Sounders FC’s Steve Zakuani has gone through another long rehab process due to a groin issue that required sports hernia surgery earlier this year. Whenever there is story involving injuries, I try to catch up with fitness coach Dave Tenney (right), who works with the coaching and training staff to get players back as soon as possible.
I did so this week, and Tenney had some great insights to Zakuani’s latest five months — particularly how the groin injury is related to the gruesome leg fracture the midfielder suffered in 2011, which led to a dangerous complication called compartment syndrome.
“I think sometimes people underestimate the impact of the damage he had in the injury,” Tenney said in reference to the broken leg, “not just from a bone perspective, but from a circulation perspective, from a nerve/muscular-firing perspective — there are so many layers to all the stuff that he’s been through. It’s trying to relearn gaits and gait mechanics and ankle mechanics and leg drive and all those things. They’re all things that he’s had to go through. Some of the setbacks he’s had is just because his gait is a little bit different than it was before. It’s not just, ‘The bone is healed and I’m back out and playing,’ because there is a biomechanical and neuromuscular issues that we’ve really had to work through to, at the end of the day, maximize his strength.
“Steve is kind of typical of most soccer players — he just wants to play. That at the end of the road, they’ll be able to go out on the field, play everyday and just enjoy your playing. I kind of tried to flip it with him the last month or so and say, ‘Steve, in my opinion, watch the Seahawks. You have to think of yourself like a wide receiver, and what do wide receivers do? They freakin’ lift and get strong in the weight room, and only a small part of what they do is on the field. It’s taking care of yourself. It’s eating right. It’s really just lifting, being strong, practice sprinting, practicing sprinting technique.’ When it comes to the actual playing, Steve has said the soccer part is always going to be there. He has said that before. So there’s a recognition that the soccer is always going to be there and now he has to focus his work habits on mechanics, maximizing strength and those things. I think it’s really helped him with the setbacks from the biomechanical and neuromuscular perspective.”
Admittedly, some of that can be hard to follow, such is the case with medical terminology sometimes, so I asked a follow-up question for a little more on how this sports hernia is specifically related to the leg injury.
“I think through his gait pattern,” Tenney said in reference to the rhythm of which Zakuani walks, jogs and runs. “Obviously in your gait, everything works up the pelvis, and there was actually some stuff through his gait that was affecting his pelvis and basically stressing his pelvis in a way that was totally abnormal because of how his gait had changed through coming back, and the fact that he’s an explosive guy who does stress his pelvis extensively. There was some stuff in that foot and ankle that was changing some things subtly, and it was having an impact higher up the chain. If you’re flat-out strong enough, maybe it won’t make us much of a difference. But him being explosive, trying to gain strength, being explosive and also trying to play ended up being too much for his pelvis. So he had trauma where everything attaches in there.”