uhlsport USA
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Goalkeeping Tips, Tidbits and Random Thoughts

An athlete talking to themsleves during competition is hardly a new phenomenon.... The talk does not have to be vocal. By merely thinking you are talking to yourself and sending a message.
   -- Tony DiCicco, Goalkeeper Soccer Training Manual

If you have a question, comment or rebuttal you'd like to see addressed here, send me email. I will post your mail to the blog at my discretion unless you specify otherwise.

Evaluation and treatment of injuries

Well, the hamstring is recovering slowly. Rehab still sucks. But during some discussions the other day, somebody raised the issue of dealing with injuries on the field. As a coach or player, how do you evaluate or treat an injury?

First of all, realize there is very little you can do without professional training. Evaluation is limited and there is really only one course of treatment you can prescribe (which does make life less complicated!).

Injury Evaluation

Observe the injured area. Is there any obvious sign of injury such as swelling, bruising, or blood? Ask the player what they experienced: twisting, impact, or something else? What were their symptoms and pain? Once the player is to the sideline, test for return to play by finding out if they can put weight on the injured limb, then walk, jog and run. If the player's gait or movement is at all hindered, better to play it safe and keep them out. Note: if there is any suspected head or neck injury, DO NOT move the player! Call emergency services and wait for an ambulance.

Any injury that does not improve within a couple of days should be evaluated by a physician, as should any injury that severely impairs function. Don't skip out on this! An untreated injury can get worse, especially if it's not what you think it is. My therapist told me about a guy who thought he just had a "knee bruise". When he finally got it looked at a couple of weeks later, it was so stiff and swollen that his torn ACL was misdiagnosed, and it was months before they figured out what really happened and got him into surgery. By then, his chances of every being back to 100% had greatly diminished, and he probably had reduced function in that knee forver. Is that worth saving a few bucks on a visit to the doctor?

Injury Treatment

There is one course of treatment that will help almost all injuries to an extent, and not cause harm for any. It goes by the acronym RICE:

Rest: take the injured part out of service for a while to let the heading process start.

Ice: icing the injured area will help control swelling and pain. Apply ice for a period of about 20 minutes, 20 minutes off, apply ice again for 20 minutes, etc.

Compression: wrapping the injured area also helps control swelling. Elastic bandages or neoprene sleves can be used.

Elevation: get the affected area up above the level of the heart, to decrease initial blood flow and again help control swelling and fluid buildup.

Beyond that, you can take over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen to help relive pain and some swelling. One thing to avoid immediately after an injury is heat. Do not apply heat except at the direction of a doctor. Any further course of treatment should be presribed by a physician.

The bottom line when it comes to injuries: be cautious about returning to play, use RICE, and see your doctor!


Rehab sucks

I'm sitting here writing this with an icepack under my left leg. The workout wasn't that hard: 30min on the exercise bike, a little work with a piece of Theraband (elastic webbing) and some stretches. Not too rough, right? Wrong. It was excruciating after I tore my hamstring a week and a half ago. Rehab is probably more difficult than any training session you'll ever go through.

The Sunday after my last entry, I went back out to the field determined to make amends for my awful game the week before. But just 15 minutes in, on just the first shot on goal, I went to make a relatively routine save and "pop!" went the hamstring. I stayed in a minute more, seeing if I could walk it off, but when I tried to jog out to collect a rolling ball I just about collapsed. I knew I was done for a while. Right now I'm hoping to be back to light play in another 2-3 weeks.

Anyone who has ever played seriously knows about training hard. It is mentally and physically exhausting. On paper, a rehabilitation workout looks physically very simple... and that's exactly the reason it is so mentally difficult. It ought to be easy and it's not. It extremely frustrating to fail at doing even the simplest task. Add to that the constant mental reminders: can't bend to tie your shoes, or even walk at a quick pace, get up and down stairs.... You have to push harder mentally to recover from injury than you may ever have pushed during training.

But listen to your doctor or therapist and do it, as if your life depended on it. Your playing career certainly may. You hear about professional athletes coming back from injury very quickly, but it is often too quick. An improperly healed injury can bother you for the rest of your life. A few years ago I broke my wrist, and the therapist I went to often worked with pro athletes in the Denver area (Broncos, Avalanche, etc.). She said they seldom completed their course of therapy because they had to get back to playing. But she also said they suffered the consequences later, in further nagging injuries or some loss of use of that part of their body. Sound like fun?

If you play the sport long enough, you will eventually get injured and have to go through rehabilitation. It's no fun, but you're a goalkeeper because you're mentally tough. Apply that to all of your training, whether it's stopping shots to the upper 90 or coming back from injury.


Mistakes are never easy to take

Shockers. Howlers. Blunders. Cock-ups. Screw-ups. There are plenty of imaginative ways to say "mistake", but some imply a bit beyond the ordinary, garden-variety mistake. We all make them, eventually. At the professional level, you can find yourself out of a job if you make enough of them, or at inopportune times (just ask Tim Howard). For many of us, on Sundays, we can laugh them off over a beverage after the game. Or, at least, we can try. The fact that we're just out there for fun doesn't make the gaffs any easier to take.

I had one of those games today. Strong cross-field winds (a steady 30kph and gusts up to 60 or so) didn't help, but I can't use that as an excuse. I found myself out of position on a decent strike in the first half, but with the game knotted at 1-1 I made an error like I haven't made in a long time. An opposing midfielder sent a curving ball into the box I should have easily handled. The wind caught it a bit, held it up then knocked it down; I hesitated and was lost. The ball bounced not two yards right in front of me and spun into the goal without me getting a finger to it. It was a mistake I'd expect to see from one of my 12-year-old players (thank goodness none were there to see it!).

Although it wasn't the winning tally (we would lose 2-4), it put us behind at a point where we were getting the run of play and the better chances at the other end. The mood of the team sank, and although nobody said anything I felt awful. It was tough to get my focus back, when to be honest it had not been good from the start. I'd been asked to join the team because of some very good play indoors, when we'd won a league title. But I have been off form and don't feel like I have helped the team much, and today I certainly hurt them.

So, enough crying in my spilled milk (to mix a metaphor). We all hit these patches at some point. How do you get over them?

I wish there were a simple answer. Everyone will have their own method. It may be putting in extra, intensive training time to get that focus back. For others, it might be some time away to recharge. If you're lucky, you will have a coach, trainer or mentor who knows you and can make suggestions, either on tuning your technique or how best to cope mentally.

For me, I think I've been more timid than usual, being with a new team in a new division. Today I wasn't focused and aggressive, and it cost me. That's the mental side. On the technical side, I have been playing indoor with small goals for several months, and need to work on adjusting my positioning for full-size goal frames. So if I can fix those two things--both small, and in my control--I'll be back on my way.

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