Mark Leather, recently appointed physio of England’s Futsal Team spoke with TheFA.com to explain the scope of his work
Mark Leather former physio at Liverpool, Bolton and Sunderland was recently appointed physiotherapist of England’s National Futsal Team. He spoke with TheFA.com to explain the scope of his work with such a new squad in a new game.The challenges that physiotherapists face in the treatment and management of injuries to Futsal players are to some degree unknown. The game is still relatively new to both England and The FA and there appears to be a dearth of quality research available in respect of both the injury types and frequency sustained by Futsal players. Consequently the initial scope of my work is to ascertain, document and evaluate as much information as we are able to collate from the players in the national team each time they assemble.
Remembering that many of these players are from the grassroots area of the game the extent of medical history retained by their clubs could be limited, and will certainly be varied.
One of the challenges I faced in the early days of last December was to help prepare the national squad for the rigors of a demanding training schedule spread over two months and to assist the National Coach in having a full squad of fit players available for our Test Series of friendlies in Portugal. This required a full set of individual assessments for each player in a very short period of time.
Following the overall success of this inaugural Test Series, the squad re-assembled for the UEFA Championship Qualifying group matches in Albania, against the host nation and Cyprus. With the benefit of the collated data from Portugal the medical team concentrated on key areas for a travelling squad such as nutritional strategies, squad and individual warm-ups and dietary issues at the team hotel and not forgetting the importance of hydration strategies.
Most if not all of these areas were new to many of the players and reflects a need in the game to maintain the education of players at all levels in this regard. This was in addition to evaluating players needs for the standard pre-match/training strappings, rubs, and blister packs, and not forgetting the pre and post match prophylactic massages.
As our knowledge of the physiological and tactical aspects of the game expands another key challenge for me as the team physiotherapist will be to collate and monitor musculo-skeletal evaluations and assessments of each player. This is a time consuming exercise but one which is essential in ensuring the current health of the individual player, as well as ascertaining whether the player is likely to be able to sustain the level of physiological intensity required by the intense schedules of match and training sessions without breaking down and leaving the squad short.
This is especially important when travelling with competition specific numbers of players when abroad. We have already identified that the fitness styles of Futsal players is, in the main, potentially quite different from that of 11 a side players and so the injury profiling could likewise be very different.
It will also be necessary to develop individual player profiles concerning injury prevention advice and strategies, taking into consideration the physical demands of the game, the position of the player on the court of play and the physiological profile of the player. There will also be other data that we can review from other court sports such as basketball, handball, and in some regards netball.
A third challenge will be to collate as much information as possible via a comprehensive injury audit over a period of two or three seasons and tie this in with the work being done with the squad by Richard Hawkins our physiologist. This will provide the National Coach and our medical staff with vital data to assist in areas such as player recruitment, selection and retention. It will also assist the Medical team in the development of more tailored individual preventative & maintenance programmes.
Finally, with our acceptance of the fantastic game of Futsal in England by The FA we aim to pool all of the data we collate, evaluate it and finally publish our findings so that the club coaches in England can benefit from the knowledge we have gained and further assist the game to grow quickly.
Mark Leather MSc MCSP SRP is a Chartered Physiotherapist and has a wealth of football experience having been first team physiotherapist at Liverpool, Bolton and Sunderland in the Premiership. More recently Mark has his set up his own practice and is also currently directing courses for The FA Medical and Exercise Science department.