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Sport's emergency room
By Matt Catchpole

OLYMPIC MEDICAL INSTITUTE
Kieron Dyer
Location: Harrow, London
Opened: 16 September 2003
Facilities: Muscle strength analyser; chamber for altitude training; scanner for measuring heart rhythms; hydrotherapy pool for resistance work
Stars treated: Kieron Dyer, James Cracknell, Kelly Holmes, Jason Gardener

The key to England's World Cup hopes could lie in an innocuous-looking building tucked away at the side of a hospital in Harrow.

The Olympic Medical Institute has helped a number of top athletes including Kelly Holmes, James Cracknell and Jason Gardener.

And now it is trying to find out why England midfield hopeful Kieron Dyer has been suffering so many injuries.

The Newcastle player is one of the most naturally talented footballers of his generation, yet his progress over the last few years has been hampered by injury and illness.

The 27-year-old admitted he was "suicidal" when he broke down with a hamstring injury in only his second match of the season last October.

When he returned on 20 February he suffered a recurrence of the injury and is not expected back for at least another week.

Dyer spent two weeks at the OMI at the end of last year and underwent a rigorous series of tests to try and find the cause of these problems.

He said: "The doctors have been very thorough. They filmed my running from different angles and found my style of running was putting pressure on my hamstrings.

Rather than just treating the injury we try to get beyond that and find out what's actually causing it
OMI general manager Nick Fellows

"My glutes [backside muscles] are weak and for the last 10 days I have been back on the weights and making my glutes stronger to stop the pressure on my hamstrings."

He was given a detailed fitness programme to try and get him in peak condition in time for the World Cup.

"Pressure to get injured stars back on the pitch and the sheer density of matches could be seriously shortening careers," Dr Marco Cardinale, research director at the OMI, told BBC Sport.

"Nowadays an elite player can have 65 to 68 games a season.

"There should be less density of games and pre-season preparation should be longer than the typical two weeks."

Cardinale also believes clubs lack the time or will to tailor individual training programmes for their players.

"What we have here - which I think is unique - is a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, sports scientists, physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coaches working on solving injuries on an individual basis," he said.

The OMI is a partnership between the British Olympic Association and the English Institute of Sport.

James Cracknell
James Cracknell is among the athletes who have been treated at the OMI

Its 800,000-a-year running costs are raised through a combination of sponsorship and lottery funding.

While Dyer's visit was a commercial arrangement, OMI usually offers its services free to elite athletes on their way back from injury.

Stars such as Cracknell, Holmes and Gardener have all visited the centre, which has close links with Britain's Winter Olympic squad and rowing teams.

"Rather than just treating the injury we try to get beyond that and find out what's actually causing it," said OMI general manager Nick Fellows.

"The big thing for us is that we are not trying to take over an injured athlete. Our role is to find out why they are getting hurt and help them get back into training."

Athletes typically spend one or two weeks at OMI, receiving one-to-one treatment round-the-clock.

A nutritionist looks after diet and a psychologist is on hand to help overcome any mental obstacles to recovery.

The Institute has an excellent relationship with doctors at Northwick Park and has the use of the stunning facilities at nearby Harrow School, where former England rugby union manager Roger Uttley is head of physical education.

It also has its own research facility and, among other pioneering projects, is working on the development of a mobile ultrasound probe which will provide a visual image of an athlete's muscles in motion.

A small scale operation - it can cater for two or three athletes at a time - OMI is hoping to expand.

"It's no secret that we aspire to having a much bigger facility than we have here," says Fellows.

"We are actively looking for an enhanced facility to provide an even better service for athletes preparing for Beijing and the London Games.

"The important part of our service is the quality of the people working here but we could do a better job with more space."




SEE ALSO
Newcastle suffer more Dyer misery
22 Feb 06 |  Newcastle United
Dyer left 'suicidal' by injuries
13 Dec 05 |  Newcastle United
The chamber of horrors
09 Aug 04 |  Olympics 2004


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