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Covid-19 lockdown enables players to take more responsibility for their own fitness

For Eden Hazard et al., that includes recovering from their respective injuries

La Liga: Real Madrid Training Day Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

It was interesting to read Belgium coach Roberto Martínez’s comments about Eden Hazard earlier this week.

The Spanish coach, who is also a qualified physiotherapist who graduated during his early playing days at Real Zaragoza, is currently in charge of the Belgian Red Devils.

Roberto picked up on the positive side of the Dallas-based operation and said that Eden was fortunate to have had surgery on his right fibula fracture before the current lockdown put paid to overseas (or any) travel.

Since having his op, Eden’s rehabilitation has been able to continue without having the added pressure of a fitness target to worry about on the one hand but with limitations on the type of delivery available on the other.

Like the remainder of Real’s players on the club’s injury list at the time of the suspension of La Liga fixtures, Eden faces a unique challenge in managing his injury along with Marcelo (left hamstring), Thibaut Courtois (left adductor) and of course Marco Asensio (left knee ACL).

For the latter it has been particularly hard. Reported as being ready to join the full squad for training when the quarantine is lifted, Marco is continuing to work alone at home pushing an endless amount of weights but without the facilities available to practise the long runs and the competitive aspect required for late-stage functional rehab.

He’s not alone. Players up and down the country have had to adapt to the coronavirus lockdown and although it hasn’t been easy, the last few weeks have definitely tested everyone’s imagination.

It’s still difficult to write about football though when people everywhere are losing relatives and friends to Covid-19.

Players are only human and this is sometimes easy to forget; especially at the present time when talking about the game provides a brief escape from the reality of this awful situation we currently find ourselves in.

For many people though, myself included, the daily round of fitness videos is something to look forward to and it’s great to see how so many players across the leagues are adapting to the current challenge.

Their imagination knows no bounds and with that comes a learning process in terms of adapting simple home exercise routines to the demands of football. The difficult part lies in stepping up the intensity and rhythm to match the needs of games that aren’t likely to be played for some time yet.

For those players carrying injuries, the challenge is of a different nature. Although guidance and customised rehab schedules are being provided by the clubs, it’s the simple hands-on things that are the most difficult aspects for the medical staff to address.

How much swelling is present? Is your knee warm? Do you feel your ankle is likely to give way on landing? From a player’s point of view the question is whether or not to push on with the exercises if it’s hard to differentiate between pain and stiffness.

That’s not as easy as it sounds by the way, because players will often say that an injury has left their knee or their back ‘feeling stiff’ when what they really mean is that it hurts!

So managing the injuries at Real Madrid remotely can be just as big a challenge as it is in Valdebebas, and it’s often implementing the finer details of the exercise techniques that makes all the difference.

Although Real Madrid’s medical staff will be on the other end of a video call in the event of any issues arising, there may be the odd occasion when it’s difficult to be 100% accurate in all areas of injury management.

Exercise supervision on a one-to-one basis may not always be possible, and for Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard having the added problem of maintaining their own cardio-vascular fitness adds some spice to their injury rehab and tests their imagination at the same time!

For Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo it’s a bit different. Muscle injuries in general will respond to rest but only up to a point; and it’s only when that point is reached that the question of whether to push on or not arises.

That’s why we’re now seeing players taking more responsibility for their injuries as well as for their fitness. That’s a good thing and the more players know about their injuries the better; and in particular how to manage these at a basic level.

Most players have an awareness of injury treatment through their own personal experiences anyway, and just being around medical people most of the time inevitably means that a lot of that information will rub off.