The Werkstatt is the realm of Carsten Rademacher. Injured Werkself players are helped to make their comebacks by him and six other experts in the Bayer 04 rehab and training centre. Florian Wirtz is currently working on making his comeback on the pitch after suffering a torn cruciate in March. The 'Werkself Magazin' highlights how Rademacher, the head of rehab therapy, works with his team to help injured male and female players return to their former performance levels.
Anyone taking the lift to the third floor at the BayArena and then taking a few steps the left ends up in a bright room with an arsenal of high-tech fitness equipment. Through the huge windows you have a view over the Rhine to Cologne and below is the Werkself training ground. "The injured players who come to us always have their target in sight. They can see their teammates training below almost every day. They definitely want to get back there again," said Carsten Rademacher, the head of rehab therapy, and he also expresses the aim of the very successful 'Werkstatt' facility over the past 13 years: "It's our job to restore the physical capability of injured players as quickly as possible. But at least as important as preventative work so that injuries don't happen in the first place." Florian Wirtz is on the mat punctually at nine o'clock, still with supports to stabilise his injured left leg, set out for him to do his rehab training. At two o'clock is teammates below have already ended their normal training day and the 19-year-old has completed his daily fitness battle," according to a tight and exactly planned programme," as Rademacher emphasised.
A total of 16 male and female players – including Amine Adli and three other members of the first team squad but also members of the U19 and U17 teams plus members of the Women's team – appeared on that day at the beginning of May for treatment and rehab training. Sabine Christmann-Schaaf, who arranges the sessions and also works in the laboratory as a qualified doctor's assistant, received them and handed out the day's schedule the team has agreed on. The rehab experts know the state of each patient and the current status of their therapy. "Four torn cruciates, three meniscus problems, plus tendon and serious muscle injuries," said Rademacher listing the current cases. The Werkstatt has a section with the physio team three floors below where the first-team players are treated before and after training in rooms next to the dressing room. "They only come to us when injuries are more serious and the players are out for a longer time," explained Rademacher.
For the task of "making players fit again" there is a need to be very systematic and often work up to the pain barrier. That applies to the injured players but also for the physiotherapists and particularly the coaches who have been trained on the rehabilitation of sports injuries. Their ability, coupled with high-end technology, generally significantly reduces the return to pitch times. Hardly any other Bundesliga club offers their players the opportunity for rehabilitation with equipment of such a high standard.
At first sight, the training and rehab centre under the roof of the BayArena looks like a very well-equipped fitness studio but absolute top products significantly raise the worth of the high-tech equipment: the AlterG, which can reduce the body weight of the convalescent on the treadmill by up to 80%, the intermittent vacuum tube, that promotes metabolism through to the finest capillaries, the cold chamber where spending three minutes at temperatures of minus 110 degrees has an analgesic, stimulating the blood flow and anti-inflammatory effect and the altitude training room, where training sessions can be simulated at a height of between 2,000 and 5,200 metres to enable an athlete to maintain his sporting stamina at a top level. "Running as if on the moon, cycling as if high up in the Alps, freezing as at the North Pole – nothing is impossible here." With an undertone of admiration, the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung assesses the methods at the Werkstatt, which Bayer 04 has invested heavily in.
On this particular day of the week, not only 'Flo' Wirtz uses the high-tech equipment as in addition to lots of drills on the 'normal’ piece of equipment for stamina and power training. But however significantly technologies, even more important are the employed experts of Bayer 04 who support the players. "The devices make a lot of things easier but it wouldn't work without the targeted and personal care," said Rademacher. A lot is and remains skilled work": Exercises are individually managed and corrected by the rehab coaches like Rademacher. But the players also lie on the treatment bench for treatment by the physios with a wide range of techniques with their hands looking for tension and loosening and massaging muscles. If required, the player also undergoes lymphatic drainage. "At the start, when the players come to us with an acute injury or after an operation, they are on the bench for passive treatment and less so in the training rooms. That changes at some point. If the injury is treated well then training times get longer and longer," said Rademacher who has organised the therapy for Florian Wirtz from the start and personally managed it. "In our case the players have one-to-one care from us. In the afternoon we have the youngsters from the junior teams who are treated in small groups," said Rademacher. The Oldenburg-born rehab expert, who came to Bayer 04 when the Werkstatt was opened in 2010, sent Wirtz a text message when the Germany international was still at a clinic in Innsbruck after the operation on his torn cruciate. In a brief message, Rademacher welcomed him to the Werkstatt in advance. Rademacher can confirm after many years that there are intense relationships between therapy coach and patients.
In the two months plus in the Werkstatt, Wirtz has made significant progress through extremely hard-work in training. "In this process we regularly test how far the players have come and see when he is again ready to take part in sessions with the team," explains Rademacher who earned a diploma in rehabilitation and prevention at the Sports College in Cologne. With the tests, for example, the movement, balance of strength, particularly in the injured parts of the body, are measured and it determines how far the patient is away from their normal values. Those values are known because all players complete comprehensive diagnostic tests at the Werkstatt before the start of the season.
"Based on the data, we know the player has to get back to where he was before the injury," said Rademacher. The tests are also based on the latest biomechanical procedures. Small inertial sensors, which measure movements, acceleration and speed, are attached to the body and movements are recorded on high-speed cameras. The values recorded are shown on a screen with a skeleton avatar. "We know based on the computer images of whether the player is putting his foot down properly when he runs or transferring weight because he tends towards evasive movements and an analgetic gait because of the injuries. Players rarely feel whether they're doing it right in this phase. We make the corrections," said Rademacher.
The specialists sometimes also have to provide mental support for their patients. "In rehab, which can last for several months, there are always phases where people aren’t feeling so good. Then we try to motivate them again and bring in our sports psychologists if required," explained Rademacher. That is not be necessary up to now with Wirtz. "He's an example of very high self-motivation. Florian is very focused." The Germany international is working hard to be back in the matchday squad as soon as possible in the coming season and to be able to play at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. One thing is common to all players: even though there is a positive atmosphere at the Werkstatt, Wirtz like all other patients wants to leave it as soon as possible.
This article is from Werkself Magazin #36. Available here online free of charge