A Physio's View: The End Of The UK Football Season
Our knee and foot & ankle specialist physio Alex has worked as Head Physio at Crystal Palace Football Club for six seasons and experienced most of the highs and the lows of the UK football season from behind the scenes, so we’ve asked him to fill us in on the gory details of what happens at the end of the UK football season. It’s a really interesting read!
This time of the year in the football world is mixed with an array of emotions and circumstances, depending on the team’s position. It may seem that there is a group of teams who 'have nothing to play for', i.e they are safe from relegation and are not involved in any fight for the title or promotion or European qualifying spots. Whilst this is true, all teams and players are competitive right until the end. Everyone wants to finish as high up the league as possible, not only for financial reasons to the club and its staff but also to achieve the best possible league position. So, wherever the club may be, the structure of training, the discipline, the organisation etc, all stay as they are right until the very final whistle. Any lack of focus will show up on the training pitch and then be carried into the matches.
Behind the Scenes
Personally I have been fortunate enough to have experienced all the emotions possible! I have been relegated with a club, promoted, fighting for survival, fighting to get into the top half, and been in FA cup finals. It can be a very hectic time: exciting, worrying, nerve racking, from sheer elation to deflation in the blink of an eye. As staff it's important to stay as grounded as possible. Even though the entire club goes through all these emotions, its the players who are out there and ultimately it comes down to how they perform on the day. You have to keep as level headed as possible, whilst not denying the highs and the lows of the weekends’ results, its crucial to not get carried away either way and allow either complacency or negativity to creep in.
Behind the scenes this is actually a very busy time for the club. It's a short off season nowadays, 5-6 weeks maximum so lots of planning goes on. Pre-season tours, matches, training schedules all need to be in place prior to leaving for the break. This is the only downtime staff and players get throughout the year so most people end up being away at the same time.
Rest and Rehab Through Off Season
As a medical department, unless you have been lucky and timings have worked out, it's rare not to have any injured players who will be carrying something into the off season. For these players, it's a difficult time to be doing rehab as the club is often very quiet: their team mates are all on holiday and so mentally it can be tough for them. So again this requires careful planning as they too have families who have been waiting for a break. It's important to strike a balance between time off and also rehab, it's always our aim to give the manager as full a squad as possible on day one of pre-season.
As well as the inured players, it's also important to monitor what the squad does during the off season. We used to give players individual rehab programs during the summer to work on things especially if they had picked up injuries in the season. Typically everyone is advised to have a couple of weeks off and just rest up, keep active but allow the body and mind to recover. Then it’s a combination of strength work and cardio vascular work but we aim to keep impact work down. Rest is really important but these athletes have to keep up a level of training so the body doesn't have too big a shock when training starts as that can lead to injuries.
It Never Really Stops!
The end of season is actually quite a strange time of year. Working for a professional football team is non stop, it's fuelled on adrenaline, days roll into one, you don't really feel that Monday to Friday rush then weekend break and then all of a sudden, mid May, it’s done! It's a long season, physically, mentally and emotionally draining for everyone involved, even more so if there is a crucial position to be played for so everyone deserves as much down time is possible, but behind the scenes in June there is lots still going on!
Words by Alex Manos.