“Milan communicates that today Alexandre Pato underwent an MRI scan. The examination has shown an injury, between grade one and grade two, to the biceps femoris muscle of the left leg.”
It is a statement so frequently posted on Milan's official website that all they need do is copy and paste the last one, and change the minor details such as the leg affected.
How frequently is it posted? La Gazzetta dello Sport reckon Pato's injury against Barcelona was his 14th since January 2010, although only half of them were identified as hamstring injuries, with another two simply labelled as muscle strains in his right and left leg respectively.
Although La Gazzetta use January 2010 as a cut-off, Pato had suffered hamstring injuries before this point, yet more than two years later, now approaching three, the club are no closer to solving the problem.
In December 2010 they sent Pato to the USA to seek opinion from Dr William Garrett, a specialist in orthopaedics at Duke University. He conducted a variety of gait analyses using video and force plates, and concluded the problem was postural - Pato's running style means he leans too far forward during sprints, creating a muscle imbalance that loads the hamstrings.
Former sprinter Stefano Tilli also believes Pato’s issues stem from posture, although he identified a problem in the lower half of the body in Thursday’s Gazzetta: “When the foot leaves the ground, the pelvis is too far forward, and the foot is parallel to the floor, instead of at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the leg. It places too much pressure on the hamstrings.”
Either MilanLab were not listening to Garrett’s opinions or they ignored his advice altogether, because the problems have not subsided. They may even think that Garrett is wrong, and certainly the change in direction this year seems to suggest MilanLab believe there is a different cause for the injuries.
From an orthopaedic specialist in 2010, Milan - under the guidance of Jean-Pierre Meersseman - took him to a chiropractic neurologist, Dr Frederick Carrick, only last week. After assessing Pato’s brain activity, he amusingly gave him a clean bill of health on the Friday, only to see the Brazilian injured the following Tuesday.
What has flown under the radar throughout this two-and-a-half year period, and indeed Carlo Ancelotti’s final season where injuries were also rife, is the constant changing of staff at MilanLab.
The last four seasons have seen four different individuals as director of medicine at the club – Massimiliano Sala in 2008-09, Massimo Manara in 2009-10, Gianluca Melegati in 2010-11 and now Rodolfo Tavana, who took over last May, and was previously at the club from 1987-2003. Each has brought one or two of their own doctors with them, and as is the way in medicine, each has their own specialty and ideas for injury prevention and management.
This position belonged to Meersseman before the flurry of changes, but he has taken an increasingly marginal role since 2008 at his own request. He was credited as one of the driving forces behind the MilanLab set-up, and the fact that each of the four seasons since he vacated the post has seen the squad decimated by injuries augments his reputation.
It is telling that the club turned to him to solve Pato’s problems, and it also explains the massive difference in approach from 2010 to now. Melegati, an expert in rehabilitation and injury prevention, took Pato to an orthopaedic specialist, Meersseman, a chiropractor, took him to see a colleague in his same field.
Both approaches have failed, though given the decent injury record during his time at the club, you would fancy Meersseman to get to the bottom of it. He had a sly dig at the length of time he had been given when speaking of Pato’s latest setback: “I have not solved something in three weeks that has not been resolved in two years.” Perhaps he should have focused on the real problem hurting the No 7 right now, the continuity of care, or lack thereof.
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