What happens during a football medical?

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“A fee has been agreed, pending a medical” is one of the key phrases of any transfer window.

And a vital part of any transfer is the medical. That, of course, is used to ascertain whether a player joining a club is in tip-top shape or could have a deep-lying issue yet to be discovered.

The majority of medicals tend to go quite smoothly. However, on occasion, they have been known to scupper some deals. One of the most high-profile of those was Ruud van Nistelrooy’s transfer to Manchester United.

The United fitness team have (had) major worries over whether the PSV Eindhoven striker had sufficiently recovered from a knee injury.

They insisted on keyhole surgery to clear up the issue, but both PSV and the player felt it wasn’t needed. Low-and-behold, the forward ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during a rehabilitation exercise before signing on the dotted line.

However, Sir Alex Ferguson pursued the forward beyond that particular injury. And the Dutch international would go on to score hatfuls of goals for the Premier League giants.

Of course, that is only one example of a medical either making or breaking a transfer deal. But what does the actual process entail? The key elements are constantly evolving. But in modern times, there are six tests.

Heart and health

After Fabrice Muamba’s terrible scare a few years back, clubs have put a huge emphasis on testing the heart. A cardiac screening takes place, including an ECG, an echo monitor and a full questionnaire on their health history.

Musculoskeletal stability 

For any footballer, mobility is obviously vital. Tests will be carried out on bones and joints with particular emphasis placed on the pelvic region.

A lot of hamstring and abductor injuries originate from this area so it’s important any defects are spotted.

Body fat score

Any professional footballer needs to make sure he’s in decent nick and not scoffing pasties every other day. Calipers are used to measure body fat percentages – which are expected to be in and around 10%.

But Bioelectrical Impedance technology is also important to check lean tissue and fat cells on a granular level.

Isokinetic issues

Essentially, this is about how players move and if they’re predisposed to any specific injuries in various body parts.

Deep scanning

When someone mentions going for an ultrasound, you automatically think someone’s pregnant.

But they’re also used in medicals, too. Scanning machines are used to check out the entire body in terms of muscles and joints, pinpointing any hidden defects.

Ergometric sprint test

Ready, set, sprint! The age-old sprint test is used to measure a player’s top speed over a 20m distance. If you’re not hitting three seconds or under, you’re in trouble.

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.