Fit for Kick-off

Credit: UEFA

Credit: Pexels

Following Scotland success of joining England and Wales at the Euro’s next year. I thought I would give a flavour of life in the camp at a major tournament. Players like being away from home but they like to feel at home. They love the H.P Sauce with main meals and the Corn flakes for breakfast just some examples.

When we watch a live game the presenter will often say we will be going live to the England camp. Along with any other home nations who if we are lucky may have also qualified to see what they have been up to next year we have Scotland and Wales joining England. Us football fans we love behind the scenes will hear those words for the latest from the camp. Often in the group stages at least . Both before the game Half-time or at the end of a game. Being a member of the FA Medical Society and attended many post World Cup or Euros talk by either former physio’s Gary Lewin, Alan Smith, Fred Street and team doctors Vernon Edwards and John Crane. I thought give some insight on life of the medical staff at a major tournament.

Credit: Katie Chan

FIT FOR KICK OFF

Broad preparation and planning would have been going on since qualifying matches started two years ago. That planning, coupled with experience and knowledge gained from participation from previous tournaments is aimed at providing a backcloth against which the players can perform to the best of their ability.

THE MEDICAL TEAM

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The Football Association via its many departments provides and organises the facilities that would have been required, and left nothing to chance. There are backup and contingency plans for everything that might or might not be needed.

The fine tuning of the day to day detail is of course in the hands of the manager in order for him to plan efficiently he needs feedback from his coaching, training and medical staff. The team doctor, physio’s and fitness coaches are responsible for the daily availability of as many fit players as possible to train, and for reporting back on the general health of players, and observing any other points that may be relevant to the well being of the group.

Those are in fact the terms and reference under they would operate for all national team matches. The difference in a tournament is that they are together for a few weeks instead of a few days, with the problems that travel, foreign food and unaccustomed climate can superimpose on the usual caseload of ‘running repair’ injuries and the ever present risk of serious injury.

To minimise the hazards of food, travel, climate etc, the doctor takes all the usual sensible prophylactic measures and advises the players long before they arrive, on the part they can play in keeping fit and healthy. They will carry every possible medication to facilitate this situation and feedback from all members of staff (and players’ observations) is used to monitor the most important factor.

TEAM SPIRIT

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The treatment of injury is in many ways no different from the training and playing of any other international match. The main difference is that they are together for a series of matches, and can only use twenty-three named players for the whole tournament so a national team party takes on a club like attitude to the injured player.

“One-off” national team games have players selected from a fit squad. Any serious injuries are returned to the club and a replacement is bought in. This means that in practice only injuries under treatment are “running Repairs”.

This is not possible in a tournament and rehabilitation of players becomes part of the scene. Players can be left out of training and games as part of treatment regimes and bought back in for later games or to cover injured players.

As I have said it becomes like a club, where you are trying to have as many fit players available for the manager to choose from for training and playing. This involves much discussion on a daily basis with the manager about the advisability of players training too hard or too long or if at all, and even late fitness tests which again are more of a club feature than a routine international.

SETTING UP CAMP

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In order to provide this sort of backup service to the manager and players the doctor and physio’s set up a base at the hotel and at the training camp (often a facility of a local professional side with the equipment needed)

They take all the own machines, ultrasound, pulsed shortwave, interferential and all the usual strappings and dressings that are familiar in any injury unit.

The room they convert in hotels tends to be the engine room of the party, where everyone gathers. It is crossroads of gossip, information, supplies of kit, medication, a chat with the doc, usually with a recreation/ games room and TV/DVD and library of books and magazines next door.

You will have gathered that they are ‘on the road’ a familiar scene to any any club footballer and anyone who who as worked in football as a Trainer/physiotherapist with a club.

The job is a tracksuit job, with as much time spent on the pitch and track as in the treatment room. As well as maintaining some fitness with injured players there are other players who may not have played in the last game and need to do some work, when those who have played would be involved in a recovery session which may include some non-contact work in the swimming pool followed by massages. The injured players would obviously receive treatment whilst those that did not play would train.

There is also morale and boredom to deal with ‘killing time’ the name of the game although it is a little bit different for players nowadays with internet mobile phones lap tops etc maintains a wi-fi connection would be a priority for staff. Things like, tennis, golf and cycling can be used to ring the changes, especially during the two three weeks acclimatisation period in the run up to the finals.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

A major tournament is not all about treatment and academics but is all about joining in. A former England doctor been seen cooking breakfast with a chefs hat on and apron taking a lot of leg pulling from the players as he served them baked beans an hour later he would be taking blood tests for altitude and acclimatisation tests. All without any loss of professional dignity or integrity. A neat balancing act that not everyone is equipped to perform.

The aim of all this is to field a team on match days with players who are as fit and healthy both physically and psychologically as possible. The analysis of who or what makes the most contribution to this end is both unrewarding and undesirable. What is important though is everyone is pulling on the same rope in one direction. For a medical staff, a tournament can sometimes be defined not so much by results as injuries. Like Gordon Banks 70, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking in 82 and Brian Robson in 86 and 90 Wayne Rooney 2004 and Michael Owen 2006.

Credit: David Seow

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