The transfer window is now shut, so what did it mean each time Jim White revealed news of a star undergoing a medical at a new club? And how do you pass it?
To find out, we visited the Perform Human Performance Lab at The FA National Training Centre, St George’s Park, to investigate the core components behind an elite footballer’s rigorous medical. "Players don’t really pass or fail medicals,” says Perform clinical director Dr Charlotte Cowie. “Usually there’s a list of problems and it’s up to the club whether they want to take on those. Clubs are interested in injuries that might have a knock-on long-term effect.”
So if it’s a challenge for even elite footballers, what is it like for a normal man? Follow our tips and you can feel like a pro.
Making sure there’s no hidden damage, an MRI scan can decipher whether joint wear and tear might become a problem. “Some clubs only MRI, CT and X-ray joints if there’s a reason to,” says elite physiotherapist Steve Kemp. “If a player has had surgery or a previous injury, we’ll scan to see if there’s been degeneration.”
Try this: If you’ve suffered a break or fracture, decrease the risk of future injury by avoiding overdoing it. Adopt proper form and increase exercise gradually. Opt for soft, flat exercise surfaces.
Cardiac and blood testing
“Players are young and fit, so have a relatively low cardiac risk,” says Cowie, “but we conduct an ECG – an ultrasound look at the anatomy of their heart – and a stress test, monitoring them during exercise.”
Try this: Get a strong footballers’ heart by undertaking frequent cardiovascular exercise, raising the heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes three to four times a week.
“If you’re imbalanced, you’re more likely to develop injuries,” says Steve Kemp about footballers who are either left or right dominated. Providing markers of strength, endurance and power, the Biodex Isokinetic Dynamometer assesses the ratio between the quadriceps and hamstrings to highlight any strength differences.
“You want quadricep power to strike a ball, but hamstring strength to slow that limb down and avoid hyperextending,” warns Sports Scientist Nathan Miller. “If one muscle group is weaker than the other, and the difference is more than 10 per cent, players are at a greater injury risk.”
Try this: Nordic hamstring exercises can prevent hamstring and ACL injuries. Kneel with a training partner anchoring your ankles, and slowly lower yourself forward towards the ground as far as you can, before projecting yourself back up using your arms. Start with two sets of five reps, before increasing weekly sessions and sets of reps.
Sports science lead Carl Wells explains that the treadmill-based VO2 Max assessment is a key way to measure a player’s aerobic capability. An advancement on the bleep test, oxygen consumption and demand can be measured over a speed incremental protocol.
“Within a time frame of 12-15 minutes, we start [speed] at 8km/h, rising 1km/h every minute, reaching up to 20km/h, telling us what a player’s maximum aerobic running speed is,” says Wells. “If a player runs more than 1km each game at or above 19km/h, you can see why speed is relevant.”
Try this: To become aerobically fitter, Wells champions interval training. “Work for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, keeping a high heart rate. Because it’s only 30 seconds’ work, you can run at a faster speed, more applicable to a football match.”
Perform St George’s Park is the official healthcare provider for The FA National Training Centre; spireperform.com/sgp