Wednesday, July 24, 2024

How Shad Forsythe can help fix Arsenal

What impact can Shad Forsythe have on Arsenal’s fitness, injury management and prevention record?

Aaron Eshref looks at the new man’s qualifications and techniques.

Boxing Day, 2013. Aaron Ramsey leaves Upton Park holding his thigh after pulling up with an injury. In retrospect there’s a strong evidence to suggest it’s the point at which Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge began to lose its way.

In 2013/14 no team lost more players to injury than the Gunners (1). Ramsey’s problem was just one of a long list of injuries that saw Arsene Wenger robbed of key men at defining moments throughout the season.

Abou Diaby’s ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of the season before was replicated by Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained medial collateral ligament problem on the first day of the season, Jack Wilshere’s niggly ankle grievance continued to take its toll while the likes of Lukas Podolski, Kieran Gibbs and Mesut Ozil all knackered their hamstrings.

Unsurprisingly, the issue didn’t go unnoticed, with Arsene Wenger admitting towards the end of the season that the club were, “analysing very deeply why the injuries have happened.” He went on to say that he wanted to investigate any link between them.

On social media, supporters were quick to point the finger at Arsenal’s medical team, while so-called ‘experts’ such as Dutchman Raymond Verheijen fuelled the fire with pseudo-scientific rhetoric such as “every soft tissue injury has someone to blame” (2).

According to a paper published by Robert P. Wilder (Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at University of Virginia School of Medicine): “Approximately 50% of all sports injuries are secondary to overuse and result from repetitive microtrauma that causes local tissue damage”.

His article goes to on to explain: “Factors contributing to injuries are individual bio-mechanical abnormalities such as malalignments, muscle imbalance, inflexibility, weakness, and instability. Contributing extrinsic (avoidable) factors include poor technique, improper equipment, and improper changes in duration or frequency of activity.” (3).

Applied to Aaron Ramsey’s tendon injury, yes, he might have played too many games with too little rest and he may have been poorly managed by staff, but the factors related to strain and tear injuries are so multifactorial that to make such statements is far too simplistic.

This week, American Shad Forsythe joined Arsenal as a fitness and conditioning coach. He comes with a wealth of experience, most recently spending a decade as part of the backroom staff that helped prepare Germany for their World Cup triumph in Brazil. He’s completed a pre-medical degree, earned a Masters in Biomechanics and is a firm believer in training ‘movement and not muscles’.

What does this mean? Well it can be viewed in both a strength and conditioning context and in a medical context. In conditioning, he refers to movement training as using exercise in a movement context rather than seated static training. Plyometrics, Olympic lifts, multi plane lunges, short sharp agility training, they’re all things that can be football specific and can be recreated on the pitch by players.

In a medical context it means he’d be looking at the forces and mechanisms that cause an injury. Let’s take a look at Walcott’s ACL injury for example. Usually the ACL ruptures when three different forces are exerted on the knee.

By ‘training movement and not muscles’ players would perform movement-based exercises specifically targeting an improvement in the motor control of the knee. In simple terms the aim is to train the body to react to each force one at a time, then over time training the brain and the knee to endure all three forces at once, as might be experienced when twisting and turning on a football pitch. This is in contrast to having players routinely seated on a leg extension machine.

The train of thought is a big breakthrough in sports medicine at the highest level of football. Movement based analysis and treatment is proving increasingly popular amongst elite physiotherapists and osteopaths. The Gray Institute is a driving force behind the concepts of ‘applied functional science’ while companies such as Corkinetic are running more and more movement-based therapy and function workshops with Premier League clubs, the England national team and the British Institute of Sport (4).

Forysthe has been working with world-renowned trainer Mark Vestegen of EXOS, formally known as Athletic Performance, whose research theories are cross-disciplinary. By creating a programme that incorporates sports nutrition, physical therapy, performance training, metabolism studies and neuroscience, they hope to identify more effective and efficient means of curing athletes’ problems. It’s a refreshing evidence-based approach, rooted in the latest reseach and science. (5).

Football has for too long relied on an old-fashioned approach to sports medicine. In many cases physiotherapists and fitness coaches have been in their jobs for a long time, their respective mindsets struggling to shake off the shackles of tradition. Too often injuries have been treated with a narrow minded approach; the ankle analyzed by looking at the ankle and the shoulder by looking at the shoulder. Not enough examine ‘above and below’ or investigate how the body moves as a whole or the effect of football-specific movements on players.

