LAST week we caught up with the club’s Head Sports Therapist Michael O’Boyle as he talked us through the process of keeping players fit during this enforced layoff, due to the Coronavirus.
Today he gives us an in-depth look behind the scenes into his day-to-day work, during the regular season. This includes GPS tracking, monitoring sleep and working on the fitness of individual players.
He also has an update for us on two senior players, currently working their way back to fitness after serious injuries sustained in January.
So then, just what does a normal week look like for our Head Sports Therapist?
“My role is a bit of a mixed bag,” Michael said.
“Being a Graduate Sports Therapist gives you the skillset to work within the medical and performance side of sport, which isn’t very common.
“Firstly, I manage the squad availability, monitoring player health and rehabilitating injured players with the assistance of Joe Crawford, Niall Perry and Simon Paine. We monitor player wellbeing daily, using an app which players score physical and mental factors such as sleep and stress out of 10 to get an idea of how training and lifestyle factors may be influencing performance.
“We also monitor our athletes physically to ensure they are fit to train via physical testing and general conversation. Those players who aren’t fit for team training will then receive treatment and a detailed rehabilitation programme to get them back on the field as soon as possible. ”
Michael also explains how that works itself out in reality, on a Monday to Friday basis.
“Each morning we will spend around 15 minutes in small groups working on injury prevention,” he continued.
“The sessions are designed to reduce the risk of common injuries within football, while other sessions are designed individually for that player to address previous injury issues.
“This is something that has worked quite well this season as we have only picked up five muscular injuries in 38 games across the whole squad. During the pitch sessions I conduct the warm-up and ensure that drills are designed to achieve a specific fitness element as well as the footballing goal set by the coaching staff.
“We use a global positioning system (GPS) which gives me live feedback on the players load during training and games. GPS data also allows me to monitor long term player loads, highlighting when a player may need protection due to extremely high loads or on the reverse push players who haven’t quite hit their weekly loading target.
“I spend a lot of my time analysing this GPS data after training and games to ensure that we are achieving a consistent work rate from players or topping-up players who haven’t been getting regular game time.
“Following the pitch session, we will break into positional groups and head to the gym where we aim to develop performance.
“With the assistance of Stuart McCammon, we aim to load players specifically to improve their strength, speed and power, which collectively improves their on-field performance.
“Finally, I meet with the coaching staff and we will discuss the details of the session in terms of physical load, injury updates and then planning for the rest of the week. So, as you can tell I am kept quite busy.”
Michael, who has worked in a number of roles including an internship at Liverpool FC’s Academy, Leigh Centurions Rugby League and St Enda’s GAC, admits he has loved his time working with the squad so far.
He added: “I have loved every minute of working at Larne FC, the squad are brilliant to work with.
“They are very welcoming and respectful but most importantly they have a great mindset in terms of performance and wanting to achieve the best which makes my job rewarding.
“The team spirit is admirable, with top class banter throughout. Even in pre-season when I become the most hated man within the club pushing them to their limits.”
In January both Conor McKendry and Johnny McMurray picked up unfortunate ACL injuries, with both currently working hard to get back to full fitness for later in the year.
Michael provided us with an update on their progress, adding: “Both players have now had their operation and are progressing through the first phase of rehabilitation.
“With ACL injuries it is a long process on return to play but the mindset of the two have been excellent. They are both determined to get back as soon as possible.
“At the moment, it is about rebuilding the strength in the legs and the muscle bulk which significantly decreases following surgery.
“Once that has been restored, they will progress onto more functional and football specific needs for return to play early next season.”