Milan lab man brings unorthodox science to Premier League



The patient is lying half naked on the treatment table in a clinic not far from Harley Street watching his feet being pressed together, rotated, tested. His pelvis is checked and he is asked to open his mouth. Finally Jean-Pierre Meersseman, founder of the world-renowned Milan Lab and special advisor to Milan, speaks. “Your pelvis is tilted, one leg is shorter than the other and you have suffered from groin injuries,” he says, correctly. He then applies local anaesthetic to an impacted wisdom tooth and suddenly the range of movement in the right leg significantly widens. “Ah, just like Clarence Seedorf!” he exclaims.

“When Seedorf came to see me he had continuous groin pain which had been bugging him for a year and a half,” Meersseman says. “He couldn’t practise properly and was on a downward spiral. I remember the first day he was at Milan I had his wisdom teeth pulled out. The pain in his groin went away immediately and that helped rebuild his career.”

“It’s not accepted in evidence-based medicine but I don’t give a damn about that,” he says, genially but firmly. “I’ve seen it work. We’ve done over one million tests at Milan. And our mathematicians and engineers have developed a formula which has a high success rate of predicting and managing injuries.”

Meersseman backs up his case by citing the steep decline in days lost to injury after Milan Lab was set up in 2002 thanks to a programme that also helped enabled Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta to play into their 40s, with Serginho and Cafu not far behind.

Meersseman was given the task of reducing injury rates at Milan after Fernando Redondo, the brilliant Argentina midfielder, suffered an injury that was to end his career shortly after joining from Real Madrid in 2000. The club asked itself: why did we not see that? They started to talk about prevention. And Meersseman starting looking for answers.

“With Redondo we did a complete medical examination when he signed – and I mean complete as it involved 10-12 different specialists, from the tip of his head to his toes,” Meersseman says. “He was in perfect condition. And then he was walking on the treadmill and he tore a muscle. I’d never heard of anyone doing that. He never really came back.”

So what changed? “Just by using kinesiology we are able to see better what is going on but that was my opinion against someone else’s,” he says. “That was one of the reasons why I started measuring everything. All the top clubs have cardiologists, knee specialists and so on – but sometimes it’s difficult to look at the whole and that’s what we are trying to do.”

But what of his role at Milan? Surely given their form over the past 18 months, they need fixing most of all? “They stopped the Milan Lab project three years ago,” he sighs. “It’s still being applied in the athletics sector but not in the medical sector. And we’ve had more injuries in the past two years than in the eight years before that put together.”

Why? “When things are going very well sometimes you believe you can start to cut things,” he says. “For instance I had the players eating carbohydrates within 20 minutes after a game. Being in Italy it would be spaghetti. A cook would come in the locker room. It was a hassle to do but it worked. Then they cut it out. They cut here. They cut there. And all of a sudden it doesn’t work. These days I mainly check the players when they come in and go out.


Jean Pierre Meersseman, founder of the renowned Milan lab, is bringing his injury-preventing methods to England on the Guardian website

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