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Medicine creates modern day superstars

Lionel Messi surpassed Pele's (Edson Arantes Do Nascimento) legendary record of 75 goals in a calendar year and it all seems like a fairy tale. How is it possible for one player to be so consistent, play so many games and score so many goals in today’s competitive play?

Ten years ago, it was unheard of that one player could survive 70 competitive matches in a football season. Not only do they now play as many as 85 games at times but they score seemingly at will and play like real superstars. Be it Cristiano Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Iniesta, Wayne Rooney, Van Persie or Drogba, the list of these superstars is endless.

In third world countries, those of us who have been blessed to have been born there most probably have memories of that extremely talented child (or player), who picked up a nasty injury or ailment and had to stay away from the football pitch forever due to lack of adequate treatment or even diagnosis. This is almost unheard of in the modern western society of today.

Today’s professional football superstars are medically well prepared are kept healthy enough to keep the spectators in a trance.

Diego Maradona, probably the best player ever to play the game, had a career-long battle with back pains (very few knew this). It is widely believed that it was the incessant pain killer injections that in some way helped build his recreational drug abuse addiction that eventually cut short his monumental career. Unfortunately for Maradona, medicine at that time was not advanced enough to cater better to his physical deficiencies.

Had it been today, with the modern MRI scanning, would former superstars like Maradona have scored more goals and maybe even played longer?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology and on modern day superstars to visualize internal structures of the body in detail and diagnose accurately.

The medical preparation of a modern day top footballer for an upcoming season starts the day the current one ends. The medical crew take the players’ weight, height and blood samples. Through the values of certain indexes in these samples a custom-made recovery program is made out for this particular player. Each superstar player is unique. One players’ treatment plan might not suit his teammate since it has to be tailor made.

A day-to-day program is made out on how to effectively keep a certain level of fitness while recovering all the depleted nutrients from the previous season. This could include swimming at a determined speed, frequency and duration, tennis, cycling, golf and more.

Thanks to the superstars’ samples the doctors are able to make out for each particular player the diet he has to be on during the six-week (off season) period that will help improve the blood cells in his system (needed for explosion and endurance) and keep him fit while not in training.

During pre-season training, new tests are taken. This test will now help the doctors, physiotherapists and the team’s physical instructors know how the work load is to be distributed on the particular player to get him to the health and fitness level he was at when he went on the break.

Lionel Messi as a kid was not destined for greatness. At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. River Plate in Argentina showed interest in Messi but did not have enough money to pay for treatment for his condition, which cost $900 a month.

FC Barcelona offered to pay for Messi’s medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain. Messi and his father moved to Barcelona where Messi enrolled in the club's youth academy. So began the growth treatment and medical preparation of Lionel Messi, coupled with soccer drills, to become the most valued player of all time!

These days there has been a revolutionary breakthrough in science that allows medical doctors to predict an upcoming injury or muscular tear in the player and take measures to prevent this. Sometimes the player is forbidden from making physical effort for a few days to avoid a muscular injury that could keep him out for weeks or months as the case may be.

Ronaldo da Lima (the Brazilian Ronaldo) had career-threatening knee injuries. Solution? Surgery got him back to world class performances and, thanks to a medical research study that found out warm climatic conditions are good for sustaining an operated and rehabilitated knee, he forced a transfer from relatively cold Italy to warm Madrid. End result? He bounced back from this career-threatening injury to lead Real Madrid to the La Liga championship title and lead Brazil to win the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan.

Imagine this: these superstar players sometimes play three energy-sapping games in a week, averaging 12 000 metres in a game (30 kilometres in a week), coupled with training. A lot of energy and essential body fluids are lost, hence they should be often depleted and wasted right? But that is not the case!

The world does not pardon or accept a below-par performance from Messi or Ronaldo, hence there is only one solution – medically replace the calcium, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins that these players need to perform at their best. These players are well fuelled to perform for their fans.

Reading this you could be misled to think that these players only depend on doctors to be superstars but that is not my position or message.

These superstars are workaholics, Cristiano Ronaldo in particular. My sources tell me he needs to be dragged off the practice pitch at times. They are extremely talented and hardworking but, to be consistent and healthy enough to defend their superstar status on a regular basis, modern medicine keeps them healthy and fuelled up, week in and week out!

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