Reflecting again on Wilder’s paper, he says: “Injuries are often related to biomechanical abnormalities removed from the specific injury site, requiring evaluation of the entire kinetic chain”.

The kinetic chain refers to the chain of movement that happens through the ankle, knee, hip, spine etc. Putting into practice this line of thinking will be Forsythe’s job at Arsenal, the hope being that he can combat the injuries that all too often take their toll on the club’s title ambitions.

He works at the vanguard of sports medicine and his acquisition is a credit to both Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis. It’s a coup for the club that could well hold the key to more success on the pitch.


1.         Arsenal in FA Premier League 2013/2014 [Internet]. Football-Lineups. [cited 2014 Jul 15]. Available from:

2.         Arsene Wenger to blame for Arsenal’s injured players. Available from: ttp://

3.         Wilder RP, Sethi S. Overuse injuries: tendinopathies, stress fractures, compartment syndrome, and shin splints. Clin Sports Med. 2004 Jan;23(1):55–81, vi.

4.         Who we work with | Cor Kinetic [Internet]. [cited 2014 Jul 15]. Available from:

5.         EXOS [Internet]. EXOS. [cited 2014 Jul 15]. Available from:


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On my baalls

Shad Forsythe .. SAVE US !


you bet!



Jesse Lee

Absolutely the best signing by Arsene this season. This guy save us all. Shad Forsythe is the fitness guru.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Every man, every woman, every child, he’s a mighty….. SHAD! Aa-aah, saviour of the ligaments!



Third Plebeian

Indeed. Outstanding article. Thanks, Aaron.

Could be a tremendous ‘signing’ for us.

Me So Hornsey

If he can get Diaby fit for a season then this man is the signing of the decade.

Giroud Awakening

…and Diaby the 2nd best signing of the decade?


Not of this decade 😉 (2006)


Diaby’s been a new signing at least 10 times. Which time are you talking about?


We showed some great vision and Forsythe in bringing across a young and talented fitness specialist.



Get Diaby fit for a whole season there may be little need for Khedira of Schneiderlin et al. That’s a big gamble still and if we aim to win the league depth is more important, though you’d argue Flamini, Arteta and Coquelin provides that depth. I’d still take a new signing in that position still, as much as I love Arteta and Flamini we just got run over in midfield last season against the big teams. And Coq is still too young to be thrusted into action, complete pun intended.


most people have wished the signing of khedira to happen with all their heart, for the defensive midfield position. but he is not a defensive midfielder, more of a box-to-box player, or why else would lahm have been used so much as DM for Germany? Of course, he can be turned into a defensive midfielder. But so can be Diaby who is a player very similiar to Khedira, right? And if i may go as far to say it, can’t Wilshere too? Hell, wasn’t Arteta a Playmaker/Attacking midfielder before he was turned into a defensive one?

Woolwich Peripatetic

Khedira is closest in terms of style (if not ability – how cool is this) to Ramsey. Therefore if one is injured the other is a natural fit into the team. Basically if you wanted a guy who was very good going in either direction (like a certain P.Vieira for instance) who wasn’t Aaron Ramsey, Khedira would be one of the top names on the list.


Yeah, box-to-box is the new DM…as long as you have two of them that know what they’re doing, and the majority of the team is defending (as we like to do, theses days) then there is less need for a ‘proper’ DM, just a need to balance attributes.


Yeah, that should work. For example City have Toure and Fernandinho, both of which are not DMs, and they won the league. Both CMs need to be very physical, though, not suave like Arteta


Probably the best article I’ve read on here in a long time.


if Carlsburg did articles…




Shit! Ramsey’s gonna get hurt this year too?

It was 2013, not 2014.

Giroud Awakening

That’s a lot of writing…


Whoa at some point it felt like reading one of those not so exciting scientific publications.
Still very insightful though. 🙂

Gutbukket Deffrolla

I love scientific journals. Especially the ones that tell us how Arsenal are going to develop a new breed of super-fit injury-immune players.


I think I pulled a muscle just reading this!


Love this. Coherent and enlightening.

Edu's Braces

I kind of suspect AW cant resist picking players in the ‘red zone’ because of how he is constantly pushing for his perfect team. Based on very little of course, but it seems our players are injured or playing every week. Probably just me and nothing really to do with this article which was quality 🙂

Black Bauer

educating… Really looking forward to the new season.


Signing of the decade! We must also price Eva Carneiro out of Chelsea’s hands. I’m pretty sure this combination will do wonders to player fitness and morale.

Thierry Bergkamp

Fuck everything and everyone to do with Chelsea


Delightfully, sir.

