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      Inside pre-season testing: Every test explained


      Our opening fixture against Sheffield United might still be some 42 days away – but for a number of Crystal Palace players, the 2023/24 season has already begun in earnest.

      A carefully curated programme of preparatory training, pre-season fixtures and a high-profile tour to Chicago and Detroit will all take place between now and that opening-day trip to Bramall Lane.

      But after a well-earned month’s break, the first real test of the new campaign has already arrived for a number of the Eagles: pre-season screening day, which took place on Friday.

      Arriving in small groups, Palace players who were not involved in international duty earlier this month returned to the training ground to undergo a range of important tests.

      These tests are designed to provide benchmarks of players’ fitness at this moment in time and can often inform the basis for assessments made later in the season, such as players’ rehabilitation schedules.

      Inside Pre-Season Testing 2023

      Once the results are received, Palace’s medical department – Sports Science, Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine chief amongst them – can then devise individual programmes for each specific player.

      But what exactly does this range of tests comprise? Well, in the words of our assessors themselves…

      Heart Screening

      Professor Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Cardiology: “When a team purchases a player, or someone’s playing football every week, the big worry tends to be: are they going to have the joints to last the whole season?

      “But of course, every now and then, you get a case like that of Christian Eriksen [who suffered a cardiac arrest during Euro 2020] and although they are very uncommon, when they do happen, they cause fear amongst the community.

      “We basically check the footballers for cardiac faults to make sure they’ve got nothing going on in their heart, or haven’t developed anything that could trigger a sudden arrest.

      “Most Premier League football players have this either once yearly, or once every two years. If you’re playing in the European competitions, you’ve got to have it every year.”

      Body Composition Measurement

      Jodie Hemmings-Trigg, Nutritionist: “As part of pre-season screening, we provide a full analysis of body composition for all the players.

      “This gives us an idea of a player’s muscle mass which helps in terms of identifying their strength and fat mass, which obviously helps overall in terms of their performance.”

      Concussion Screening

      Dr Zafar Iqbal, Head of Sports Medicine: “We do a pre-injury screening on all the players. This is to give a baseline so that if, in the future, they do unfortunately get a concussion, we can compare it with their baseline score.

      “It’s a validated test that we do which looks at [players] in terms of memory, in terms of some balance tests, and then we compare that with the baseline, and it helps guide us as to when a player can return.”

      Jump Tests

      Ben Smalley, Strength & Conditioning Coach: “The players do a squat jump which looks at concentric strength, and then do a counter-movement jump after that – testing explosive strength.

      "Then, the players do single and counter-moving jumps on their lefts and rights to check for symmetries between limbs.”

      Hop Tests

      “This is a single-leg hop for distance, and a triple-leg hop for distance. This gets us left-to-right differences for rehab scenarios, and statistics like that.”

      Muscle Strength test with HHD

      “Basically, we’ve got a handheld dynamometer. It measures the amount of force you can produce.

      “What we’re looking at is the guys’ tests on their groins and their abductor strength, and then their glutes and their abductor strength – two key muscles within football – and then you get a relationship between the groin and their abductors as well.

      “This piece of equipment will measure that for us.”

      Musculoskeletal (MSK) Examination

      James Haycock, Head of Physiotherapy: “This is a range of ability tests: a Straight Leg Raise (SLR), an Active Knee Extension, an Ober’s test, and any clinical special tests as well, looking at laxity in the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) – all your main ligaments around that knee.

      "Then we look at the ankle joint as well, specifically the Anterior Talo-Fibular Ligament (ATFL), which typically gets injured the most often in football.

      “This is done once a year. What we find is that, if any lads were to pick up an injury, we have a baseline of where they came in at in pre-season. Then anything they do on the table when they’re injured, we can compare to their baseline test, which we’ve done in pre-season.”

      Ribcage Angle Measurement

      Oliver Waite, First-team Physiotherapist: “We’re looking at a number of tests, but a few of them just look around the ribcage position and how it influences the lower back and the pelvis.

      “That has an influence on the lower limb and how it’s positioned, so we’re just taking some measurements here so we can track that throughout the season and create some individualised programmes.”

      Capacity Test for Muscular Endurance

      Jamie Goldsmith, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach: “Capacity testing is similar to box to box, where we look at left to right. The players will do a hamstring bridge and a calf raise.

      “That checks muscular endurance. That provides baselines for return to play, and gives us information around programming for the players throughout the season.”

      Four-Minute Run for General Fitness

      Cedric Leduc, First Team Sport Scientist: “The four-minute run is a test to measure fitness. We lay out a rectangle on the pitch and the coaches help the players to get the right pace.

      “Basically, four minutes is the time your heart rate needs to reach a steady state. Extracting the last minute of the test allows you to gauge the fitness level of your player.

      “We’re looking at heart rate during exercise and during the last minute of exercise. This gives us a baseline.

      “During the season, the reason why we use a sub-maximal run like this, instead of an all-out test, is because both give you very similar information. When you play twice a week, it’s really difficult to ask a player to do an all-out test in the middle of those games.

      “It’s not really feasible in the season, so having an idea about the sub-maximal heart rate will give us the opportunity to test the player without pushing them during the season.”

      Box to Box Test for Running Efficiency

      “This is a run from penalty box to penalty box. It gives us a run about how players run: running economy, efficiency and those sorts of things. It’s more from a neuromuscular standpoint, more about the legs themselves.

      “During the season, it’s pretty difficult to test players maximally, so at Palace, we use a sub-max run – the box to box – allowing us to track the player longitudinally and see if they’re tired or not without testing maximally, which is hard to fit into a weekly schedule.”

      1500m Time Trial for Maximal Aerobic Speed

      “This is very similar but rather than doing something sub-maximal, you go all-out. The players will run 100m, back and forth, 15 times.

      “This again gives us indications about fitness, and also helps us to set different thresholds to track players over time with GPS. It’s a pretty useful measurement.

      “We look at the time taken to complete the run, which then helps us extrapolate what we call Maximal Aerobic Speed to help us set different thresholds for our GPS system."