Pep Guardiola’s horrendous injury list at Bayern Munich is “no accident or misfortune”, but down to the wrong training structure at the German giants, says one of Germany’s leading sports scientists.
Bayern face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League in Turin next Tuesday with Guardiola’s squad so decimated by injury that he did not have a single fit centre-back for Sunday’s 3-1 league win at Augsburg.
He hopes to have some of his walking wounded back for Saturday’s league game against Darmstadt.
But Holger Badstuber’s fractured ankle last Saturday was the 16th injury Bayern’s star-studded squad has had to absorb this season with Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez also currently sidelined.
Badstuber misses the rest of the season having only returned from seven-months out with a torn thigh in November.
And Franck Ribery has yet to return from a thigh injury he suffered last December on just his second game back after eight months out with an ankle problem.
When asked what he wanted in his final few months before leaving Bayern to coach Manchester City at the end of the season, Guardiola quickly answered: “all my players fit”, but his wish has not come true.
– ‘systematic errors’ –
Lars Lienhard is one of Europe’s top sports scientists, specialising in the nervous system, in short, training the brain.
He helped prepare the Germany squad which won the 2014 World Cup and is currently working with Germany’s athletes ahead of the Rio de Janerio Olympics.
In an interview with SID, an AFP subsidiary, Lienhard used Bayern Munich as an example of what can happen when players come back from injury too soon.
“When something breaks or tears, no one should be speaking about misfortune or it being an accident,” said Lienhard.
“It stands to reason that systematic errors in the training loading, and motion control, of the players are the cause.”
Guardiola has vehemently defended his training techniques and insisted he does not rush players back from injury, after receiving some criticism in the media here.
He has denied there is any problem with his medical staff, especially after team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt resigned last April after being blamed for a 3–1 loss at Porto in the Champions League.
But Lienhard says pinning the blame for Bayern’s horrendous casualty list on Guardiola or the club’s medical staff is too simple.
“Anyone who blames a high volume of injuries on the club doctors or head coach is not looking deeply enough,” he said.
“The rehabilitation, training structure and load management (put on the players as they return from injury) are the key factors.”
And Lienhard says players who are susceptible to injury, like Ribery and Badstuber, are prone to further problems as they subconsciously try to avoid picking up future ailments in training or matches.
“Any player who has a long history of injury is effectively like a protective reflex on two legs,” he said, adding that a player like Badstuber needs neurological, as well as physical rehabilitation, to break the cycle of injuries.
Badstuber’s fractured ankle, his fourth major injury since 2012, is just the latest bout of what has been dubbed Bayern’s ‘disease of the boot’.
When Germany defender Jerome Boateng tore his groin in Bayern’s first game of 2016, Thomas Mueller came up with a typically succinct appraisal.
“Just before Christmas we only had 14 fit players. Somehow, we have disease of the (football) boot,” said the Germany star.