Gordon B.

You deal with Terry and I’ll see to Eva…


Fairly sure it wouldn’t keep them out of the injury room, cue the inevitable ‘groin strain’ jokes….


Even god couldn’t keep our players un-injured as long as they are over-played with little rest. We have real depth now, so squad rotation combined with this new doc’s magic can do wonder. Hopefully

According to the Laws of Quantum Mechanics, WENGA can be OUT and IN at the same Time

Go away with your arguments! Leave! We thumb down any comment that doesn’t praise the existing set up here and we don’t offer arguments as to why!

Gutbukket Deffrolla

So you didn’t really understand what Shad Forsythe does then?

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Oops. Your second sentence kind of makes me look like a plonker.

Guess I should start reading second sentences before getting all adamant about things.

Master Bates

If he can improve the teams’ fitness even by 50% ,he could be signing of the season . Even better than Alexis.


Even by 50 %? That’s quite a lot to ask i guess..


Sports science in football is ridiculously old fashioned and it’s no wonder these players get soo many needless injuries. How professional footballers get away with sitting on the bench for sixty minutes with a blanket over there knees, occasionally running up and down the touchline twice to ‘warm up’ before coming into a fast aggressive game is beyond me. Why is there not an S+C coach pitch side keeping them warm throughout? Or, as in rugby, some exercise bikes to keep te legs moving whilst not playing. Just common sense!

Desert Fox

I have often wondered this myself – the bikes are a prime example of a relatively cheap and quick fix to warm up the body sufficiently as in rugby


So Shadi, how bigs ist your schwanzstucker?

His name is weird.


You really get the feeling we’ve turned a corner now. A new era is about to start

gooners n roses

Damn. My brain hurts reading this.


where is the official announcement of his appointment?

Rob Smith

Whoooh,the most complicated article I’ve read on Arseblog News as far as I can remember! Well at lease that’s a change, a transformation of Arsenal we have long for! Lets hope it works and we get the mysterious medical misfortune sorted out!

dink arnold

I find Swiss Ramble to be more complicated, but it’s probably just how my mind can’t grasp any logic in economics. I do really enjoy his articles though, and look forward to the next.

Hoosier Gunner

In the ITV interview with Arsene before the FA Cup final, he mentioned that he never delegates a single training session. Does that statement and the acquisition of Shad mean that we never had someone dedicated to “conditioning and recovery” or was it Lewin’s group that did this in addition to their “team doctors” role? I genuinely hope Shad and his team are, quite literally, the light at the end of the tunnel for our injury record. In other news, love the fact that Wenger is delegating something. The re-invention of Arsene Wenger is the greatest signing of the summer!… Read more »


Tony Colbert was the previous fitness coach, so I’m guessing he took care of the conditioning and recovery.

ack ack ack

interesting stuff. i’m a physio as well, and i spend a lot of my free time reading up on just this kind of material (as well as implementing it, when appropriate, at work.)

here’s some further information for anyone interested – jan ekstrand is doing some “top, top” work with elite CL clubs. podcasts link:


Hey ack ack ack, I’m a first year sports therapy student and found the podcast link you submitted extremely helpful. I would really appreciate it if you could let me know of more material you have read or found that you think could be helpful for me as a sports therapist. Thanks.


Apparently after a match he’ll be standing in the changing room saying “good game, good game” too


Gutbukket Deffrolla

It took me a long time, and a deep and unwanted trip down memory lane to get that. Brucie was one of the first things I tried to forget when I emigrated to Australia. Now you’ve bloody well dredged it back up. Thanks a bloody bunch. Nice to see you…


Does anyone know why vermaelen isnt at the training camp and Koscielny is?

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Our training camp isn’t a the Nou Camp?


Is it an official information about Shad Forsythe? We can read about him in newspapers, but I can’t find any information about him on


Great piece about Forsythe. Sh*t he might be our signing of the summer if he can keep our players fit!


Holy fuck, citations… I need to get my reading list for university sorted


Well that went straight over my head…where are his stats…come on 7am.

Merlin's Panini

Let’s hope Forsythe helps us to have a good game, good game.


Would have worked a lot better if the exact same post hadn’t have been put up 14 minutes earlier.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

And on the conveyor belt tonight….a picnic hamper, um, a toy bunny, um, um, a kettle, um, a picnic hamper, oh got that, got that, um, a ukelele, oh, a Sami Khedira, um, um., an RVP face mask, oh, no it’s a dart board….


