Injuries are part and parcel of the game. They happen, although the causes and reasons for them are heavily debated.
However, what is undeniable is that when a budding young footballer is sidelined for a considerable period of time during his development, his career prospects take a big hit.
The medical staff at the Cobham academy have been kept busy in recent years with an unfortunately high number of players being struck down with long-term ailments, and going into 2012-13, many of them will be hoping to get back on track and make up for lost time.
Take Danny Stenning, for example. His first season as a scholar in 10-11 was a stop-start affair due to a few niggles here and there but he looked a good prospect when fit.
Then he suffered a terrible knee injury in March of that season and missed an entire year, returning late last season.
He’s been given a third year on his youth deal but must now battle for playing time with older midfielders in the NextGen Series and in the Under-21 league as provisions for overage players in youth team football are to be removed as of the coming season.
Playing catch-up means what was once a promising career is now a daily battle to overcome even greater odds than exist for aspirational teenagers.
Of course, it’s not impossible and the game is littered with success stories, but the job becomes undeniably harder.
Nortei Nortey missed almost all of his final year as a schoolboy with one knee injury only to do the same upon becoming a scholar, and whilst his recovery in six months was admirable and testament to the work he and the medical team put in, it leaves him behind within his own age group.
Walter Figueira, Daniel Pappoe, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and one or two others suffered similar fates last season whilst the stories of Adam Phillip, Rohan Ince, James Ashton, Marko Mitrovic, Philipp Prosenik, Michael Woods, Carl Magnay and even Sam Hutchinson are familiar to followers of the youth team.
Mitrovic departs the club this summer after an injury hit four years. Despite being prolific when fit and looking a prototypical lone centre forward, he spent too much time out and has watched as contemporaries like John Guidetti have accelerated past him and onto greater things.
It is concerning on the face of it that so many promising youngsters suffer serious problems but perhaps it’s expected a little more at formative levels, when bodies are still growing and when players – especially after turning 16 – suddenly increase their work load and extend their physical limits in preparation for the professional game.
To suggest anything further would be grossly inappopriate of somebody without the necessary knowledge and qualifications, but Chelsea will surely be striving for excellence in all areas. Their rehabilitation work with many of these players has been sensational with return times rapidly improved, and so the next step must be towards improving prevention.
The players will be hoping that starts right now, for another year struggling to stay fit might be one too many.
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