Rather than wrap him in cotton wool, it seems Manchester United may need to cover Robin van Persie in blue tape to keep the Dutchman injury-free this season. The striker, who has become both vital and loved at United, was seen wearing the recognisable blue Kinesio Tape on his hamstrings at the back of both thighs during the game against Liverpool last weekend.
United fans hope, of course, that the Kinesio Tape (KT) was simply being used as a prophylactic, although many will be forgiven for thinking that van Persie may already be carrying a slight twinge and that it is only a matter of time before the striker is sidelined.
van Persie was notorious for being injury prone during his time at Arsenal; enough to earn the nickname “glass ankles” following persistent difficulties with both ankles. In addition, van Persie has also suffered hip, thigh, groin, hamstring, calf and metatarsal injuries throughout his career.
Although there is relatively little evidence to support KT, it has become increasingly popular with élite athletes and was particularly noticeable during Euro 2012 last year. A meta-analysis of KT’s effects (* Williams et al. 2012) suggests the tape may be beneficial for improving muscle strength and range of motion, however these results were not proven to be clinically significant, and with too few studies more research is still needed to be sure of its efficacy.
Despite this, many high-profile athletes have found KT to be useful, including Novak Djokovic, Mario Balotelli and Dwain Chambers. And although there is a lack of strong scientific evidence, anecdotal evidence from athletes is not being ignored by medical teams, often working under intense competitive and financial pressure to keep their stellar players in action.
van Persie is no stranger to experimentation with radical alternative therapies to stay fit. In summer 2009 he opted to have troublesome wisdom teeth removed, believing they could be linked to his recurrent injury problems. van Persie attended a clinic in Paris for the procedure and was seemingly injury free for several months afterwards.
“My osteopaths think there may be a connection between my teeth and the muscle injuries I suffer,” said the Dutchman. “Something like that is very difficult to prove. But if the operation makes just one per cent difference it’ll be worth it.”
However, in November 2009 the Dutch playmaker suffered yet another ankle injury in Holland’s friendly against Italy. He traveled to Serbia to try horse-placenta treatment, by having placental fluid massaged into his sprained ankle. Although little is known about how placenta therapy may work, the theory is that it by applying the fluid it will improve the healing processes by enhancing transport of nutrients to the injured area.
Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany have both allegedly visited the same clinic for treatment.
“It cannot hurt. And if it helps, it helps” said van Persie, no doubt frustrated with persistent ankle trouble and willing to try an unproven treatment.
Initially expected to be out for six weeks, scans revealed that van Persie had actually torn rather than sprained the ankle ligaments and missed a further five months of the 2009-2010 season. The placenta therapy appeared to be fruitless when advice was sought from a leading ankle specialist, Niek van Dijk, who confirmed that more extensive damage had been suffered than was first diagnosed. van Persie required surgery on the damaged ligaments.
After being plagued by so many sprains, strains and tears, van Persie’s lengthy injury trouble appeared to ease in the 2011-2012 season in which the striker won PFA player of the year. His tenure with Arsenal ended and he joined United in August 2012 with many believing it a good deal for the Gunners, given van Persie’s age and injury record. £24 million for a 29-year-old prone to so many injuries seemed like good business at the time for Arsène Wenger.
Yet, van Persie’s transfer has so far appeared to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s bargain not Arsenal’s. The striker’s contribution has been spectacular, with 22 goals to date including a number of last-minute winners and equalisers, and an important goal against Tottenham Hotspur in difficult weather conditions on Sunday.
It is possible that the striker may have picked up a minor hamstring muscle strain during the busy festive period, and taping was being used to try and prevent a serious muscle strain from occurring. If van Persie feels even the slightest hint of an injury, Rob Swire and the United medical team will no doubt be trying everything possible to ensure van Persie stays fit for the title run-in and coming European campaign. Even if it means wrapping the Dutchman in blue tape.
Robin van Persie’s injury record whilst at Arsenal:
Groin Strain – - 2012 February 29th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2011 August 7th
Knee Injury – - 2011 February 28th
Hamstring Injury – - 2011 February 22nd
Flu – - 2011 February 8th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2010 August 28th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2010 June 1st
Sprained Ankle – - 2009 November 14th
Knee Injury – - 2009 September 13th
Groin Strain – - 2009 April 18th
Groin Strain – - 2009 March 30th
Hamstring Injury – - 2008 October 6th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2008 August 31st
Thigh Muscle Strain – - 2008 May 2nd
Thigh Muscle Strain – - 2008 April 4th
Thigh Muscle Strain – - 2008 January 11th
Thigh Muscle Strain – - 2007 December 24th
Knee Injury – - 2007 October 18th
Metatarsal Fracture – - 2007 January 22nd
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2006 November 19th
Hip/Thigh Injury – - 2006 September 14th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2006 February 10th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2005 December 22nd
Knee Injury – - 2005 October 17th
Ankle/Foot Injury – - 2005 February 5th
Sprained Ankle – - 2004 November 26th
Sprained Ankle – - 2004 August 27th
* Williams S, Whatman C, Hulme P, Sheerin K. Kinesio Taping in Treatment and Prevention of Sports Injuries: A Meta-Analysis of the Evidence for its Effectiveness. Sports Medicine. 2012; 42(2): 153 – 164