Not many people have heard of Fabrice Bryand. Yet this small, softly spoken gentleman is playing a crucial role for Les Bleus at UEFA EURO 2012. He is the France doctor and heads a medical team that includes one other doctor, an osteopath and three physiotherapists, as well as fitness trainer Philippe Lambert.
On Friday morning, Dr Bryand talked to the media about his many responsibilities and fielded questions on the huge variety of different measures that have been taken. It is quite amazing to hear how much goes into preparing a national team for a major finals. From pre-tournament medical tests and vaccinations to diet and temperature control, everything is planned for in the minutest detail.
Dr Bryand explained that menus have been carefully concocted for every single meal right up until 1 July, the date of the final. He has coordinated with club doctors around Europe to assemble complete medical dossiers on the 23 squad members. Every player has undergone comprehensive heart tests, records of haemoglobin levels are monitored, and individual training regimes have been established depending on the player's position, fitness level, past injury record and body fat percentage.
One of the most interesting innovations here is the use of cryotherapy to help regulate body temperature. The climate in Donetsk (the most eastern venue) tends to be extreme, as Les Bleus discovered when their first training session was interrupted by a huge thunderstorm yesterday. Temperatures and humidity levels are generally high.
To ensure they do not overheat, France players will undertake 'icepack therapy' before training and matches, as well as at half-time. "We have 26 special vests that have been developed by the army and fire service in France," Dr Bryand said. "Each vest has eight packs of ice. They are like bulletproof vests. But they are not so heavy – they only weigh 1.9kg with the ice in so the players can even wear them when training."
There are also eight cryotherapy chambers at the team's residence. These are designed to aid recuperation after matches – and also to help the players sleep. "Everyone has three minutes in a chamber before bed," Dr Bryand explained. France's medical team is doing everything to give Laurent Blanc's charges the best possible chance. They seem to have left no stone unturned. Now Les Bleus just have to win some games.
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