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Return To Play Strategies in Pro Football

COVID-19 created several breaks and cancellations of the regular football seasons. We saw challenges in injury prevention, too, resulting in higher numbers of muscle soft tissue problems.

Last winter, Myontec spoke with Mr. Mauro TESTA, Biomechanics Specialist at Biomoove Labs. Mauro has an incredible CV showing a tremendous experience in Biomechanics, helping both individual pro athletes (Peter Sagan) as well as pro Teams (Juventus, Torino, Bologna, Italian National Football Team).

We wanted to ask Mauro his views on Return To Play Strategies in Football during the last years of pandemic. We talked about the importance of having strategies in place for Teams to be able to create a safe, injury free return to play.

Back to Training and Playing after the lock-downs

Mauro explained how some of the infected athletes and pro players suffered from a lack of oxygenation due to the virus and then, in turn, this had a direct impact on the muscles.

Oxygen is the key factor in muscle movement and activation and using Myontec’s technology to keep track of activation orders and problem areas helps to keep track of the muscle condition for each athlete individually when they return to the field for training/competing.

Mauro also disclosed how the Coronavirus was potentially changing the recovery time for athletes. Using the example of pro Football team in Italy UC Sampdoria, where numerous players had been infected by Covid-19, Mauro demonstrated how putting a physical load on athlete who has yet to recover 100% was a major risk of injury.

“Using Myontec’s Mbody to measure the athlete’s metabolic condition is an effective tool in return to play strategies in pro Football”

Mauro Testa.

Biomechanics in the Lab .vs. Biomechanics in the field

Mauro’s main philosophy when it comes to “Return To Play Strategies in Football” is to carry out a series of biomechanics evaluations in the field, instead of in the lab.

Let the athlete or the player evolve in its “natural habitat” and gather data in those conditions creates the most effective picture of the athlete/player’s condition. Provided that the teams have somebody responsible to follow up on all the data that the technology helps us collect: You not only need to collect the data, but you also need to store it, analyze it, get in touch with physiotherapists and team doctors, discuss with strength and conditioning coaches etc … with the ultimate goal of preventing injuries. Hence you need a strategy based on precise muscle data.

“Preventing injuries: Reduces costs, saves careers, extend careers, and increases the overall value of the Team”

The proof is in the field: Hamstrings injuries are the most prominent in Football

Why is it that hamstrings injuries represent one of the most common injuries with pro footballers? The answer is not a simple one according to Mauro, as it is a multi-factor issue.

With regards to hamstrings injuries (and the same concept applies to ACL injuries), the most important cause is Muscle Imbalance. With the hamstring for instance, if the athlete/the player’s gluteus doesn’t work well in respect to the hamstring, it can create a lot of direct injuries as a result of the imbalance.

“Using Myontec’s Mbody technology directly in the field, with a player running, changing directions, playing the ball and doing all the movements associated with pro Football, we can visualize precisely how much work the gluteus is doing and how much work the hamstring is doing”

Research also demonstrates that the gluteus must work harder in order to protect the hamstring in the proximal insertion, therefore it is important to be able to measure it accurately to use it as a reference point for analysis with each athlete returning to play.

Internal muscle work and external forces

As we have seen at the beginning of this article, it is fundamental to analyze the muscle balance with all our athletes/players, but let’s not forget another important aspect: external forces. Using the IMU (inertial measurement unit), we can analyze external aspects.

Comparing internal (muscle work) with external (IMU work) is a tremendous tool to understand what’s actually happening.

There are questions such as:

- Inner load is efficient but external load is not

- Inability to transform inner work into external energy

- Is it due to the athlete’s technique

- Is it purely a biomechanics issue

Myontec’s technology helps us detect any problems and understand what is actually occurring with a player in the field, using surface EMG measured thanks to connected wearables. The technology provides a great tool for Teams and Athletes alike to help them train and perform at their highest level.

Listen to the whole podcast.

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