Charlie Webster - Premier League injuries remain far too common

25 February 2011 10:06
Theo Walcott's injury the other night against Stoke looked nasty as he fell onto his ankle, while Cesc Fabregas suffered a reoccurrence of his problematic hamstring injury in the same game.

Andy Carroll, who hasn't played since the 28th of December, is working hard to be match fit after a thigh injury. Adam Johnson, Shola Ameobi, Matthew Upson - the list of currently injured players in the Premier League could take up at least another couple of paragraphs. In fact there are 72 injured players in the top-flight as I write this.

Does English football have the most advanced performance gear, fitness and injury prevention techniques with a figure like that?!

There have been many questions asked about whether there has been an increase in the frequency of injuries amongst footballers over the years - especially at this point in the season as the climax approaches.

Of course the level at which professional footballers play is always going to leave them open to injury. Increased participation in sport increases the risk of injury. The key to reducing the risk of injury in sport - whether in football or not - is proper conditioning for the individual discipline.

Fitness training needs to be sport specific conditioning. It brings me round to the question of whether football fitness training is as advanced as we believe. There was a time when the conditioning side of things was smothered in old fashioned training techniques - running around a pitch 10 times, a few drills with the ball and a small sided game.

Sunday League training in the professional game, does this still exist? Yes. I know a coach who last year got his team to run around a field in a forest for five miles as part of their pre-season regime. Need I say more? Football is all about rapid acceleration, deceleration, twists, and ballistic multi-directional movements along with a bit of acrobatics - not just running miles and miles.

Over the years there has been a massive improvement in training and diet within football. Arsene Wenger has been key to this, bringing a number of new techniques to the English game.

The Frenchman is known in training to play a game of 11 on 11 on a quarter sized pitch, no long balls and all touching movement. However despite all this, a lot of clubs are still out of touch, choosing to implement an old fashioned approach in their training. A lot of managers and coaches just don't get the whole idea of being sport specific.

I used to be a 400m runner in my teens but I now run longer distance - 10km races, half marathons and full marathons. The amount of people that say to me: "It's easy for you, you've been running since you were 11 years old", is staggering. True, I have trained since that age but I never ever ran long distances.

I've had to adapt my training and my body to be conditioned for long distance running and I'm still doing it. The point being that football is just the same and so are the positions within football. I wonder how many coaches are training specific to their players - on age, body type, injury history and position. And how many fitness coaches are from a football background?

I wonder how many training sessions incorporate stretching and flexibility which help reduce injury risk? What about over training?

Coach Raymond Verheijen, who's worked with the likes of Guus Hiddink and Frank Rijkard, believes that around 80% of injuries are preventable and argues that fatigue due to overtraining is the cause. The attitude to training in football is sometimes like the survival of the fittest.

The common phrase of quality not quantity springs to mind. From my own background in fitness training and the football coaching I'm involved in, I believe shorter football and position specific sessions of maximised intensity will increase performance and minimise injury in professional football.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieCW

Source: DSG

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