New Blogpost: “Priorities, Injury preventions and Wearable Technology in Pro Football”
This month, Myontec spoke with Mr. Luca GUERRA, Biomechanics Expert. Luca has a tremendous amount of experience in Sports, with an emphasis on Football (Napoli, Italian Football Federation, Everton FC, Illes Academy …). We wanted to open the discussion with Luca on topics such as: Performance, Injury Prevention, Different Pro leagues, and how Technology can help.
Luca outlined his top priorities when working with pro teams. The most important is to be able to work with each player individually, understanding the skills and abilities of each player, and then set up a protocol for development (on the field and in the gym also). Working just with the team is not enough. Individual work is the key. Talking to the player to explain how the protocol works must be done. Once the athlete/player understands why a protocol is in place, the improvement becomes more noticeable.
Myontec’s technology helps very much in assessing the external load, as well as the internal load while following a certain protocol. Analysing basic movements will reveal muscle behaviour and allows the discovery of very important biofeedback. Once you have this data, you can really start improving the performance of the players.
Team Strategy and Individual Strategy
As mentioned above, it’s not enough to focus only on the Team’s strategy. Every player is different and therefore you have to work individually to be able to go deep into the individual performance model. The aim is to obtain a full understanding of the Athlete/the Player.
Full cooperation with the medical team is key when there are injuries: Team doctors and Physios are always consulted. When working together we can fully understand the injuries, try to formulate solutions, and investigate the matters further. The main questions we always look at are: why did this injury happen and how can we help in the future? For example, Luca always creates a protocol and keeps a precise database of protocols/injuries.
At the Illes Academia for instance, he uses a lot of different tests for the under 16s players, and then creates his database based on the results. If a player encounters a problem, Luca can immediately start working with each player individually. In these situations, you may discovered issues such as imbalance issues which are critical to the development of the player’s performance.
Different philosophies are always at play: Are injuries unpredictable? Should you carry out preventive actions or not? Luca believes that in many cases, it is very easy to predict an injury: For example if a player does not use his gluteus, a hamstring injury is never far.
If you don’t act on it, the problem will occur obviously and perhaps repeatedly.
The hamstring, in top level football, is the muscle which suffers the most injuries: Sprinting and long distance running demand a heavy load on the hamstring. Especially if there’s a pre-existing biomechanic issue.
The questions are: How do we work on it? How do we investigate it?
That’s why technology is important to help answering those questions. For instance, you can equip the player with the Mbody shorts while on the field. The aim is to clearly pinpoint and display any problems.
“Football is not a Science, but Science can help Football”
Biomechanics is a large topic. Luca takes a real life example of a player with a lot of past injuries. Using Myontec’s technology he was able to outline that this particular player was not using his gluteus or hamstrings, mostly used his gastrocnemius (calf) muscles.
If a player runs like that for 10km using only the gastrocnemius, its easy to see why he can get injured. So Luca set up a protocol to develop the ability to activate gluteus and hamstring for that player. Luca explained that if those issues would have been investigated before, that issue before, injuries would have been prevented.
Relying on a technology that is fully working in the field (not just in the lab) is very efficient.
The bottom line is that with the help of the technology, all the Athlete/Player’s chronic problems can be investigated.
As Jens Bangsbo (Football Physiologist from Denmark) once said: “Football is not a Science, but Science can help Football”.
Hip mobility is the most important aspect related to prevention according to Luca. That’s a very important part of the football player mechanics. Good hip mobility means that the player is usually healthy. If hip mobility is reduced, we can often notice other issues such as ankle mobility issues, muscle issues …
A good activation of the core (not just the abs), activating the core when necessary, breathing properly when practicing and when playing are all part of the solution. In any case, prevention is a very complex topic as football players are complex machines. You need to look at the athlete in a global way (in the gym, on the field). Once you have a good understanding of the player, only then can you attempt to create a protocol of prevention.
Different Leagues/Different Styles
Luca believes the main differences in the leagues are based on the referees’ philosophies.
For example, in the Premier League, the referees will let the game on as much as possible, compared for example to the Italian league. The effective playing time in the game is therefore longer in the Premier League.
Luca explained that playing the Champions League with Napoli, the performance model was very different than playing the Italian Calcio, mostly due to refereeing again. The Premier League being the richest in the world, means that they have very competitive, top performing players. And some clubs choose players with a certain style of football (i.e intensive runs for Liverpool), keeping the ball possession (Man City). Different styles of play mean that the performance models are going to be totally different. This will often be based upon the head coach choices.
Muscle relationship for the pro footballer
Based on Luca’s data and experience one of the main issues at the moment is the under utilisation of the gluteus in pro football. Hamstrings and gluteus work/activate together and should provide energy for the movement. A lot of times, the biomechanic of the player is based on the hamstring and not the gluteus.
It is possible to improve this, although not easy. For example, Luca uses Mbody in the gym with the player, asking him to focus on the gluteus. Making the player conscious of the activation of the gluteus is important.
Also, including exercises for the gluteus alongside hamstrings and quadriceps is effective.
To put it simply, the gluteus should support the other muscles, plus there is an important connection between the core and the gluteus.
For all these reasons, Luca believes that the gluteus is one of the most important muscle in football. Improved activation will go hand in hand with injury prevention. Finally, a huge difference can be noticed within a short time when having a specific development program for the gluteus though let’s not forget topics such as coordination and technique.
Understanding the Big Picture and adding Value to Clubs
It’s fundamental to have an expert who collects all the biofeedback in order to paint “the Big Picture”. Biomechanic experts using technology combined with their experience will add value to the club. Injury prevention, performance development are the main focus of those initiatives.
Luca can use Myontec’s Mbody shorts while doing a jumping test: Counter-moving jumps, squat-jumps, drop-jumps etc …You’re then able to create a database with a really clear picture of each profile. Also, in the gym you can record all the player’s exercises. With the data provided by the shorts, you can get a clear idea of what’s happening with this player for each related movement.
This allows you to improve the quality of the performed exercises. You can for instance check if the activation of the muscles is done correctly. Having a complete picture is always the goal as mentioned above.
Looking at objective biofeedback, once can uncover a totally new world, a totally new way of looking at biomechanics for each Athlete/Player. Without the help of technology, you will never be able to understand performance in depth. It is therefore very important to use the technology and use it well.
Listen to the whole podcast.