A thanks to Chris Mallac, Head of Performance at London-Irish Rugby Union Club, and to Sports Injury Bulletin for letting us share the article below!
This is the story of Magic Mike:
“This is a story about Magic Mike. Mike is otherwise known as Mike Antoniades who is the Performance Director at ‘The Running School’ in Chiswick, London. His clinic/rehab centre is found under the Stamford Brook tube station in Chiswick (incidentally, the best coffee outside of central London can be found 1 minute down the road at Artisan Café – but that is another story altogether).
I came across Mike over 10 years ago when I was at Bath rugby as he had a reputation then of taking broken down and distraught footballer’s/rugby players/athletes and reconditioning their injuries to become supreme athletes again. I used him to help me with a rugby player who at the time had a very tricky hamstring problem. The cohort of athletes he had helped before I had met him and since then has forged a reputation of Mike being a magician who can help those that cannot be helped.
I have come across Mike again recently as I called him up to help look after one of our players with a particularly bothersome knee injury. This player had an osteochondral defect in his knee surgically fixed 6 months ago and in that time he has worked extremely hard on all aspects of his rehabilitation to be in a position whereby the surgeon was thrilled with his recovery, his right to left leg muscle bulk was symmetrical and his ranges of movement were spot on. However, when he runs, he has this undeniable limp with the first step that we simply could not correct.
The analogy I used with this player was like baking a cake. To bake a cake, you may need 10 ingredients. If you have 9, then the cake does not quite work out. Same with this player. He was missing one key component of his function and my belief was that it was a motor control issue. He simply had forgotten how to activate muscles to run. Enter Magic Mike.
Mike has a system of running retraining that has been forged over years of experience with working with athletes (currently Bolton and Crystal Palace amongst others utilise his services and he has set up three franchise centres in Germany). In his Chiswick clinic he has a variety of ‘tools’ at his disposal to retrain and correct the proper sequence of muscle activation required for top level running. For example, he has a high speed treadmill that harnesses the player and they can run backwards at high speeds. This retrains the hamstring, gluteal and back muscles (the posterior chain) to work together in foot placement. He also has a 1.5m x 1.5m grid that he uses to create bespoke foot placement and movement pattern drills. The movements required on the mat reminded me of those dance games at the video arcade. The co-ordination needed to place the feet in the right place and in the right sequence requires a high level of motor control.
Mike has a philosophy of training/rehabilitation that is a step ahead of traditional rehab programs. What Mike focuses on specifically in his injury rehabilitation protocols is motor control. Left to right brain integration, crossing the midline, awareness of foot placement in sagittal, frontal and coronal planes. The movements he utilises are infinite and limited only by imagination.
Our boy has been to the Running School in Chiswick 3 times now, and already his ability to take load on his affected knee has improved immeasurably. I have Mike’s guarantee that in three weeks the player will have lost the limp and be back I into top level training and playing once again. I don’t doubt his magic for one second.“
Chris Mallac is currently Head of Performance at London-Irish Rugby Union Club and writes a weekly ezine for Sports Injury Bulletin (www.sportsinjurybulletin.com)