Sheffield United told to consider their players' mental as well as physical health duing coronavirus crisis

Premier League clubs including Sheffield United must take care of their players mental well-being during the coronavirus crisis, one of English football’s most recognisable physiotherapists has claimed, after warning they could find it difficult to adjust to their new routines.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 3:03 pm

Describing many professionals within the game as “institutionalised” because their day to day lives are organised around the fixture calendar, Gary Lewin argued the decision to suspend it due to the worsening health situation will have left many “scared” about what the future holds.

With strict new government guidelines seemingly making it impossible for teams to train - United were among those still reporting for duty on a regular basis until the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week - Lewin said: “I’ve heard the phrase institutionalised used and it’s not wrong. Players, their whole lives are geared around performance and getting ready for the next game, and we’re now in the business end of the season, the last 10-12 games of the league, the final stages of all cup competitions and suddenly that’s stopped. This will be unprecedented. Players sometimes stop through injury, players sometimes stop through illness, or they stop because they’ve been dropped from the team, but the matches still go on.”

United are not set to return to action until May at the earliest after Premier League members agreed, in conjunction with their English Football League counterparts, to postpone all matches until the end of next month.

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Lewin, who has previously worked with the England and Arsenal men’s teams, told the Football Ramble podcast: “Turning the tele on at the weekend and there’s no Match Of The Day or live reporting of any sport anywhere – it’s a massive void.

“From a sports perspective, the adrenaline rush that they get two or three times a week, the competitive urge they get on a regular basis is now being withdrawn. That would come into some of the thinking of the support staff in clubs if they’re doing group fitness sessions with players from home – to make it competitive and give a competitive edge amongst the squad.”

Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mikel Arteta, whose Arsenal side have been drawn against United in the FA Cup quarter-finals, are among those to have tested positive for the respiratory disease.

“That’s from a sporting view,” Lewin added. “You’ve also got the mental wellbeing aspect that players are scared. This is a virus that can affect anybody in their day-to-day lives.

Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United, has been closed due to the coronavirus crisis

“You’ve already seen instances of managers and players around the world that have been infected. Although the experts are telling us that young, fit people may only get a mild dose of it, you are still hearing stories of other people that are relatively fit and healthy that have still been affected in a really bad way.

“So players are scared. They’re scared for their families. They don’t want their families to become ill.

“There’s a lot of pressure on everybody, but with regard to footballers, not only about the lack of football, but also what’s going on in everyone’s lives.”

Chris Wilder, the maanager of Sheffield United: George Wood/Getty Images