Injuries are a part of professional sports. Since most injuries are random, they tend to even out over time from team to team, no matter what league. This season, D.C. United has been bitten by the injury bug a little too often, and it has raised some red flags with the training staff. Some of D.C.'s injury problems were unavoidable, like Bryan Namoff's concussion or Dejan Jakovic's broken collar bone. The worrying part is the high number of players who have suffered hamstring injuries.
Randy Rocha is D.C. United's strength and conditioning coach. He knows all about the players bodies, inside and out. Naturally, he takes his job very seriously, and when the same injuries keep occurring, he is the first one to acknowledge the possibility that some injuries may have been preventable.
Regarding the number of hamstring injuries, Rocha said, "You'd like to think it's a freak thing and a coincidence, but when it happens that frequently, I myself will probably take full responsibility. I've really, really been thinking about this a lot. I'm the type that wants to look for a solution...so that we don't see this type of problem ever again."
The solution, according to Rocha, is basically to start over. In response to past seasons in which players and staff felt that they were overextended, Rocha admitted that this pre-season, the team staff might have been too cautious in trying to prevent injuries. This may have resulted in the players' bodies not being totally prepared for the regular season. Since the pre-season training didn't include a day of maximum accelerating and sprinting, the muscles weren't prepared when the season got underway.
As Rocha explained it, "If we don't hit that second gear in training, then when they hit it in the games, something is liable to go."
Regarding the players returning from hamstring injuries, the news is much better, especially for Chris Pontius.
Rocha's prognosis is encouraging, "Pontius is very close, we're looking at two weeks for him. Hopefully, he'll join us at the end of the week in full training. He's ready to go and he's kept his fitness up, so he should hit the ground running."
Pontius' return will help United as they look to make a push up the standings, but it needs to be noted that his injury did not occur while training with D.C. United.
"We were without him during our pre-season", said Rocha. "He came from the National Team and he had already strained his hamstring, so it just kind of lingered throughout. We're trying to fix the problem long-term, straighten out his mechanics, increase some flexibility, and get him on a consistent program so this doesn't happen again. But he's looking pretty good."
The MLS season is very long. Certainly playing without Chris Pontius for the past several games has not been ideal. But if you take Curt Onalfo's approach, you might think, ‘If Pontius is going to aggravate a hamstring injury, it's better that it happens in April instead of September'. Of course that doesn't make his absence any easier to deal with at this time, but when the season enters the final playoff push, totally healthy players will be much more likely to make an impact than those with lingering or reoccurring injuries.