Pre season is here… time to screen… or time to scream???

So pre season training is well under way for all the professional and most non professional football clubs by now, and its a time of mixed feelings, for the players it can be dread, fear, frustration and exasperation of the four to six weeks of physios and sports scientists poking and prodding them, strength coaches asking them to squat, lift, jump, hop and lunge without the chance of touching a ball, which lets face is all players want to do!

And dont forget the dreaded son of a bitch fitness tests like the Yo-Yo which ive seen make grown men cry and plenty loose there lunch trying to complete. All in all its weeks of hard graft to ensure the player regains their full fitness and strength after their off season and are match ready as well as minimise any risk of injury

But for the medical and S&C teams the off season and pre season its a time of deep thought, shared ideas and excitement, as we plan the most reliable and efficent way to screen a squad of players and hope we identify any potential weak links in a players biomechanics that could potenitally lead to injury and so develop individual prehab plans and strengthing and conditioning programmes to combat these, it’s the time I felt the most challenged and stimulated feeling i was using all my skills, training and experience.

So today I met up for the first time with a few of the Watford FC players who I haven’t seen since May when we gave them their ‘off season’ programmes and watched them leave the training ground for their few weeks off to go on holiday and have some well earned rest after a tough hard season some playing 46 full games due to the small squad we had!

However a ‘hellva’ lot happened in those few weeks in the off season at Watford FC, new owners, a new high profile manager, new coaching staff and also a new medical team, meant that as of last week my three years at Watford as a first team physio came to and end as the new staff took over.

Now you might be thinking that I would be upset, angry etc etc, well of course i am, I enjoyed my time and my role at WFC, and i will miss the lads but I’m also realistic and understand that in this game “that’s just football” as they say. Anyone who has worked in or around professional sport knows that change happens quickly, often and ruthlessly and its part of the job, I loved my time at Watford FC and gained so much expereince from my time there, but as one door closes another opens and so now I find myself developing my own sports injury rehab centre as the clinical lead for Perform part of the Spire Healthcare group.

So how did I get to see the Watford FC lads if I’m not working for them anymore you might be asking? Well I got a call from the new physios at Watford FC who ask if I would mind helping them out with the pre season screen we had planned as they where flying a little blind being chucked in at the deep end, and they asked if I could do the Isokinetic tests on a few of the players that we had identified at the end of last season as having a high risk of hamstring injury. It’s this camaraderie amongst football physios with no hard feelings about jobs etc just knowledge that a player needs to be looked after that I saw weekly in the job that I loved and respected whilst working in the industry.

Now I’m fortunate enough to have a Cybex Isokinetic machine at my current place of work, and over the last five or so years I been using them for both professional and amateur sports people as an accurate tool to get some reliable data and objective markers for peak muscle forces and ratios between the opposing muscle groups and between the concentric / eccentric phases of contraction.

These ratios can easily identify players who are at high risk of injury, and so preventative strategies can be put into place to minimise the risk, as was shown in papers by Croisier et al (2008) and Young et al (2009)

These Isokinetic ratios used in conjunction with full bio mechanical screening for joint mobility as well as past history of injury further increase the identification of an athletes risk of injury as found by Brockett et al (2004) and Gabbe et al (2006)

For instance one of the players I saw today had an ACL reconstruction 18 months ago, we also found on the Isokinetic tests that he had a loss in his hamstring / quad ratio as well as poor eccentric / concentric hamstring ratio strength, combine this with a loss of hip extension this places this particular player at the highest risk of another lower limb injury and so he will need significant input and prehab from the physios to ensure he can start and last the seasons training and competition.

And it’s this planning and season long intervention that I will miss the most now I’m not working with the lads at Watford FC, but as I said I’m not bitter, it’s just football, instead I wish all the new staff and the players all the best in this pre season ‘season’, a time of mixed feelings indeed.

Cheers and thanks for reading


PS the papers I referred to can be found here for the physio geeks like me that want to check them out…

1. Croisier JL, Ganteaume S et al. Strength imbalances and prevention of hamstring injury in professional soccer players: a prospective study. Am J Sports Med 2008;36:1469–75.

2. Yeung SS, Suen AM et al. A prospective cohort study of hamstring injuries in competitive sprinters: preseason muscle imbalance as a possible risk factor. Br J Sports Med. 2009;43(8): 589-94.

3. Brockett CL, Morgan DL et al. Predicting hamstring strain injury in elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36:379-387.

4. Gabbe BJ, Bennell KL et al. Predictors of hamstring injury at the elite level of Australian football. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2006;16:7–13.