we have the opportunity to see patients 5 or 6 times a week and be able to be a part of the entire return to sport protocol. This helps players improve.
In the physical therapy world, we know too many people get pushed by their insurance companies to only go to physical therapy 2 to 3 times a week and do some exercises at home.
In the private world, we’re pushed and mandated by insurance companies on how many visits we can see.