Football brains converge on Warsaw to see how science can affect the beautiful game
Some of sports leading coaches, academics and thinkers travelled to Warsaw at the beginning of the month for a conference on how science and technology can influence and affect football.
Held at Legia Warszawa’s stadium Science4football brought together speakers from Poland, Holland, England and Spain, and provided an insight into the ground-breaking an innovative role science now plays in the world’s most popular game.
One of the key speeches was given by Barcelona coach Andres Martin Garcia. Also an academic, Garcia has had several studies published, and some of his co-authors also gave speeches including Dr. Paul Bradley from John Moores University in Liverpool and Tim Gabbett who gave two presentations at the congress.
Garcia talked at length about the physical preparation of players and how technology can be used to observe fitness levels and help maintain optimum performance. Barcelona have a world renowned system that has brought them sustained success over the last thirty years. It is a model that is used from the youth team at La Masia up to first team, and has seen, arguably, the best ever player, Lionel Messi, sustain the highest level of performance longer than any other player.
A Belgian company called Soccer Lab provides the computer technology that allows a club like Barcelona to track their players, collating all the data coaches need to identify potential injuries, set individual training and developmental goals, and coach the lifestyles of the youngsters they are nurturing.
One Dutch club which uses the system, AZ Alkmaar, had 60 percent home-grown players in their 2019 team compared to Arsenal, which only had 15 percent. Legia Warszawa is the first Polish team to implement the technology.
The event had a ‘Start-Up Challenge’ which was a hunt for a Polish firm with a product that could help a club and its players get the best out of the technology available. The winner was the Poznań-based Aisens, a company that helps a physiotherapist remotely monitor the progress of patients. Their wearable tech lets the physio observe the patient doing their therapeutic exercises at home. This allows a doctor to monitor the progress of the injured party without having to be in the room with them. It not only benefits the doctor’s workload but also the patient who spends less time visiting the medical staff.
Polish physiotherapist Dr. Agnieszka Stępień, who practices proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, gave an enlightening speech about the importance of core strength in the body’s trunk and how we can observe deficiencies in that core strength in athletes.
“The biggest danger is a lack of stability and bad body posture. Many children have weak trunk muscles and this is the first step for training for every sport,” Dr. Stępień told TFN when asked about the dangers in sporting activity to children, she also went on to explain how we can learn a lot from seeing athletes move their tongue when exerting themselves: “The tongue is a muscle, a group of muscles and these muscles co-operate with our head, our neck, our trunk and this is a reaction of our body to support our movements. If the trunk is strong enough then we don’t need to move the tongue. We can also observe the movements of the tongue in difficult movements. This is information that we have to exercise this activity because it is very difficult.”