In a new regular feature, we’ve enlisted the help of an expert in Sport Science and Physiotherapy to help us delve deeper into the injuries currently at Aston Villa.
Words: Alex Williams | @_AjmWilliams
The Physio’s Room. A place that no player ever wants to be, a place that many football fans, despite their years watching the Villa, know very little about.
The boys and girls in the Medicine, Physiotherapy, Strength & Conditioning and Sports Science teams are the unsung heroes of every club. This fortnightly piece will open the doors to the physio’s room, giving you, the supporters, an insight into the injuries at the club, the various points of a player’s rehabilitation, and most importantly, when you can next expect them to feature in the famous claret and blue.
For this early stage of the season, Villa have a few too many players visiting the physio and sport science teams. However, most of these significant absentees entered the 2020/21 season with pre-existing injuries – namely Tom Heaton and Wesley.
Last week, the mightily impressive Ezri Konza seemed to suffer a slight hamstring twinge but looked to cope and played the full 90 minutes. Bjorn Engels also hopped onto the physio’s table after picking up a thigh strain – Smith did not want to put a time frame on the centre-half’s return.
It’s time to talk specifics:
Wesley Moraes – Grade 3 Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear
Wesley experienced the worst start to 2020, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Burnley on New Year’s Day. He spent the majority of his time post-op recovering in his native Brazil.
Wesley is now 8 months down the line of what will be a 12-month (minimum) recovery. By now, he should hopefully be reaching a point where he is getting full flexion and extension – we call this a full range of movement.
Once he has that, he will be starting the real grind, completing all sorts of full weight and range of movement (ROM) exercise plans.
Do not expect him to resume full training for at least a couple of months, and I wouldn’t rule out a staged return around the turn of the year.
Tom Heaton – Grade 1-2 Knee Ligament(s) Injury
Heaton did not fully rupture any ligaments in the same way as Wesley, however with a keeper, it is a really difficult process.
You would expect most outfield players to be in a good amount of gym and grass-based training at this point. They would have regained full ROM and would be working on turnings, accelerations and decelerations.
At this point, Tom will be in the gym every day, and will almost certainly be involved in the keeper-specific training activities – not taking part as such, but he will be checking out his positional rivals, and comparing his rehabilitation progress with the levels the likes of the super-fit Martinez and recently recovered Jed Steer.
My sports science head says, we will see him within a couple of weeks after the international break (6-8 weeks). If they don’t push him too hard, he should be fresh out the box by late October.
Bjorn Engels – Thigh Strain
Dean Smith has made it clear that he does not want to put a time frame on the Belgian centre half’s recovery. Reports suggested that he might be fit for the trip to Fulham, but I cannot see that happening unless the club are playing it up.
When a player picks up a chain of injuries, his rehab is split up into micro stages, as you must allow for the risk of re-injury or a knock-on injury.
I would currently expect Engels to be working on reducing the inflammation surrounding the injured site, but they will be keeping that thigh firing, whether that be player or machine ‘powered’.
I’d expect to potentially see Engels back in full training around then international break, maybe sooner if he can get fit ahead of schedule.
Ezri Konsa – Hamstring ‘twinge’ suffered against Sheffield United
Konsa looked to be struggling as the players emerged for the second half against Sheffield United, but he subsequently played a great game and seemed to push through the slight pull that he could feel after the break. He scored the game’s only goal as Aston Villa picked up all three points.
Sensibly, Konsa was rested for the Carabao Cup clash with Bristol City, with view to being involved on Monday’s visit to Craven Cottage. Should he pass the fitness and ‘red zone’ tests early this weekend, he will be ready at the heart of Villa’s defence again.