Arsenal were today accused of putting Theo Walcott's career at risk, with one expert claiming his serious knee injury could have been avoided.
The England and Arsenal forward ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against Tottenham earlier this month, ruling him out for the rest of the season and the World Cup.
Dutch coach and fitness expert Raymond Verheijen claims that, in all likelihood, Walcott's injury could have been avoided if his training workload had been properly managed.
Speaking to Goal, Verheijen said: "Walcott’s injury is not bad luck, it is the logical consequence of the approach at Arsenal.
"They made a big gamble. It is Russian roulette with a player’s career. This whole [Arsenal] medical situation is deja vu. This shows you the low level of injury prevention in England."
Verheijen is referring to Walcott's rehabilitation following an abdominal injury that had kept him out for two months prior to his knee injury.
After returning to the team on November 23, Walcott made five appearances from the bench before being thrusted into six starts in 21 days, completing 90 minutes in all but one of those.
Verheijen observed: "Walcott went from nothing to everything. If you haven’t played for a while you are not totally fit, then, when you play a game you will need more recovery time than normal.
"A top-fit player recovers from the game after 48 hours. But a player who is not top fit takes 72 hours to recover. So a less fit player is more susceptible to injury.
"So, in December when you are playing all these games while needing more recovery time than the average player it is common sense that you are accumulating fatigue."
It is this fatigue that Verheijen, who has had spells at Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City, believes is the main cause of ACL injuries in professional footballers.
"Nine out of 10 ACLs can be avoided, because the main reason why an ACL happens is that the knee is temporarily unprotected when the players turns or leans" he said.
"Normally, your muscles contract to stabilise the knee and nothing happens. Over the holiday period when players play so many games and have accumulated fatigue, their nervous system slows down and the signal from the brain to the muscles gets slower.
"When they make explosive movements the signal arrives a millisecond too late, the player leans or turns with an unprotected knee and the ACL snaps.
"You often see the ACL happens with a very simple action – something a player has done in his career one million times. On one million occasions the knee was protected and everything was in its place. On the one-million-and-first time the signal arrives too late and the ACL snaps."
Walcott is expected to miss at least six months and is pencilled to return for Arsenal first team for the start of next season.
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