Today, there’s been more of an emphasis for an athlete to return to play too quickly after injury rather than allowing the player to recuperate at a healthy pace.
Sidelined for a lengthy period of time takes a physical and emotional toll on serious athletes, young and seasoned. One such athlete, Aidan Holmes, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower spine in late January 2018. It was then that he heard the devastating words “total shut down” for the first time in his playing career.
“It was definitely tough not competing with my teammates,” Holmes said. “I hadn’t suffered any injury of this magnitude so sitting out for months without even able to run or kick the ball was painful.”
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but fortunately Holmes had a supportive cast including his Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) coach, his parents, physical therapist, sports medicine physician, and TOCA Football.
Following the diagnosis, Holmes’ recovery process was broken down into one-month increments, with a best-case scenario to return to play in 3-4 months. The first month was devoted to basic stretching and neutral spine exercises; the second re-introduced motion to his spine; the third month worked on increasing his strength and range of motion while incorporating cardio into his routine and cleared for light upper body lifting.
Currently, in his fourth month, Holmes is cleared for full integration into training and playing. Now, TOCA assists with the recuperative steps in his path back to game form.
“I am using TOCA to help me reach the top level of my game again,” Holmes said. “I am starting off with light touches and getting that feel back with the ball. As my confidence returns, I will hit another gear in fitness training by doing intense drills to pick up fitness again and working on midfield-specific movements.”
According to Holmes’ mother, Laura, TOCA is a valuable tool for a quicker return to play, “Whether a player is a beginner, an elite competitor, or a player just returning to sport from an injury or training break, the value of TOCA is the same—it gives players the extra touches needed to improve their game.”
Each TOCA Session is a small step in regaining his speed. Holmes has been training at TOCA once a week in addition to his team training sessions and a continued home fitness and stretching program.
“It will also help me get used to the soccer movement—on and off the ball–again. It will also help with fitness because I do a lot of intense drills and different intervals of running that make me sweat.”
Since his injury Holmes approaches his training sessions differently. Rather than physically overexerting himself, Holmes methodically paces his touches on the ball.
Most important to Holmes’ TOCA Trainer, Mike Beigarten, who has been training at TOCA for over four years and has been studying Kinesiology and pre-physical therapy, is to gain his confidence back and help him enjoy the game once again.
“When he first came back from injury, I was keeping it super technical and slightly more static, making sure not to push him too hard,” Beigarten said. “Since it was a back injury, we had to proceed cautiously because the back is involved in almost every movement. We have progressively made things more dynamic, trying to work back to game speed.”
Beigarten and Holmes have focused on simple movements and touches as he gains more confidence and builds his fitness levels. As a midfielder, Beigarten incorporates mixed deliveries, multidirectional movements, and combination plays. The emphasis is on quick touches on the ball, precise finishes and accurate strikes into the corners.
According to Beigarten TOCA’s major attribute to quicker return to play is the lighter ball. The lighter ball not only emphasizes ball movements but also puts less stress on the muscles and joints. It allows for longer periods of training with quicker recovery, in turn allowing for more frequent training.
Holmes recently completed a full, pain-free 90-minute match, validation of a slow recovery process. As a result of a team including his ECNL coach, parents, physical therapist, sports medicine physician, TOCA Training, and Holmes himself, further injury is prevented, and peak form is expedited.