EXCLUSIVE: How Bournemouth have managed Jack Wilshere

BOURNEMOUTH have used the latest principles on 'training load' to manage Jack Wilshere’s regime and minimise his risk of injury this season.

The results have certainly been impressive, with the 25-year-old England midfielder suffering just one injury so far this season - an ankle strain, sustained against Manchester City on February 13th, that didn't even result in him missing a game.

Dr Craig Roberts, head of medical services at Bournemouth, told TGG that he and his team have worked closely with their counterparts at Arsenal to try and reduce the overuse injuries that have dogged Wilshere's career.

Last season, the midfielder featured in just three Premier League games, although this was because of a fracture he suffered in August 2015. Go back further and there is a catalogue of 'overuse' injuries, mainly to the player's ankle. In 2013/14, for example, Wilshere had 10 separate injuries, seven of them to his ankle or foot (according to physioroom.com).

Bournemouth have implemented the 'acute-chronic training ratios' developed by Australian sports scientist Tim Gabbett to regulate Wilshere’s training regime and ensure he doesn’t have spikes in ‘load’ as he works toward peak fitness.

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Roberts told TGG: “Jack has had a lot of overuse type injuries over the years. He’s had some traumatic ones as well, which every player can get, but he’s a player who is prone to break down if the load is too high.

“For us, particularly given that he hadn’t played a lot leading up to joining us, we were very very strict in terms of the amount of training he would do in the week leading up to a game.

“There is a lot of new interesting data coming out in terms of looking at acute verse chronic load and matching up how much you can do this week based on what you have been doing for the last four weeks.

“We were very strict on what he could and couldn’t do. Jack didn’t like it, because he just wanted to get out and train and play.

“But until we were able to build up the load that he could tolerate, we had to be very careful in terms of what we did.

“Our manager was really good with that, especially initially. Jack would do half a session and then we’d pull him out; then build it up, build it up, build it up. We’ve got to a stage now where he is doing most of the sessions but we still are managing him in terms of how much he does.”

Wilshere, who is on a season-long loan at Bournemouth from Arsenal, was described as the ‘ultimate professional’ and a ‘game-changer’ by Eddie Howe after coming off the bench to set up Josh King’s winner in the 3-2 victory over West Ham on Saturday.

Interestingly, many commentators said he had been ‘dropped’ for the Cherries' last two games, which showed a fundamental lack of understanding about the way players are managed following injuries.

Roberts added: “Literally with Jack we would say, ‘this session he can do so many metres, that’s it, until we’ve built him up to a stage where he is able to cope with the load’.

“We still have players – he’s not the only one – who we need to manage during the week. Certain players, the way our manager likes to train, cannot do three heavy days in a row, they’re not able to do that. We have a progressive manager and really good buy-in from him in terms of being able to pull players in and out of training.

“If Jack’s not doing time on the field he’ll be doing other things to get the aerobic load, like an altitude session on a bike. It’s not that he’s not doing anything, it’s just that he’s not on his feet while he’s doing it.

“Everyone is an individual, everyone has a different genetic make-up, a different style they run, a different style they play.

“Some players are more robust than others. Jack’s also been unlucky, he’s had quite significant injuries, and we know that once you’ve had an injury your biggest risk is a previous injury.”

Roberts, who was the South Africa rugby team’s doctor before joining Bournemouth in 2015, emphasised how closely the club had worked with Arsenal when it came to Wilshere’s training regime.

“Arsenal have been amazing, we’ve worked very closely with them,” he said. “We communicate regularly with them in terms of where Jack is, what he’s doing, how things are going.

“Gary [O'Driscoll, Arsenal's team doctor] and I have been in very regular communication. They have been as instrumental in managing him as we have. I know Gary from a rugby background, because he was doctor for the Lions when they toured South Africa in 2009.”

Tim Gabbett, a Brisbane-based applied sports scientist who has worked with Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, devised the acute-chronic load ratios principles used by Bournemouth.

“A lot of this is based on work done by Tim Gabbett, called the acute chronic ratio,” Roberts explained.

“You can look at how much a player has done in the last four weeks versus how much they have done in this week and there are ratios we look at.

“You keep players between certain ratios, depending on the individual, and between 0.8 and 1.2 is the sweet spot. Tim has shown that if you drift above that your risk of injury goes up – and also, importantly, that if you drift below it your risk of injury goes up too.

“You need to train hard to prevent getting injured, but too much training can also lead to injury, so it’s about trying not to spike injuries.

“You can use it on different metrics - you can look at distance run, high speed runs, sprints - and make sure there is not too much of a change from the last month’s to this week’s training session. We’ve used that to prescribe how much Jack, and a lot of the players, can do each week.

"Jack's contribution off the field has been amazing - he's a great asset for the club" Dr Craig Roberts

“Dan Hodges, our head of sports science, has been driving it and has been really good. It’s been interesting. We’ll unpack that at the end of the season and look back. It’s often easier when you look back and say 'this player, perhaps we should have managed him a little better', but that’s hindsight. Every player is an individual. You’ve got to do it individually.

“There are certain times with certain players when we’ll see on their numbers that they haven’t done enough sprints or high speed runs and we’ll pick a session in the week when they have to do those.

“That’s protective, protecting them against injury going forward. It’s a real science in terms of getting it right.”

Aside from his physical performance, Roberts said Wilshere had impressed everyone with his attitude and leadership skills since joining last summer.

“His contribution off the field has also been amazing - he's a great asset for the club,” he said.

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