“This is like in everyday life. Now with more studies, vaccines and medicines, the life expectancy of society in general is lengthening and footballers are not strangers. This is a watershed. Thanks to technology, I’m sure players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among others, are setting the tone for a new era, “says Dr. Jonathan Torres, a specialist in sports medicine with more than eight years of experience in different categories of football.

The new era referred to by the specialist is the increase in the average career of a footballer. He gives as an example Zinedine Zidane, who retired in 2006 at the age of 34, while at present elements such as Ibrahimovic or Gianluigi Buffon remain in top leagues with more than four decades of life.

And it’s not just about the longevity of goalkeepers, who have historically been active longer than outfield players, like Dino Zoff, who won the World Cup with Italy at 40 (in 1982). In the Champions League 2021-22, seven of the 10 most veteran players occupy different positions.

“With technology, we will see more and more players retire closer to 40 than 35. There are many who are totally professionals and to that we must add that they have everything to recover in terms of resources, as well as nutritionists, psychologists and other professionals. Of course, the retirement age will increase to 40 ”, says Dr. Torres, former medical collaborator of the Xolos from Tijuana.

The difference is remarkable compared to three decades ago, explains the specialist, due to technological advances and also to the discipline of footballers. Michel Platini retired at 32, Marco Van Basten at 31 and others like Diego Armando Maradona or Pelé, although they officially said goodbye to the courts at 37 and 36, they already did so with physical deficiencies, especially in the case of the Argentine. and your weight gain.

“Football has evolved too much, in Maradona’s training sessions in the 80s, at Napoli, he had Fernando Signorini as a physical trainer, with a rustic training base. Today technology is different and helps more because the player does not move a finger if he does not bring a GPS sensor that is capable of measuring more than 100 variables, distances, sprints, accelerations and that allows to dose the work much better or plan what you are going to do.

“Along with technology, we see the physical comparison: today professional footballers have very low levels of fat and every time we are evolving more in every way,” says Torres, who compares Cristiano Ronaldo with an estimate of fat level between 8 and 9% against a 25% of Maradona in his working age. “Sometimes you just need to be a prodigy, but imagine that you are also the most professional, a machine in gyms and to recover, that’s another level.”

The specialist lists a series of important processes for footballers to remain in high performance despite over 35 years: physical preparation, dosage of work, recovery and, the most important from his perspective, individual professionalism, something that It is classified by experts as the ‘invisible training’, which refers to the player’s self-care in matters of sleeplessness, food and rest.

This weekend, Ibrahimovic reached 400 club goals after triumphing in leagues such as Italy (Juventus, Milan and Inter), Spain (Barcelona), England (Manchester United) or France (PSG). He also returned to the Swedish national team at the age of 39 and is a strong card to go to the 2022 World Cup. It is the same case of Cristiano Ronaldo, which in Qatar will reach five World Cup participations (he will be 37 years old).

“You cannot reach these instances without professionalism, they are extremely responsible guys in every way. Not only do they have the medical part in their environment, but they have perfectly well controlled nutritional, psychological and social aspects. It also happens that over the years they gain experience to get to know their body better, they know perfectly how to react or identify if they are overloaded ”.

Dr. Torres mentions that these types of players have individual physical preparations “that will prepare specific regimes” from warm-up to recovery. This preventive planning helps to maintain balance, because “age continues to be a pattern to which they cannot escape, the bones, muscles and capacities are slowing down, they are not exempt from that, all they do is take care of themselves and dose themselves more. ”.

Already in recovery, current medical protocols offer options such as cryotherapy, where you rest in ice tubs, and pressotherapy, with boots pneumatically filled with air to discharge the pain of lactic acid, as well as diets with certain amounts of proteins, amino acids and antioxidants. LeBron James is an example of this, Torres mentions, because although he is not a footballer, he has a special ambulance that accompanies him to all his away games, which is a rehabilitation clinic with very sophisticated materials.

He also highlights that there is currently close collaboration between clubs and national teams to take care of the health of footballers, who are usually used in summer for continental or world tournaments: “The medical teams of the national teams send an X-ray of what the player he did and did not do, he returns accompanied by an extremely detailed report that includes data such as what he ate, minutes of play or types of training ”, which serve to maintain a constant preventive analysis.



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