He is brilliant only if he gets Diaby injury free for 2 straight seasons.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Diaby has 1 season left with us. If he gets him good for this season then he has to keep him good for at least three more after that, cos we’ll definately re-sign him if he’s healthy because he’ll be our awesome box-to-box creation/destruction demigod.

suker 4 punishment

i hope its not a shad too late

Gutbukket Deffrolla

That joke was a bit shad

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Laughed? I nearly Shad !!


Very interesting article, as a kinesiology student this stuff is fascinating to me. I’ve often wondered what methods different clubs used in terms to strength and conditioning as well as injury prevention. It will be interesting to see the outcome of having a more progressive style strength and conditioning coach on the staff at the club. I doubt it will keep us injury free but I could see it as a definite boost to the club. One of most interesting articles I’ve seen on here, well done!


Oooh I think I just qualified for a medical degree!

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Only if you read all the cited works too. Otherwise you’re just a Fresher, son.


Think i just had a rapture on my ACL reading this

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Happy Knees?

Gibbs & Jenkinson Attorneys-at-law

it’s nice to see him…

to see him…


I have been saying it for years but no one would listen. They said I was crazy… I am just glad we are not only going for the best with regards to players. Now if they’d just drop the price of booze at the Emirates I’d be the happiest fan ever

Chilean Gunner

This piece is just fantastic.


I know basketball teams and other North American sports have moved this way recently. Weights/strength training isolates 1 muscle to build it instead of working on all your muscles or a system at a time. I know yoga/pilates has added a few years to my dwindling amateur sports career.

Imagine we are in the bottom third in man games lost for once? We probably could have held our title push last year if Rambo and Theo were healthy, but that’s a lot of ifs…



Good to see us working on fitness and injury prevention. Is anyone else worried about who’s going to partner Kos at CB against Palace? TV seems to be absent and I’m sure will be sold, Per isn’t back yet and we have no Sagna to play out of position there. Will is be Chambers? Miquel? Monreal played there vs NY and was crap.


Here’s a link to an article Shad wrote: Maximizing Your Athlete’s Recovery by Shad Forsythe –

If you’ve seen pictures of the guys in ice buckets after training and wondered what’s going on then it gives some good insight…amongst other things


I think most of the changes he makes will show in the long term only. The only immediate affect of his philosophy that I can see is on Arsene’s rotation policy. I think he is definitely going to have a say on which player needs rest and therefore needs to be rotated better.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

He’s been ignoring that advice for years. I hope Wenger is determined to change his ways now that Shad Forsythe is here to explain in detail just exactly why “I know he’s a bit in the red zone but I’m thinking to play Rambo tomorrow” would be a thick as fuck idea.

We need Wenger to not just hire the best, but to actually listen to the best.


Very good read, and a welcome (temporary) change to the kind of football articles we normally see.

I would like to see some more of this kind of cientific-oriented analysis of football, especially from an Arsenal point of view.

This club is just class, I can’t picture those fucking racists Chelsea goldiggers, dumbass Spurs cavemen or glory hunters United fans actually writting and reading this kind of things.

Cheers blogs!


Very interesting article.Thank you for the info. The approach seems to be quite similar (from distance) to that of the Stanford University American football team. Specifically Shannon Turley, if anyone is familiar with him. He’s been hugely successful for Stanford in injury prevention so if there are some similarities that’s extremely positive. Prehab is becoming more and more common in sport and i’m glad we’re improving in this area too. Its refreshing to see some proactive steps being taken on all fronts not just on the pitch. With Shad coming in the S&C team and Jonker and Co in the… Read more »


All those bibliographies, brilliant

Gooner '75

At least the problem is being addressed. At best fewer injuries. Well played. Buy some bigger shinpads☺


Great to have him at the Arsenal. For the other injury types I am happy to offer my services for free. The said services will involve applying the old looper right between the eyes of dangerous tackling, career threatening, Shawcross-tic morons and such bone breaking ogres..

Tibetan Gooner

Love it. Over used, repetitions, strained muscle, ligament sprain, training techniques, training facilities ( not much of a problem to arsenal like protective gears and kits), training surface, blow injuries: fouls, twists, tackles, DOMS, collision, concussion and contusions, central and physical faigue: neuromuscular, and there is sport conditioning and deconditioning exercise as well which deals with warming up and cooling down process. Kinetic chain concept is not so new but more extensive researched feild in sport science and very reliable as well. There you’ll get closed and open kinetic chain exercising as well as treatment method in particular to injured… Read more »

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