Emmanuel VALLANCE. A fitness trainer at the FC Metz academy, Emmanuel Vallance discusses the issue of injured players returning to training and competition. It is an ever-present problem among amateur footballers, who often do not have the expertise of a qualified management team.
1 – How can we limit the number of injured amateur players ?
Naturally, the first piece of advice to give is to raise awareness and emphasise prevention among young footballers. The priority lies in understanding how to lead a healthy lifestyle, including diet, sleep, and hydration before, during and after exercise… Things that amateur players are not always used to doing…
2 – And in terms of training, are there also things that can be done ?
Yes, proprioception and general muscle strengthening exercises should be an important part of the training week, during downtime in a session for example, and not only during the summer pre-season period!
3 – Can you give us an example of this type of exercise to insert into downtime during a session?
Do 20 heel lifts to warm you up a bit, then stand on one leg with your toes on the ground and your heel lifted. After a few seconds, change leg. When standing on one leg, you can also use the other to kick a ball with different parts of the foot.
4 – Aside from prevention, you also have to manage the injured player as they return to training. Many will start back too soon or inappropriately. What advice would you give ?
Firstly, respect the player’s downtime as prescribed by the doctor. It is also the trainer’s job to make sure a player doesn’t return to training too soon. Next, don’t integrate the player back into team training straight away. The first sessions should involve gradual jogging interspersed with specific exercises such as juggling, passing and receiving… For example, you could do 15 minutes of jogging with 3 minutes of active recovery in the form of juggling. In all cases, always remember to listen to the player and adapt to how they feel when exercising.
5 – When should they return to the group? To make sure a player is properly ready to return to team training, we do a test session.
Here is an example of what this involves: after a general 10-minute warm-up with a ball, work on the injured area, without a ball at first (3 exercises of 5 minutes each interspersed with 1’30 » of recovery) then with a ball (15 minutes of technical exercises). After a few minutes of recovery, set up a situation scenario at maximum intensity for 15 minutes (specific movements between 10 and 30 metres, mixed running, broken-field, curves, shuttles, etc.).
6 – Can you not choose to integrate the player into the group session gradually, without taking any risks ?
Yes, effectively, you can place them in a game as a joker, who can’t be tackled, which allows them to get their bearings within the team and makes them realise that they will soon be able to exercise normally again. In terms of motivation, it’s very useful.
7 – It is often said that the mental side of things is vital in the rehabilitation process…
That’s true. It’s like invisible physical training. Being alongside the injured player every day, spending time with them, is a chance for the coach to have a privileged relationship, gaining their trust, and a certain sort of bond that will be beneficial to their relationship in the future.
Article : Vestiaires Magazine N°57 – Mars-Avril 2014vestiaires-magazine-57-retour-blessure