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Explaining why teams need to train the day after playing a game

Modric and Kroos are back.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

What's the point of training the day after a 7 - 1 win?  This is a common question that's often asked when the images of a Sunday morning session are seen on the web or in the newspapers, and it's maybe hard to see just what exactly can be achieved after such a comprehensive victory.  However, in Real Madrid's case, the sight of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric joining in with those who played against Celta de Vigo is worth more than the thousand words or so of this article.

It's not often that Toni Kroos misses any matches; but the flu also hits footballers.  The difficulty is in interpreting the symptoms at the beginning when the virus first strikes.  People often say they've got the flu when they're only really talking about having a heavy cold and there's no way anyone should risk playing with the flu proper.  If this is what Toni Kroos has been suffering from then he's going to be the first to agree.

Directions for the management of playing through flu or flu-like symptoms are quite clear.  If the symptoms are purely above the neck such as headaches or a runny nose, then generally speaking some light training is allowed.  Anything below the neck, however, means that you need to rest.  "Anything below the neck" means increased body temperature, shivering and feeling cold, and particularly a cough.

This is different to just having a bit of a head cold; and flu can turn into a really nasty illness with potentially serious effects.  Below neck symptoms are nearly always the result of a viral infection and footballers are particularly prone to picking up these infections as their immune systems are often thought to be weakened by constantly training and playing.  That's not to mention the close contact that goes with the changing room environment, travelling on the team bus, and often varying weather conditions up and down the country as well.

Pneumonia - inflammation of one or both of the lungs - is a common risk after a heavy cold or flu and is usually the result of an infection.  It goes without saying that this is a serious progression and pneumonia, like flu, doesn't differentiate between footballers and everyone else.  Last season Real Betis' young defender Francisco Varela caught pneumonia towards the end of April after contracting a bout of flu so it happens in football just as in everyday life.

Luka Modric's injury was reported as a knock to the foot, but these also need time to heal.  Since there's no real tissue damage being done, general bruising such as that from a tackle can usually be "run off" whereas strains and sprains cannot.  Fractures of the metatarsals are common in football as we all know, and provided any bony injuries have been excluded then Luka will have reaped the benefits of a few days' rest.  Sunday's session will have seen both himself and Toni Kroos easing back into training as the build-up starts towards the Champions League fixture against Roma.

Unfortunately, it looks as though Madrid will be missing the still-injured Karim Benzema against the Italians but hopefully Gareth Bale won't have suffered any ill-effects from his appearance on Saturday against Celta.  It was refreshing to read that Wales coach Chris Coleman is happy enough to consider leaving Gareth out of the up and coming friendlies against Northern Ireland and the Ukraine if he's still in need of further recuperation time following his soleus injury.  It's not going to be in Welsh interests either for Gareth to be taking any risks at this time and as he's only just made his return to the team, it could be a week or two before we find out if the injury has properly healed.

As discussed previously, soleus strains are notorious for slow healing and being easily-aggravated, so it's to be hoped that the whole rehabilitation process has been successful to date.  Gareth is going to have be extra careful over the next few weeks and especially vigilant to any underlying niggles that may turn out to be the warning signs of a potential recurrence and address these accordingly.  If that means going back to the medical people then so be it; that's what they are there for.

Any player who's been out with a recurrent injury and gets back into the team following a long absence is often going to be almost paranoid at the first sign of any discomfort.  On most occasions, you just try to ignore the issue hoping that it's only an ache or a bit of cramp; and if that ache or cramp quickly disappears then the chances are that's all it was.  It's when the symptoms persist after a few days that it can be difficult to bring yourself to mention them to anyone once again.  You don't want to go the physio or doctors in case they think you really are paranoid; but it's a conversation that needs to be had since the longer the symptoms persist without doing anything about them the longer they are likely to drag on.

Gareth's own instincts will quickly tell him whether there's anything to worry about if he does start feeling his calf again.  Whilst hoping that everything has resolved, like Gareth himself I think we are all going to be a little bit on edge over the next 48 hours.

Training the day after a game has become the normal now and is an accepted part of a footballer's way of life.  The benefits are often unseen in footballing terms but are there nonetheless.  Madrid's light session on Sunday morning will have provided Zinedine Zidane and his staff with the opportunity to take a closer look at the physical and mental condition the players were in after their 7 - 1 victory the day before.  The coaches will have been able to observe who was running well, who might have been carrying a knock; and which players were looking a bit more serious than usual, or vice-versa.  Football-wise, there might not have been a lot to write home about; but there certainly would have been from a people-watching aspect.

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