Football rehab – part 5

Lao Tzu

The game of football is the starting point for football coaches and this should therefore also apply to other coaches involved in their respective sport. The game has to be the starting point. Like mentioned in a previous post we call this a Top-down or bottom-up approach. In the following example we will use the assistant coach and say that he/she specializes in football rehab. In most cases it is not possible to start to solve a football problem in the right context. 

The reference described here is essential for a better understanding of football rehab periodisation. When a player is on the pitch playing a game he is interacting within a football surrounding. This is what we call a football (inter)action, eg. creating space, passing, heading, etc. He is interacting with opponents, teammates and the lines on the pitch. Therefore it is called a football (inter)action. In other words football actions are trained in football training.

In football rehab (most of the time) you are not directly starting with football actions as part of your rehab process. The injured player will not be able to and shouldn’t be expected to execute actions at that level. The player will be taken out of the football surrounding on this occasion so he will be training in a general non-specific surrounding. He is still interacting with his surroundings, but not in a football environment. It isn’t called a football action now, but a basic Action, e.g. sprinting, stopping, jumping and landing. In a football surrounding we call it creating space for example. In a non-specific surrounding we call it sprinting, stopping, jumping and landing, which comes from athletic training. This basic action training is trained before introducing football actions.

In rehab, a player regularly can’t even start making basic actions to start. He has to start at an even lower level, e.g. after a serious knee injury. He first has to learn how to move his body or body-parts again. Moving the body, but not interacting with the surrounding is no longer an action, but a movement. The player is moving his body independent of his surroundings, so when he is standing in a certain place he is interacting with the ground, this is called a basic action. However, when he bends his knees at the same time, he is bending his knee independently of his surrounding. You are standing, since you are interacting with the ground, which is the basic action. In the meantime you are bending your knee which coincides with standing still. Bending your knee is a movement, since you are moving independent of the surrounding, with movement training being trained before basic actions. Movement training is traditionally trained in strength training. 

We will always try to start rehab with football actions. When we see that the player is not able to train football actions as part of his rehab, we go one step back and train basic actions. If the player is not able to train basic actions, e.g. after a serious knee injury, we can go even further back to the third level, which is movement training.

The questions that are still remaining are; what are the phases in football rehab and where do football actions, basic actions and movements fit into these phases?

The last phase in football rehab is obviously RTP (phase 5), with the player coming back on the pitch to play the game of football. The phase before that, is where he must be prepared to RTP. He must be introduced to training football with the team (phase 4) before planning his first game minutes. When returning to team training the head coach expects the player to be able to execute football (inter)actions. So the rehab coach has to prepare the player for these interactions in the phase coming up to football (inter)action, which is  (phase 3). Phase 3 is then divided into 3A and 3B. There will be more on that a little later. A rehab player therefore must have been introduced to all kind’s of basic actions, both with and without a ball,  before returning to the team. Many injuries though will mean starting rehab in the gym which is the first phase in football rehab.

Phases in Football Rehab:

  • Phase 5 – Game Minutes
  • Phase 4 – Football (inter)action training
  • Phase 3B – Basic Actions w/without ball
  • Phase 3A – Basic Actions outside
  • Phase 2 – Basic Actions inside
  • Phase 1 – Movement training

After a serious knee injury for example, a player is not able to start rehab in phase 5 and obviously not able to execute football actions. In the case of a knee operation a player often has to start in phase 1, movement training. As the name of the phase already suggests, the player will train only movements. After most of the criteria from this phase have been met the player will go to phase 2, he will now start to train basic actions inside. The player in question can execute general non-contextual exercises, variations on starting, stopping, jumping and landing. As soon as certain criteria have been met the player will go from inside to outside rehab with phase 3 being divided into phase 3A and 3B. First the basic actions introduced in phase 2 will be further expanded in phase 3A. As soon as the criteria has been met, phase 3B will be introduced. Here phase 3A will be even more expanded and will be geared towards football action training with the team. Finally phase 5 – game minutes will now be introduced.

As we all know the transfer from phase to phase will not be as rigid as described above, certain phases will overlap each other. Training in phase 1 does not mean that exercises from phase 2 can’t be introduced. The same can be said the other way around. When you are already making game minutes, it doesn’t mean that exercises from phase 1 are totally out of the picture. Remember that a model or system is exactly that, it is a tool to reach the goal in helping the player’s career. Rehab should be a structural, systematic, goal oriented and gradual build-up of workload towards RTP. The challenge however, is when the rehab periodisation can’t run parallel with the team periodisation, because of a totally different approach from the head coach. Houston suddenly has a problem.      Now what?

Thanks for sharing!

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