Wordpretzels, some of you may be aware that as well as being a runner, I am also a qualified football (soccer) referee, which means for 8 months of the year I spend my Saturday mornings and afternoons running around outside in all forms of weather being undermined, questioned and insulted by a multitude of players, their parents, managers and supporters.
Back in December, I tried refereeing 2 youth matches in the morning followed by an adult one in the afternoon.
“Be careful. Too many matches in a day leads to injury,” warned the Referee’s Association secretary in an e-mail. What did he know? I’m an experienced runner, I’m fit and healthy. Sure enough, with 10 minutes remaining in the adults’ game, my left hamstring suddenly ‘twanged’. Not a full blown rupture, just a tweak. Having reached my 50s and having played sport all of my life, I’ve been fortunate to have never had a hamstring injury, but now it’s started. It turns out old men are quite capable of plodding around the streets for miles, but are no longer equipped to sprint, unless they undertake half an hour of warm ups. It also made me realise that I used to be built for speed; now I’m built for nothing.
Anyway, I had an enforced rest the weather forcing games to be abandoned and my hamstring got better. I thought. Then in February, it ‘tweaked’ again, so I bought a special strapping for my thigh, which was conveniently hidden under my long referee shorts. No more trouble.
Until April, when my right hamstring ‘twanged’. On a run. Bloody brilliant. Now I had two tweaked hamstrings, with three more games of the season left, so I went to Sports Direct and bought another thigh strap and a pair of compression pants. They say exercise helps you to lose the pounds. In my case, I’d forked out approximately thirty of them.
Getting ready in the small, lonely, one person referee changing room, I looked at myself in the mirror. Thigh straps, compression pants and a hinged knee brace. My body was being held together by various pieces of lycra, velcro and metal. Now I know what Robocop must have felt like.
Fortunately, I managed to get through the match with no injuries and minimal haranguing, vowing to return home and ‘heal thyself’. Of course, I approached the most effective and reliable form of medical care and advice known to humankind, namely the internet, typing in ‘treatment for strained hamstring’. Naturally, there was a wealth of information. I noticed one website showing the best way to warm up to avoid hamstring pulls. This was it:
Now, this may well be an effective method for preventing injury, but look at it from my point of view. I take to the field of play 10 minutes before kick off. The players are also out warming up. They would suddenly notice me, goose-stepping up and down, wearing a black shirt. I would only need to raise my right arm straight in the air to complete the impression that the impending game was being managed by a fervent neo nazi.
Then again, it may make them think twice before questioning my authority…