IN HIS LATEST column, Dermot Simpson looks forward to Euro 2016, which kicks off on Friday in France.
The beginning of the European Championships is only days away and much of the talk is about injuries to players rather than the tactics needed to beat teams!
Unfortunately many details of the injuries are kept hidden from public. However, the secrecy of injury details among sports teams varies from country to country. Many newspapers in Spain and TV stations in Australia regularly discuss at length some of the key player’s injuries.
Experts give advice on what is the best way to treat these injuries and the length of time the players may be out of action. It’s something the public are interested in hearing. AFL clubs in Australia have to give a weekly report on which players are currently not fit to train.
It’s been proven recently in rugby union and football that the less injuries the team sustains, the more likely the team will be successful.
Ireland’s biggest doubt for the opening match is Robbie Keane who has been ruled out for at least two weeks due to a calf strain. A Uefa study has shown that calf injuries are more common with increasing age and from my experience, are certainly more common in the harder ground, which is not surprising with the excellent weather over the past week.
Calf injuries are thought to occur during the transition between landing and initiation of push off. An increased ground reaction force (with the harder ground) may place extra stress on the soft tissues of the calf.
Jonathan Walters is another injury worry ahead of the Sweden opener, which takes place at the Stade de France on Monday.
The Stoke City striker self-reported his injury during an interview at the recent Fota Island Training Camp. He recently returned to club action from a small knee operation. Walters realises that his body may not have been up to the more rigorous demands of a training camp.
He said: “When you come back you have secondary little things. I had a little bit of tenderness on both Achilles, tendinopathy. Out on the training ground it flares up a little bit, you’ve just got to settle it down. You don’t want to push through it and go into next week, the week leading up to the game, pushing yourself through it. You have a chance to settle it down, which we did, a couple of days and that’s what I’ve done.”
Shay Given became the longest serving Irish player last week when he played against Belarus. He has been involved for over 20 years with the national team which says a lot about his drive and perseverance.
Given spent two weeks here in Aspetar in February (pictured above) recovering from the knee injury. He had two operations in England in the last eight months but neither were successful.
For his initial assessment in the rehab department, he gave his injury history to not one, but nine clinicians. All the clinicians gathered around him in the treatment room to ask questions and take notes.
This way the player doesn’t have to repeat the same story over and over and allows for a more natural flow to the rehabilitation process. There was a sports medicine physician, surgeon, physiotherapist, physiologist, podiatrist, nutritionist, strength and conditioning coach, sports rehabilitator and dietician at the initial assessment.
They all work in collaboration and are in constant liaison during the rehab process. For Given, every day consisted of an 8am to 4pm schedule working with the various specialities and thankfully he made a good recovery at the end of the two weeks. During conversation, I told him that Paul Durcan was currently working in Doha. He then got in contact with Paul and he invited him to the daily on pitch sports specific goalkeeping sessions.
Two of the best Donegal goalkeepers in history on a football pitch in the Middle East!
A lot has been said about over-training and the subsequent risk of increasing injury and reducing performance. On the other hand, under-training in fear of sustaining injury doesn’t work either. If your training load demands do not meet what you expect to encounter during matches, the player may breakdown at some point.
It’s a mix between science and art to find the medium which works best. Leicester City had that balance in the Premier League last year while Liverpool and Manchester United did not. The manager can go down many roads for preparation.
Two such roads are; prepare the team with high intensity training sessions, hoping for performance improvement, while taking the risk of injury occurring. Another option is to play safe and maybe enter the season undercooked but with no injuries. However, an under-cooked team may under perform and are at higher risk of injuries at the more demanding times during games.
Martin O’Neill with help from his support team will realise that players are coming from different training and match workloads from the previous number of months. So, Jonathan Walters has just returned from a knee surgery, Robbie Keane is in mid-season playing in a lower intensity league, while other players such as Robbie Brady has played the majority of games for his club this season.
A huge amount of thought will go into what is the correct recipe for preparation of the team. They should understand that previous workload may not be the same throughout the team and training workloads may have to be individualised until until everyone is on a similar level.
Jamie Vardy recently talked about Leicester City’s mid-season break to Dubai: “It was a great idea. It worked perfectly — no one was going to go off on a seven-day bender.
“I went to Dubai and just remember sitting on a sun lounger while, in the same hotel, Sunderland players were running up and down the beach doing fitness work on a club break. For me, to be relaxing while they were doing all that training was quite nice.”
Managers are realising that hard training work doesn’t always equal success, neither does low training loads, but somewhere in between is what works best!
Good luck to Donegal in the championship opener this weekend. I know they’ll have prepared well in many different areas. Hopefully the beginning of a long summer!
Dermot Simpson is a physiotherapist currently working at Aspetar, a world renowned sports medicine clinic in Doha, Qatar. Dermot has been team physiotherapist for Donegal senior football team from the 2012 to 2015 seasons.
He holds an undergraduate degree in physiotherapy and as well as a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy from UCD, Dublin. Dermot is the owner of Donegal Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic in Letterkenny and Inishowen Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic in Carndonagh.