The English top-flight will resume after three months away on June 17, but its players are risking serious injury given the lack of preparation
Premier League medical staff are about to be busier than they have ever been.
With top-flight football in England set to resume on June 17, the race to get players fit and ready for the restart is well and truly on.
This week saw a major step forward, with clubs voting unanimously to return to full-contact training after a break of more than 10 weeks. Smiles all round, from players to coaching staff.
I lived it and loved it at the same time!” grinned Pep Lijnders, Liverpool’s assistant manager, when asked how he had enjoyed having his squad together again at Melwood.
The hard work starts here, especially if you are a physiotherapist, a sports scientist, a fitness or rehabilitation coach. If April and May have been challenging, just wait and see what June and July have to offer.
“It is going to be a really challenging time,” says Andy Renshaw, who spent eight years as a physio with Liverpool.
“There will be a lot of pressure on medical staff, I’m sure. I think everyone is expecting the workload to go up significantly.”
Rehabilitation and injury prevention are his stock-in-trade, so he is ideally placed to offer an insight into the risks players face when transitioning from an unprecedented period of lockdown into a high-intensity, high-stakes return to competitive action.
“They’re huge,” he tells Goal of those risks. “The simple fact is that their bodies are not used to tolerating the level of load that is going to be demanded of them when they go back.
“The managers and the staff will have tried to monitor the levels of players while they’ve been off, but the moment they come back, everything is different.
“They’re training on grass, in their boots. They might have been wearing trainers for the last 10 weeks. There’s the surface, the ground will be quite hard at the moment too given the weather, and they’ll be changing direction, accelerating, decelerating, chasing a ball round at full speed.
“They haven’t done that for a considerable period of time, so there is huge potential for load-related problems – Achilles tendons, hamstrings, adductors, patella tendons, anything in the lower limb which is having to readjust to the demands.
“And as a result of everything – the reduced strength, reduced endurance – the players’ proprioceptive levels are reduced as well, so you could well see an increase in the more serious kind of ligament injuries, including ACLs.”
Renshaw’s fears are shared by many within the game. In Germany, the rate of injuries since the Bundesliga restarted on May 16 has been above the norm, while England has already seen the first serious injury since training resumed, with Everton’s Jean-Philippe Gbamin having suffered a ruptured Achilles which will keep him out until at least the start of 2021.