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Bale out with a viral infection, which at this time of year can be the bane of a footballer’s life

Just ask the Welsh attacker.

Getafe CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It came as no real surprise to learn that Gareth Bale isn’t going to to be fit for the Spanish Super Cup Final (in Saudi Arabia of course) on Sunday.

That isn’t a criticism of Gareth by the way; on the contrary. It’s simply because these respiratory tract infections (RTI) that are so prevalent at the moment can take such a long time to get over.

If they knock the rest of us flat, then the same applies to footballers like Gareth. With the temperature in Madrid being 11°C at the moment it’s cold compared to Jeddah (23C), but that’s not really a triggering factor.

In Cádiz it’s 17°C, but since these infections are picked up through coming into contact with another person as opposed to the ambient temperature, there’ll be no escape for the others if the virus rages through the Madrid changing room.

It’s definitely a problem at this time of year and affects clubs up and down the country despite the temperature variants in Spain.

And there’s a theory that footballers in particular are susceptible to RTIs due to their training environment and repeated exposure to bacteria present in dressing rooms allied to the constant close contact with team mates.

It used to be thought that high intensity training suppressed the immune system but the evidence for this appears unclear and conflicting; although it has been acknowledged that upper respiratory tract infections are the most commonly seen presentations in athletes as well as in the general public.

The concern is that any respiratory tract infection can turn into something far worse. Dani Carvajal missed time the season before last with pericarditis; which originally started with a viral infection, and was then out of action for several weeks before making a complete recovery.

Pericarditis is an inflammatory condition affecting the membrane that lines the heart and is frequently seen as a result of a viral infection.

The danger is that recovering from pericarditis takes time; and even thought the viral stage may have passed, further heart-related problems can arise if the player attempts to get back into full training before the recovery period is complete.

As stated earlier, viral infections are common in changing rooms due to the close contact involved and are a constant risk for players.

At this time of year we often read about clubs struggling to field a team due to influenza; and for the medical people the key lies in differentiating between what is a straight-forward viral infection and those that have the potential to turn into something nastier.

Clubs tend to talk about having a ‘flu outbreak’ although how many players actually have a proper viral infection is often debatable; despite the variable symptoms that we all know.

Like every other medical condition the sooner you allow it to pass out of your system the better, rather than trying to work through it and allowing it to turn into something more serious.

It can be difficult to manage the early stages of any viral infection since often the symptoms don’t show for a day or so.

If you happened to come into contact the day before with a colleague who already has the virus and it isn’t showing at that point, then the chances are that by the time it does show you’ve already been infected.

The medical report released by Real Madrid indicated that Gareth had an upper respiratory tract infection, which typically affects the nose, mouth and throat.

Upper RTIs are considered to be the lesser of the two respiratory tract infections; the other being lower respiratory tract infections which hit the lungs and the airway passages.

In both cases, though, recovery needs to be complete before returning to training and a steady, progressive regime is recommended; one that gradually increases in intensity and allows players to build up their fitness properly before joining up with the squad again.

Based on this scenario therefore it’s no wonder that Zinedine Zidane isn’t rushing Gareth back at this stage.

Zidane knows Gareth needs to recovery fully before getting involved again and hopefully he’ll follow doctor’s orders and build himself up to full fitness now that he’s managed to get back into the squad.

The flag business is over, Gareth’s been getting some game time again and it seems as though everyone’s happy.

Let’s keep it that way. So recover well Gareth; and with the best of intentions please don’t let the next thing we read about you be some article telling us that you’re back on the golf course again.

Although that will likely mean you’re fit and raring to go, it will be better to get a couple of training sessions under your belt first.

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