“The amount of muscle injuries sustained by young players in the Academy there has been cut in half over the last three years.”
By Tony Attwood
The story concerns Des Ryan, Arsenal’s head of sports medicine and athletic development and the headline above the story reads, “Galway native Des Ryan has managed to halve the amount of muscle injuries sustained by young Academy players at Arsenal.”
Des Ryan is part of the makeover that the Arsenal youth and Arsenal fitness and injury prevention teams had in the last couple of years, with the reorganisation that followed Liam Brady’s departure. He joined in February 2013.
Prior to that he worked in the field of strength and conditioning for the Irish Rugby Football Union (rugby is that game where handball is allowed – rather like Australian Rules but without the intellectual rigour).
Part of his work was managing the fitness development structures for rugby players in under-19 sides and below and he has assisted with the Ireland senior rugby team. He’s known to be the man who works on long-term player development and has spoken at quite a few conferences around the world over the last few years.
“Eventually, through the principle of long-term player development, system alignment and integration, proper planning will be put in place that is player-centric and not centred on the individual needs or desires of each manager that the young player is working under.
“This will ensure that these young players are not over-played, they will stay longer in sport and there will be less chance of getting injured.”
The report of the conference adds that “With Ryan spearheading a massive sea change at Arsenal, the amount of muscle injuries sustained by young players in the Academy there has been cut in half over the last three years.”
And he explained how parents have a key role to play in managing their children’s playing workload.
The speech also emphasised the role that parents have to play in ensuring that young players are not over-worked. This is a particular problem in countries such as Ireland where there are multiple codes competing for youngster’s interest.
What is interesting is that the methodology used is not some sort of magic formula involving training this way or that way, but rather knowledge. “The player, together with his parents and coaches, [should] make an informed decision based on what he or she can do, not what is wanted of him or her.”
Also speaking at the conference was Gary Schofield, a US expert in youth athletic development who said, “There was a recent article in in England in which they asked why England youth players are injured at a higher rate.
“The simple reason was they are playing way too much… The youth athlete doesn’t have the body to handle the physical loads we are putting on them.”
Schofield also revealed some of the key injury influences on young players at development stage, with research showing that if young athletes get less than 7.5 hours sleep at night it increases the likelihood of injury by 1.7 times, while the injury rate during the high academic period is 2.1 times the average rate.
And although the press in the UK wouldn’t dare publish this story as it goes so much against their view that all injuries are the fault of Wenger, the fact that there might actually be a thing called “Evidence based football journalism” is slowly creeping under the door and seeping across the beer stained floors of the pubs favoured by the nation’s scribblers.
Indeed just today the Telegraph published an article under the banner headline Revealed: Arsenal are not the most cursed Premier League club when it comes to injuries
(Notice “Revealed” as the opening word. Jeremy Wilson has been reading blogettas again.
Anyway he sayeth: “Manchester City – rather than Arsenal – have suffered most acutely with injuries among the main Premier League title contenders this season, according to new research seen by The Telegraph.
“The company Premier Injuries Ltd [a firm linked to ESPN] have collated injury totals since the start of the season for every team according to four key indicators: the number of injuries, the number of days lost, the number of serious injuries lasting more than 10 days and the number of soft tissue injuries.
“That final indicator is regarded as particularly instructive within the medical industry as this type of injury is regarded as potentially most avoidable through the management of a player’s individual workload.”
Well now – we seem to be talking the same language.
“Despite leading the Premier League table, Manchester City’s inability to build a major gap on their rivals despite arguably the best squad is perhaps best explained by such an unusually high number of injuries,” the piece continues.
Apparently the club financed by the state that indulges in flogging, stoning and the other niceties of Sharia Law have had “35 different problems since their first game against West Bromwich Albion, of which 22 have been soft tissue.”
Arsenal are way down the chart having had “24 injuries in all.” We have lost players for 312 days in total, putting us in 13th position in the league table of injuries. It is also far better than last season.
So is Arsenal working on the problem successfully? Yes. Is the Telegraph leaving its old rampaging bias and semi-skimmed commentary behind? No. And I say that because they are also currently running the headline, Arsene Wenger talks a good game on injuries, so why do they keep happening to Arsenal?
The article is by and large the typical mindless gibberish, but here’s one bit that really is so bizarre it is amusing…
One of the most surprising aspects of Arsenal’s continuing poor record with injuries is that it contradicts Wenger’s reputation for being analytical.
I bet the editors wish they had checked what else they were running in the paper at the same time as that piece, running that nipping back down to that pub for another quick one.
Many thanks to Dearbhla McArdle who writes for our co-production Untold Dylan for covering the conference in Ireland.