Guess what footballing greats Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller have in common? They all have enormous goal contributions and have achieved exceptional sporting success. And one of the key reasons behind it: impeccable fitness.
Throughout their careers, the names of Bayern Munich duo Lewandowski and Müller have remained constant on their team’s matchday squad list.
In an interview with German outlet kicker, Die Roten’s Chief Scientific Officer and head of fitness Professor Dr. Holger Broich threw light on Mullewandowski’s impressive fitness record.
The two forwards play in a position that requires strenuous activities throughout the course of the game. They frequently engage in aerial duels, are bound to get fouled roughly and thus, are vulnerable to muscle injuries.
But where others have failed to keep up with the hefty physical demands, Lewandowski and Müller seem to remain unaffected, even in the most grueling of schedules like this season’s.
“There’s not just one reason,” Broich said, before explaining that “performance in metabolic and neuromuscular areas play an important role. The higher the fitness level in these areas, the lower the risk of injury.”
Upon delving into the mentioned terms, we find that neuromuscular coordination helps humans perform motor tasks and coordinate limb movements to protect body structures whilst maintaining balance and posture under the force of gravity, in both static as well as dynamic situations.
Metabolic performance helps determine a player’s physiological demands in soccer. While most of the energy in a game is supplied by aerobic metabolism, anaerobic efforts become a decisive factor in burst activities and duels, and contributes to the overall energy demands of footballers when they are involved in direct plays, such as ball possession.
Athletes like Lewandowski and Müller, who additionally play in a highly demanding tactical system, perform a range of tasks that require sudden change in speed, direction, long sprint intervals, maintaining balance while jumping etc. over the course of the game. Hence, it can be concluded that their superior neuromuscular and metabolic performance helps them carry out coach Hansi Flick’s plan to great effect.
Furthermore, genetics and a player’s injury history also come into play.
“Also, the history of the players is important,” Broich added. “The higher the number of previous injuries, the greater the risk of new incidents. However, genetic influences also seem to play a role, for example the muscle fiber spectrum.”
Per Transfermarkt, both Müller and Lewandowski have missed less than a maximum of sixteen games in a professional career that has spanned over a decade. ‘Your best ability is your availability’ and it is safe to say that the legendary Bavarian pair is the true embodiment of this saying.
Broich also discussed the technological advancement in sports medicine. Artificial intelligence is one up-and-coming field that has helped transform the medical sector.
“The number of relevant factors in the context of injury is very large. It’s so large, and the relationships between factors are often still so unknown, that they are beyond the grasp of our normal brain,” said Broich, who was recently awarded as “Fitness trainer of the year” by the Rome-based Strength and Conditioning Society, told kicker.
AI subsets machine learning and deep learning can help recognize patterns and find meaningful correlation within huge datasets. Moreover, it has helped in minimizing the risk of human errors and medical costs.
“This is where modern methods such as artificial intelligence come into play. We have gained experience with these methods ourselves,” said the fitness expert, before adding that modern tech remains an interesting topic of conversation at Bayern.
“It’s an exciting topic that is sure to develop strongly in the future. We’ll stay on it,” Broich stated.