Thursday, 27 September 2007

Pilates And Preparation

With West Ham United's recent injuries, new head of physiotherapy George Cooper has been a busy man. In a detailed interview in tonight's Citizen, he explains how the physio's role has changed since the days of the 'magic sponge', and gives the latest on the recovery of Julien Faubert...

The image of footballers as sporting hard men might have softened somewhat since the 1970s and 80s, but nevertheless the concept of West Ham's tough, 6ft-something stars lining up eagerly for their Pilates session comes as a bit of a surprise. "Pilates is a massive thing we do here," explains Cooper. "It's optional but the majority of the players do it. We screen them and see who needs what and if they're a good candidate for it. I've easily got a third of them up to speed where they just do it on their own."

Cooper joined the club in the summer from Charlton and is a trained Pilates instructor. He says the exercise programme, which helps build core stability through stretching and muscle control, is a big part of injury prevention at the club. "It used to be the old bucket and sponge and a spray and get on with it," he said of the physio's role. "There's a lot more science behind it now and physiotherapists are encouraged to sports science as well. Basically now if you can prevent injuries, that's what you want to do. Obviously there are some injuries - like Kieron Dyer fracturing his leg - that you can't do anything about and then we repair as well."

Cooper who describes himself as a "failed footballer" after a stint at Chelsea as a schoolboy, is head of a medical team of four, including two other physios and two masseurs, who also work closely with club's two sports scientists. It is their job to maintain players fitness and nurse them back to health when something goes wrong. While newspaper reports often obsess about scans used to ascertain the seriousness of an injury, Cooper said Scott Parker's recent knee problem perfectly demonstrates the way things are really done. "Scans that are done within 48 hours often cloud the issue," he said. "You have to wait for the knee to settle down and the bleeding to stop, so scans are only used really in conjunction with what you find clinically. Within those two or three days you'll already have a very good idea of what the problem is. Then you'll go into the scanner to confirm what you've found. After that, depending on the problem, you put a protocol together and the whole team sits down, this is what you can massage, this is what you can't, this is what you can work on, this is what you can't'. It's different for every single injury. If you had a cruciate ligament for one player, his protocol would be different to the others."

He added: "Every one of us would have worked on a player that's out for more more than a week and we'd have got them back together. Parker played the other day and it's taken a lot of work. I take a lot of pride in the team here." Cooper started his career at Arsenal's academy in 1997 while in the third year of his physiotherapy degree. He went on to work at Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and most recently Charlton, completing a Masters in sports science along the way. His ambition was always to work at a top London club and he said: "I consider West Ham a very top London club."

But it's not just the kudos and the medicine that made him work for a career in professional football. Players gravitate to the physio's room as the place where the banter happens. "We've had some fantastic times in the physio rooms, real hilarious stories," he said. "I couldn't tell you most of them. But discussions about an issue with Big Brother or which popstar is better than that one, religion or anything like that get heated and it just rolls and rolls and in the end it gets personal. It's just funny though. None of it is nasty. Everyone brings up good points and as people walk in they join in the argument and there's a big a divide in the room and it's great. There's a topic of the day and bang they're off. West Ham is like a home from home and it's exactly that which made me want to stay in football."

The first time George Cooper ran on to the pitch for West Ham, was the day Julien Faubert ruptured his achilles. "It was a big blow," said Cooper. "He played about 18 minutes in a friendly and that was it. But he looked fantastic in that 18 minutes."

Faubert, who pulled up in a summer friendly against Czech side Sigma Olomouc, is currently completing the first stage of his rehabilitation at a centre in the south of France. "He'd just moved to the club so he didn't speak a great deal of English. He had a surgeon in France that had worked on his thigh before and he'd done rehab there before, so we sent him back," explained Cooper. "We've kept in constant contact and he's flown back two or three times to watch games. When he's ready he'll come back here. We'll assess him every morning and see what level of function he has and he'll go out with the sports scientists. Then we'll assess him again, and again the next morning until he's fully fit." Cooper added: "It was only the third time I'd seen a ruptured achilles. I heard it snap and he was sitting there without any distress and I thought, don't be so melodramatic, it can't be a rupture, but it was."

1 comment:

Australian Health said...

I'm only just old enough to remember the days of the 'magic sponge' that George Cooper mentions.

Pilates has become a significant part of professional footballers' training and as well as the much-discussed benefits to core strength and how that helps footballers perform, it also adds another dimension of variety to training to keep training interesting. Professional footballers have so much training to do, that anything that adds variety while providing solid benefits is likely to be welcomed by the footballers.


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari