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Restarting Training After Long Absence

Restarting training after long absence

With the Covid-19 vaccine ready and the resumption of training and matches in amateur football getting closer and closer, it is very important to ensure the safe return of our athletes to training. So, to avoid problems and injuries, returning to training must be done with maximum caution.

It is known from basic physiology that prolonged absence from exercise causes changes in performance capabilities due to reduced cardiorespiratory capacity, reduced muscle strength and muscle mass. In particular, it is proven that an athlete loses up to 10% of his physical fitness every week of inactivity and there is a reduction in muscle strength by 3-4% per week. In addition, there is evidence of a reduction in isometric strength of up to 15% for patients who were sick and haven’t fully recovered, with the reduction remaining for up to 1 month after the illness. Equally important and often overlooked is the condition of athletes’ ligaments and tendons, which tend to lose many of their adjustments during periods of prolonged absence. While the above can be trained and maintained in a moderate state with individual exercises, neuromuscular coordination can not, due to it requiring sport specific training that gives stimuli forcing the nervous and muscular system to work together.

Based on the above and having in mind that the current absence period, which is over 2 months, it is obvious that we must complete a preparation period to safely start the normal preparation period. A study that was conducted by UEFA researchers (5) showed that the frequency of injuries in the first game after a long term injury increased by 87% in comparison to the frequency of injuries during the match season. It also showed that every training session a returning athlete completes before his first match, reduces the chance of injury by 7%. So this particular research proves that as we increase the number of training sessions an athlete completes before the start of the match season, the likelihood of injuries is gradually reduced.

A characteristic of the Covid-19 virus is that there are many people who are sick and asymptomatic. So it is safer for all our athletes to train at submaximal intensities and in case of fever or inflammation, it’s safer to stop training for up to 14 days to avoid complications. Therefore, it is very important to carry out Covid tests and field tests to assess the physical condition of our athletes and check what has been affected during the detraining period.

Below are the suggested physical condition field tests:

1. Body composition measurement (weight, fat percentage)

2. Endurance assessment using the Yo-Yo Intermittent Endurance test

3. Repeated Sprint Ability test

4. Strength assessment (Squat, bench press)

5. Speed assessment (5-15 meters)

6. Agility T-test

7. Sit & Reach test to assess the flexibility of hamstrings

(In case our athletes have been inactive for a long time, it is not necessary to perform the tests as there is a chance of getting injured during the evaluation. The only tests suggested in this case are the body composition measurement and the endurance test).

Bringing the bodies of our athletes to training conditions should be the goal of the first days of training. We need to start giving stimuli to the nervous system so that the motor patterns and the neuromuscular coordination returns to an acceptable level. During training emphasis should also be made on muscle groups that have a supportive role in the body, such as the abs and the latissimus dorsi aswell as the technique of weight exercises and football drills.

Thank you Mr. Nikolaos for the interview and your time

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