Stop the clock: Optimising health as we age

A key question for any footballer or physical therapist has to be: how do older players manage their high training loads and prevent injury? The average squad at the World Cup was mid to late 20s; however, there are many examples of professional players excelling well into their mid to late thirties, including Schalke’s Naldo and Juventus’s Andrea Barzagli. (Barzagli’s former team-mate, star- goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, recently celebrated his fortieth birthday.) Manchester United’s 36 year old Michael Carrick is set to retire this year in favour of a coaching role, saying: “There comes a time when your body tells you it is time to stop.” However, this ‘time’ obviously varies from player to player, and their role in the squad.

ACL injuries

Anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL injuries (tears to the ligaments connecting the thigh bone to shin bone), are said to be among the most common causes of player lay-offs. LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic received this injury aged 35 (when playing for Manchester United). However, studies on risk factors and prevention of ACLs are still inconclusive.

 

In the 2016 paper ‘The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?’, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the authors stated that ‘Well-developed physical qualities are associated with a reduced risk of injury.’ A paper titled ‘Risk factors for sports injuries — a methodological approach’ in the same title declared that injury prevention is key. ‘The [current] risks associated with minor, moderate, and major acute injuries [are] unacceptable. Preventing injuries [may be more important than treatment].

The benefits of ozone

Ozone (triatomic oxygen) injections have been used to target specific problems such as knee injuries, reportedly by players including Cristiano Ronaldo. However, injections may be perceived to be too invasive. Hence, players may benefit from the use of an ozone sauna cabinet to aid performance and recovery, or to target a specific area or injury.