It’s hard to feel too sorry for football players considering they earn millions of pounds a year, but like everyone, they do face challenges in their profession. One of the biggest is injuries.
Long-term layoffs, especially when they are used to training every day, can be a big mental blow for footballers. They can’t do the one thing they love doing while having to undergo extensive treatment to recover their fitness.
Back in October last year, West Ham winger Andriy Yarmolenko suffered the second Achilles injury of his career. Considering he had only been at the club a few months, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Ukrainian.
It was a long road back for the 29-year-old. He had to undergo surgery and he wouldn’t have been able to walk unaided for four to six weeks following the operation.
Yarmolenko then had to go extensive rehab, which can be three to four months of physio, trying to build up the ligaments which help support the tendon.
The Achilles is particularly important as a professional footballer as the tendon is so vital for supporting your foot. It brings the heel up while placing the front of the foot down.
When it goes, there is a sharp pain and often a loud pop that can be heard as it breaks. It is not pleasant and the recovery is arduous. Manager Manuel Pellegrini talked about the worry he had bringing Yarmolenko back too soon in April:
“The Achilles tendon is one of the worst injuries you can have because you cannot go faster, you must exercise the ligament and then wait. To play this season I don’t think would be good for him. It would be better to do a very good pre-season.”
The initial diagnosis was six months but it was more like ten months before the Ukrainian was playing competitive football again. He started his first game of the season against Watford in August but on his second start, he grabbed himself a goal.
The delight was etched all over his face and the first person he went towards in the dugout was the physiotherapist who helped him through the dark times. After the game, Yarmolenko thanked everyone at the club for their support:
“I just want to say thank you to everyone at West Ham because they worked with me a lot and we were just waiting for this day. It was really difficult to stay positive. I was out for 10 months but they really helped me, not just working in the gym, but talking to me, telling me to concentrate on my recovery and telling me to wait for this moment.”
With another goal coming against Manchester United at the weekend, Yarmolenko is slowly but surely getting back to his best. The winger seems intent on repaying the faith the Irons have shown him after the hammer blow of getting a serious injury setback so soon after signing for the club. Fans will be hoping Yarmolenko builds on his great start and is rewarded for his determination and efforts.