Football is sweat, passion and amusement. Training sessions, matches, goals, saves… But also physical pain and forced breaks.
Both in grassroots as well as professional football, it’s strange that a player doesn’t suffer from an injury during the length of their career. Knowing how to heal and recover correctly from these situations is key for any athlete. It’s not only about getting back to competing as soon as possible. It’s about getting the most out of an injury and understanding it as a unique opportunity to learn and progress.
“Our goal is for the player to lose as little time as possible. If the player feels he’s not getting an advantage out of a break, it would be damaging to their recovery”, Rodrigo Revilla explains, the physical preparation and rehabilitation coach at Marcet’s High Performance Academy. “If the injury is a bad one and it’s not possible to work directly on it, you can work on other areas that don’t look effected”.
The number one rule is to not waste time. It’s possible to progress every day, even with a leg in a cast. According to Revilla, “From the moment an injury occurs we put in motion a constant learning process. For example, taking time to go over aspects that aren’t usually done so often, like tactical sessions, video analysis or sport psychology.”
The psychological element is fundamental. An injury can cause depression and anxiety in a player, and this can have a negative effect on their self confidence. “Some players can really bury themselves and lose all motivation, and all of this can be really negative with their rehabilitation”, Hector Canyelles points out, sport psychologist at Marcet. His department runs interventions with individuals that have longterm injuries, their objective is to assess the players emotional state. “We want to understand their sensations so we can help them through the recovery process the best way possible. We listen to them, let them vent their feelings and offer them support.”
It’s important for injured players to feel they’re being attended to, that they’re being worked on and ensure them that haven’t stopped training, even though it’s not like training pre-injury. It’s fundamental that the footballer feels part of the group and has short and long term goals. An investigation by Abenza, Olmedilla, Ortega, Ato y García-Mas, shows that the key is to optimise the psychological state of a footballer and increase their commitment to the rehabilitation program.
The attention protocol to injured players has to be interdisciplinary. Aside medical and surgical interventions the technical department, from the coaches to the analysts, intervene in the rehabilitation process. Even though the people who have to follow the players development closest are the physiotherapists and the rehabilitators.
The physios have a bigger presence in the first stages of an injury, the more critical stages. They’re in charge of decreasing the swelling and increasing the regeneration of tissues. From here, when the player has gained more mobility and adequate functional capacity, he’s then transferred to the rehabilitator who starts on the physical and functional retraining of all football aspects: motion, pace, technical movement with the ball, physiological preparation, increasing resilience and strength to pre-injury levels… “But not only does the physio form part of the first stage, and the rehabilitator in the second”, Revilla describes: “There has to be daily feedback from all parts involved in order to gain the necessary knowledge of the situation, coaches and physiologists as well”.
Who decides when a player is ready to get back into the group dynamic? “All of the specialists involved have to give their opinion, but the player has the final say whether or not they feel fit. Various studies – such as the one by Ernst, Saliba, Diduch, Hurwitz y Ball – show that when a player suffers an injury, their entire engine and movement mechanics undergo a modification. The body adapts to avoid the pain and discomfort. Rehabilitating precisely means to return to how the body worked beforehand, to do this it’s vital that the player feels assured. If they do not have the confidence and they don’t recover to their normal biomechanics, there’s a risk that they’ll get another type of injury”.