Why are Swindon getting so many injuries?
Alex Cooke asks if Town’s pre-season and training, or lack of, could be to blame for losing at least nine players to injury?
So far this season, Swindon have been forced to use 29 different players, mostly thanks to an injury list which seems to grow after every game. To date that list has included: Jon Obika, Wes Thomas, Nathan Thompson, Brad Barry, Jermaine Hylton, Fabien Robert, Kevin Stewart, Jordan Williams and Brandon Ormonde Ottewill.
Many fans have questioned if Town’s training methods could be at fault, or if the sudden influx of late signings and free agents means that the team aren’t fit enough to avoid knocks in the rough and tumble of League One.
Some coaches do believe that soft-tissue injuries such as pulls and strains are often the direct result of over-training. “I always believe every injury can be avoided,” Everton’s Roberto Martinez said in 2012. “I don’t believe in soft-tissue injuries. If you get a soft-tissue injury in football, a mistake has been made.”
Dutch fitness specialist and controversialist Raymond Verheijen has also long advocated tailoring training to combine ball and fitness work into single sessions, rather than separating them. He also preaches that bouts of training be punctuated with rest and less physical sessions to allow tired muscles time to heal, especially just before and after games.
However, of all the injuries Town have suffered, only two have been written up as strains – one of Nathan Thompson’s and Wes Thomas. The others are reported to have all resulted from impacts or tackles within matches. The only one seemingly open to question is Jordan Williams’ inflamed knee joint, which very little has been said about. It seems to have happened in training but is most likely to also be an impact injury.
Of those injured, both Nathan Thompson and Wes Thomas who had truncated pre-seasons or seasons. Thompson didn’t start to play with Town after his long summer lay-off until the Aston Villa game, around the middle of July. While Thomas did complete pre-season with Birmingham he only played two League Cup ties for Gary Rowett’s side before joining Town. And of course, Henrik Ojamaa, Louis Thompson and Nicky Ajose were all short of match-time when they arrived and so far, but so they have remained injury free.
As for the rest of those who have been injured, almost all of the players injured spent a full pre-season with Town, or a good chunk of that time with Town and Liverpool.
So is it just bad luck? Probably. The type of injuries suffered are hard to avoid and despite Verheijen’s claims, most club medical teams acknowledge that muscle injuries are hard to prevent. While Town’s are abnormal in number, they are not so in type – as a study of 1743 players shows. The paper compiled from 11 years of data on team in the Champions League found that on average a player sustained two injuries per season resulting in approximately 50 injuries per team and season. It also found that even at the highest level muscle injuries were as frequent over those 11 years, despite the adoption of many of Verheijen’s ideas at a number of clubs.