TSF: Halt This Medical Madness

The need to be a step ahead can lead to some clubs spending ridiculous amounts on medical equipment they don't need. The Secret Footballer explains the importance of a good physio...

Last Updated: 21/12/12 at 10:03 Post Comment

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It's difficult to keep a secret in football. I should know. Somehow, at some point, somebody always finds out.

Occasionally, it will be easy because Harvard will produce a report - that then finds its way into the papers - stating that the Manchester United players are undergoing a treatment to improve their Vitamin D levels, thus aiding recovery. In fairness, the company behind the product had probably already approached every top European club months ago.

And that got me thinking. If a blue-chip company comes by a piece of groundbreaking software, technology or wonder drug, then you can bet that it will spend a lot of money to ensure that it has exclusivity for as long as possible. After all, that is the true nature of capitalism.

But, in football, it doesn't work that way, despite the fierce competition that exists between rival clubs. The reason it doesn't work that way is because hardly any of them have any form of in-house research and development.

For example, the medical department does not put any resources into coming up with its own technology to improve player recovery or performance. It has to buy in that information from companies selling GPS vests to track heart rates and overall performance. They don't develop their own unique sports drink that nobody else has, they buy it in.

And there is nothing wrong with any of this because the products that end up being chosen are all top of the range. If there is a slight issue, it is probably that all of these products are available to every club and so the only real advantage in having them lies in how long you have it exclusively before every club has it.

I remember an Italian company flying in to see our physio with a supposedly incredible new machine that halved the recovery time of ligament injuries. Unfortunately, the week they chose to fly in was the same week that I ruptured my ankle ligaments after landing awkwardly during a match.

They walked in looking extremely expensive. Of course they did - they were Italian. And the first thing that I noticed was that they were a little uncomfortable when our physio told them that I had a bad ligament injury. The sales pitch opened with one of the Italians telling us that Chelsea had recently purchased five of these machines - about the size of a shoebox - for £15,000. Each.

But the real clincher came when they were asked to test the device. They placed four of the machine's sucking cups around my injury and flicked a button on the side. The cups began to tighten in tandem, with a low frequency noise and some red LED lights, then they tightened and the pitch of the noise went up and the lights turned orange.

It continued until it was at ear-piercing levels and the lights turned green. "Why does it make a noise?" our physio asked. "What's the point of that? And the lights. Why do you need them?" It didn't take long to work out that this was a simple massage machine that had been rebadged and reboxed.

And therein lies the difference between a half-decent physio and a physio that has all the money in the world. There is a desperate clamour in our game not to be left behind and I'm afraid a lot of what can only be described as "crap" slips through the net.

But, sometimes, somebody has to halt the madness and point out that the Emperor, indeed, has no clothes on.


Read the rest of TSF's thoughts only on www.thesecretfootballer.com.

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