Arsenal's injury situation has been in the news recently. Arsenal.com's Richard Clarke spoke to physio Colin Lewin to put the record straight.
Why do we seem to have so many injuries this year?
"There are lots of different reasons really. The number of games is always a contributor, although we do tend to play between 55 and 60 games every season. So if you compare this season to others for Arsenal then we are slightly up. But it has been a freak season for traumatic injuries. We would normally expect one, sometimes two fractures a year. This season we are on seven."
Is this the worst season for injuries in your time at Arsenal?
"Yes, up until now it probably is the worst. We are slightly up on last season and the season before but not much has changed from other seasons except for the high level of traumatic injuries. By traumatic injuries I mean breaks and fractures from bad tackles. We are not blaming the other teams; this is just a freak season for traumatic injuries. Statistically we run the furthest in the Premier League. We also have the highest number of sprints compared to the other Premier League teams."
Why is that influential?
"Because to get to that level it requires a high level of fitness. Therefore, everybody is in agreement that the training, as directed by the manager, has to reflect this high level of fitness. When you add the fact that we play more games than everybody else there is a decrease in the recovery time. We play midweek games where we get three days recovery. Other teams get a week. That also adds risk. It is another factor as a lot of injuries are fatigue related."
Other teams seem to have fewer injuries. Why?
"You have to say that teams who play a similar number of games to us have got a similar injury record. You always see your own team as being worse because that is the team you support. Our players have around a 50 per cent increase in match exposure than players at some other Premier League clubs who might only play 40 games per season. The other contributing factor is that 90 per cent of our squad are international players. That again adds to the number of games and therefore the fatigue element is increased. The injury risk is far greater than in a squad with a far lower percentage of internationals. So when you compare us to teams who play a similar number of games, we are not that different.
"The other thing is when you have several long-term injuries your squad is depleted. That increases the demands on other players because there is less room for rotation."
Have you had a normal level of muscular injuries?
"We are very similar to other seasons. We aren't a lot better and we aren't a lot worse compared to other Arsenal seasons. Compared to other clubs it is a similar scenario to comparing traumatic injuries - it is difficult to compare us to teams who don’t play as many games. If you compare us to teams who play in Europe, it is fairly similar."
How has your relationship with Arsène Wenger developed over the years?
"I've been working with Arsène for 14 seasons now and that is a good thing, it engrains stability and trust. I have daily meetings with the manager and we have a good relationship. We also send a weekly update to Ivan Gazidis. He has been very supportive over the last year.
"Our daily meetings are progress reports on the players, and planning when the injured players are going to be joining the squad. The meetings are also about training numbers - who is and who isn’t training because it isn’t as simple as if you are fit you are training. Some players have slightly tailored training programmes and won't always train with the team.
"It isn’t always about discussing the injured players, we have to keep an eye on the fit players too and stop them from getting injured where possible. Therefore we are constantly liaising with Tony Colbert regarding specific strength and conditioning programmes. He has an important role in injury prevention.
"We are constantly trying to improve the medical team. Between the three physios and the doctor there is over 50 years experience of working with elite athletes. We have access to the best surgeons, the best specialists and the best sports science in the world."
What is the current medical set up and how do you plan to develop and progress over the coming years?
“We have a very good doctor, three experienced physios, two masseurs, podiatry and nutrition input, osteopathic expertise and the strengthening and conditioning knowledge of Tony Colbert.
"Neal Reynolds is leaving us. He is returning to be head physio at Norwich City and we would like to thank him for his contribution over the last couple of years and wish him the very best of luck. He has been an important part of the medical team during his time at the Club.
"A physio called Simon Harland is coming in. He is a good, experienced physio who has been working with elite athletes for 15 years. He has come from the Northern Irish Institute of Sport where he has been working with elite rugby players and he has experience in other elite sports. We are looking forward to working with him.
“We also tap into the expertise of leading specialists from all over the world. In recent years players have had surgery in France, Spain, Germany, Holland and USA.
"We are constantly monitoring and reviewing the situation because our job is to treat and prevent the injuries and make improvements to stop them happening again. You won't have a season with no injuries. No club will ever have that. It’s important that we stay abreast of the latest developments and practices in sports medicine to ensure that we continue to provide the best treatment possible for our players.
How is Cesc Fabregas?
"Cesc is doing well. He is likely to be out for the rest of the season with a hairline crack of his fibula. If everything goes well he will comfortably make the World Cup and we will be constantly monitoring him. The injury was certainly as a result of the tackle by Carlos Puyol at the end of the Barcelona game. There were some ill-informed media reports that the fracture was sustained before the Barcelona game and those reports, put simply, were untrue. He suffered heavy bruising in the Birmingham City game but to suggest that someone can run around for 85 minutes against Barcelona with a fractured fibula is just farcical.
"We examined Cesc after the Birmingham game and he had suffered heavy bruising. The x-rays confirmed that there was no fracture. At the end of the Barcelona match, following the challenge from Puyol, Cesc had an x-ray to determine the damage. It showed a hairline crack, which unfortunately means Cesc will miss the rest of the season."
How are the other players with long-term injury problems doing?
"Johan Djourou had a difficult problem with the cartilage in his knee joint. He has made virtually a full recovery and we expect him to train fully with the squad within the next fortnight, as will Kieran Gibbs. They have both made full recoveries from what could have been career-threatening injuries."
How about Aaron Ramsey?
"Aaron will make a full recovery. Other footballers have suffered a similar injury. The surgery went very well and the early signs are very good. We don't expect Aaron to return until the early autumn. He has some metalwork in there and that provides the stability for the fracture. The specialists have encouraged him to walk and this weight-bearing will aid the fracture healing. It’s early days but the signs are very good."
Finally how about Robin van Persie?
"Robin will be joining the squad for full training imminently. That is a big boost for the club and to see Johan and Kieran training with the team in the next fortnight will give everyone a big lift."