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Will the last game of the season bring even more injury problems for West Ham United?

Hopefully not; but you never can tell. 

West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

This weekend’s journey north to Lancashire to face Burnley isn’t going to see any major changes on the injury front. Arthur Masuaku won’t play on Sunday due to a foot injury and neither will Andy Carroll.

Obviously none of the longer-term injured players will be involved; with most of them facing a summer of hard work and intensive rehabilitation.

No doubt they’ll be having a short break for a couple of weeks and then after that it’s going be back to the grindstone for the Hammer’s recovering casualties.

There won’t be a close season as such for the injured players. There never is and they’ll probably end up working harder than ever as a result of their various operations.

Michail Antonio (hamstring), Cheik Kouyate (wrist), Mark Noble (groin / abdominal), Pedro Obiang (ankle), and Gökhan Tore (knee) are all going through different phases of post-operative recovery.

They’ve now been joined by Winston Reid; whom Stijin Vandenbroucke announced earlier in the week also had surgery on a knee problem.

It seems like it has been one operation after another; and with Andy Carroll still struggling with hip and groin pain we might well see the big man joining the other six for a summer of treatment.

Added to the fact that Diafra Sakho has been advised to ease up on his activities due to recurrent symptoms of lower back pain, the medical team are going to be busy.

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Injuries to the lower back, the hip and the groin can often be linked.

In the 2011 UEFA Injury Study, the number of back and pelvic injuries recorded among professional clubs participating in the study accounted for 237 of a total of 4483 injuries recorded (Ekstrand et al, 2011).

If surgery is indicated, as with Diafra, it’s often very difficult to predict to the exact moment how long the recovery period will take due to the number of variables to consider.

Objective factors such as the nature and extent of the injury, the age of the player, and whether there is a previous history of back injuries or not can all affect the recovery time.

As we’ve said in the past, it can be hard to predict with any degree of accuracy how long the recuperation period is likely to be until the rehab period actually gets started and the recovery process can be truly assessed.

However, once the decision to operate has been taken, that is when the difficult part begins.

Additionally, people have a tendency to refer to the post-operative rehabilitation period in chronological terms as opposed to injury stages; when in actual fact progressions in rehab are governed by satisfactorily moving from one stage to another as opposed to the length of time each stage is perceived to last.

This explains why individual players take different times to recover from the same injuries or similar operations and also why making comparisons between the injury recovery times of other players doesn’t help.

Middlesbrough v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

In the same week that Slaven Bilić opened his heart on where he felt the season went wrong, we also learned that Angelo Ogbonna was being considered for a place on the bench at Burnley.

Whether he makes the trip and plays part of the game will potentially be a late decision but one taken in conjunction in with the medical team; and for sure there will be a lot of careful thought going into this.

It’s very easy to sit here in the cheap seats and say Angelo shouldn’t be going anywhere near Burnley; but we don’t get to see his progress either from an objective aspect or on a daily basis and I’m sure that nobody is likely to take any chances with his rehabilitation at this stage.

It may well be that Angelo feels he needs that run-out for half an hour or so to assess how far he has progressed in real terms over the past few weeks but there’s a world of difference between the training ground and a tough and potentially physical encounter at Turf Moor.

That difference might even be the reason why Angelo is even thinking about playing.

It’s virtually impossible to simulate proper match conditions in the training environment although it’s a challenge that coaching and medical teams face week-in week-out. There’s no substitute for actually playing in proper games.

Angelo will have been working hard in the gym, running on the training field and generally building up his fitness levels; but real competition is the true test of a player’s fitness and that’s not something that’s easily replicated.

Without the competitive edge present there’s always something a bit unrealistic about simulated match sessions and the edge that’s needed only comes through playing in the actual games.

Angelo will have been working hard in the gym, running on the training field and generally building up his fitness levels; but real competition is the true test of a player’s fitness and that’s not something that’s easily replicated.

Without the competitive edge present there’s always something a bit unrealistic about simulated match sessions and the edge that’s needed only comes through playing in the actual games.

This might well have been factored in by Stijin et al as part of the overall recovery plan.

West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The Burnley match isn’t going to affect the final outcome of the season other than by finishing strongly, and West Ham United’s status as a Premier League club will remain unchanged irrespective of the result.

Slaven reflected on the events of the season yesterday and shared his thoughts on amongst other things the move to the London stadium, the club’s future strategy, the injury situation and the Dimitri Payet affair.

He referred to how the club have had to cope with a succession of longer-term injuries with a high proportion of these taking over ten weeks to recover. Five operations in almost as many weeks has taken its toll on player availability.

Gökhan Tore, Diafra Sakho and Angelo Ogbonna were the notable exceptions through having had their respective surgeries earlier in the season but they still haven’t played much this term as a result. All of this has added up to severely restrict Slaven’s options.

There’s not much that can be done when so many injuries hit at that level; and although everybody likes to think that injuries are easy to prevent, the reality is often exactly the opposite.

Injuries are easy to pick up, often come along when least expected, and preventative techniques focus on minimising the risk of sustaining avoidable injuries as opposed to injuries

Slaven also said that he hopes his own future lies with West Ham.

In addition to discussing potential options for strengthening the squad he did mention that some players will be leaving; and on this he’ll have formed his own opinions long ago.

We’ll just have to wait and see if any of the injured group fall into that category.

Reference:

Ekstrand J, Hagglund M, Walden M (2011). Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football - the UEFA injury study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol 45 (7); 553 – 558.