Recovery from serious football injuries: two success stories

The recovery of a player and his return to competitive activity after a serious injury is an issue that concerns their trainers, doctors and especially fans, who would like their champions to return as soon as possible back to the pitch. The primary goal of many professional groups - doctors, clubs, FIFA itself - around the world is to get players back on the field in the shortest possible time - and in the best possible form. The problem, according to UEFA, is that the increased frequency of competitive engagements and the increased speed of the game over the next 15 years will lead to an increasing trend in injury risk. An elite of professionals gathers every year at the Isokinetic Medical Group Conference with the aim of studying the best intervention and rehabilitation plan to allow players to recover from their injuries in the shortest possible time.
During the debates, workshops and conferences, several emblematic cases of successful therapies were presented. In particular, the stories of two champions have experienced quick and perfectly successful recoveries from serious injuries, Roberto Baggio and Gianluigi Buffon, who have deprived the Serie A and two top teams of professionals of absolute level.

Methods and criteria for recovery from calcium injury

The return to competitive activity before normal recovery times is only possible in exceptional cases, with motivated patients, thanks to accurate surgical techniques and personalized rehabilitation programs. The temporal criterion is still today the most used to return to the sports practice of athletes, but it is not considered the most complete and has been overcome by the scoring criterion and the risk of relapses or failures in the various phases of patient care is not totally excluded.

Analysing the works published for example by Alli Gokeler, physiotherapist specialized in the recovery from injuries to the anterior cross ligaments, the athletes who have undergone serious interventions to the ligaments of the knee are able to pass the tests for the return to professional activity within six months in only 6% of cases, while the percentage of those who can return to the pitch in the next 9 months is only 11%.

Some methods combine work in the gym, pool, rehabilitation in the field and medical services such as criotherapy, stimulation, ionophoresis, thermotherapy, laser therapy and ultrasound, techniques that help athletes to overcome serious or very serious injuries in the shortest possible time.

Injuries: the anterior crusader and the meniscus

The case
A case considered by the scientific community as emblematic is that of Roberto Baggio, gold balloon in 1993 and vice-champion of the world with the jersey of the Italian national team in 1994. Baggio has lived a football life divided between many jerseys and has had a career marked by injuries. During an Italian cup match in 2002, the champion remedied the rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament with injury to the inner meniscus of the left knee.
The rupture of Baggio's anterior crusader required reconstruction and normal recovery times then required a minimum of 120 days only to restore normal joint anatomy. On the other hand, 76 days after the surgery, Baggio was back on the pitch and scored two goals on his return.

Recent scientific studies have shown that, on average in the world of sport, only 60% of the athletes operated in the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee return to do competitive sports (championships, competitions, etc..) after the operation.  In the case of Baggio, many in the industry thought that he was unable to return to the playgrounds after the operation and that anyway he was unable to return to the field before six months. According to the Isokinetic team of physicians, the choice of goal-based progression and patient-oriented therapy allowed the patient to achieve remarkable results in terms of recovery times.

I rely on my mental strength and the faith that have always supported me. And also the will to project my future and to realize my dreams, overcoming the pessimism of rationality with the optimism of determination. Roberto Baggio

The recovery
Thanks to a mix of indoor and outdoor exercises (60%), swimming pool (15%) and training directly on the playing field, the ghost was able to return in a very short time to his pre-accident levels. After 90 days, the metrics found on the injured limb and movements were significantly improved: the stability of the knee was normal, the aerobic threshold at pre-injuury levels, the vertical jump similar to pre-injury levels as well as the height of the vertical jump and the time in flight.
SKILL LINE, a line designed and produced with the support of Olympic champions to maximize performance and which can be used by rehabilitation specialists, offers concrete help in the rehabilitation of accidents that may occur in the world of football. Designed in collaboration with athletes and academic research institutes, SKILL LINE improves performance by using the SKILLATHLETIC TRAINING method, which develops working capacity and improves skills in total safety. Products in the Skill line include SKILLMILL, the first complete equipment for power, speed, endurance and agility training, and SKILLROW, the first indoor rower to improve anaerobic, aerobic and neuromuscular power in a single package.

Hernia to disc

Another emblematic case for the medical community concerns Gianluigi Buffon, former goalkeeper of Juventus and the national team (1 meter and 92 meters high for 91 Kg), who began to suffer from acute back pain and root pains in his legs related to back pain from 2008. In the next two and a half seasons he continued to show acute symptoms and was treated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), rehabilitation, spinal tractions and epidural injections. Just during the first World Cup match in South Africa, the champion was diagnosed with a hernia to the disc, with related balance problems, headaches and tingling at the bottom of the body.
Microdiscectomy is a microsurgical technique that is used to treat the hernia of the lumbar disc and to repair the sick disc.
He underwent a microdiscectomy operation, took three weeks off and began his solitary rehabilitation journey, two exercise sessions a day for three and a half months, with a return to the playground after just over six months. Before starting the post-operative rehabilitation, the team of doctors was confronted with a very serious issue: how to deal with this kind of recovery.

The work team focused on two key points, a weekly check and intense aerobic training. In the two years prior to the therapy (from 2008 to 2010) in which the goalkeeper suffered from symptoms of hernia, he managed to play 23-24 games per season. From the 2011/2012 season, the year in which he recovered from his injuries, he returned to full swing, at the age of 32, he played almost all the races, with a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 35 per season.

According to the doctors present at the congress, it is therefore necessary to collect more scientific information on the problem of disc hernia in the world of football, even if the data available to researchers show that the failure of surgical treatment in cases of disc hernia is objectively low (0.6%). The aim is therefore to prevent bankruptcy and avoid more serious repercussions on players' careers. In general, according to the team, it is very important to understand how the return to play criteria is far from being scientifically defined and that the experience of researchers can help sports medicine and physiotherapists in the rehabilitation of professional players, top players or not.
It is increasingly important for doctors, physiotherapists and researchers to have technologically advanced equipment that accurately tracks the progression and effectiveness of the recovery path of athletes in treatment. Technogym is at the side of doctors and physiotherapists in the most important events in the world of football rehabilitation and is close to operators to collect feedback on the field and make the training experience focused on recovery more and more effective.

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