Health checks for Hammers

West Ham United Head of Sports Medicine and Sport Science Andy Rolls and his team had a busy time recently as the players underwent their pre-season health scanning.

Sam Allardyce's squad were subjected to a range of tests, from examinations by the Club optician and dentist, to assessments of their balance, strength and co-ordination by sports scientists from Belgian-based SpartaNova.

A state-of-the-art DEXA scanner was also brought to the Hammers' Chadwell Heath training base to record levels of body fat, bone and muscle composition.

It all adds up to give the management a clear picture of where the players are at this stage of pre-season, and Rolls explained to West Ham TV how crucial that monitoring is.

"It's vital for several reasons," he said. "It's a hectic day and the coaches have been excellent. The manager likes to know where they are strength and fitness-wise, and we want to know how their parameters that stop them getting injured are - muscle length, muscle strength, balance, co-ordination, we want to measure all of those things.

"Also, there's a performance element as well, and we put it altogether into an algorithm we've developed over many years, and the more information we give this algorithm we more information we get out, and then we can gear their gym work towards preventing injuries.

"There will always be some injuries, contact and things like that, which you can't legislate for, but we want to decrease the injuries that we can, that we have some influence over."

Every member of Big Sam's first-team squad was assessed over a range of stations over an entire morning or afternoon at the training ground.

Rolls explained the benefits of each station, starting with SpartaNova: "Quality research over the last 20 years has given us certain tests that give us certain outcomes that we can work on to improve players' balance, strength and flexibility, because it highlights players' weaknesses. We can then work on them over the season to give them the best possible ability to play well and avoid injury.

"We got the dentist in because there's a lot of correlation between dental health and overall wellbeing, and we look at that. It's good for the dentist to see everyone once a year. We don't want a player missing a game because of toothache, an infection or a wisdom tooth problem."

"We also got the optician in. It's rare he picks something up, but it's something we need to tick-off and make sure we haven't missed anything simple."

Part of the Chadwell Heath car park was also taken over by a truck containing the DEXA scanner, which Rolls described as being 'quite unusual': "It's a scan of the body to look at body composition, the percentage of body fat, muscle mass and certain structures of the bone. We're also entering into research with a rugby club at looking at joint structure with the DEXA scan.

"That's interesting, because we can build on this learning environment we're trying to create to provide the players with the best possible care we can."

Testing is not something which just occurs during pre-season, however, and Rolls explained that the players would continue to be monitored closely over the duration of the 2013/14 campaign.

"Some screening is done every morning, so players would play on a Saturday and on a Monday morning we would do two or three tests to see how they've recovered. We then do them again on a Tuesday, and perhaps again on a Thursday so the pre-season tests give us our benchmarks for the season ahead."