Back after long, short stretch - The Province

Injured defender benefitting from 'micro' technique

By Marc Weber

For Geordie Lyall to mentally survive the past two seasons, it's been important to think small. To take comfort in any little signs of progress in the physiotherapy room, or on the practice sidelines, as he's worked his way back from a mysterious hamstring injury that limited him to eight games in 2008, and 19 minutes this season.

Fitting then that the Vancouver Whitecaps defender hopes he's finally found a solution in something as small-sounding as "microStretching".

"We might be on to something," said Lyall, who's expected to be in the 18-man roster for tonight's game against Minnesota.

Nikos Apostolopoulos, who studied sports medicine at the University of Toronto, is the founder of microStretching, which he describes as "a stretching technique that works on diminishing inflammation."

A low-intensity, long-duration stretching program is used to increase range of motion without aggravating the injured area.

He lists several former Canucks, including Trevor Linden, and NBA players like Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen among his previous clients.

Lyall, 33, has been going to Apostolopoulos's East Vancouver clinic almost every day for the past month on a recommendation from the Whitecaps team doctor, Dr. Jim Bovard.

Lyall was set to retire if he couldn't work his way into training this week -- a mutual agreement with the club, he said. One more setback and his teaching career in Victoria will take priority over soccer.

"I'm not going to jinx anything," said Lyall, who's also had to fight back from ankle surgery in December. "I'll just keep going day by day and hopefully it will get better.

"Every time I used to try and stretch it out, I'd come home and it would be aching. I've been able to slowly, subtly stretch it and I've got a lot more range of motion in that [right] hamstring and that's helped big time."

Previously, Lyall's hamstring injury was thought to be related to a nerve issue in his back. Apostolopoulos believes it's a muscle issue.

"His hamstring was constantly inflamed and it wasn't allowing him to recover," he said.

Head coach Teitur Thordarson loves the idea of Lyall in the lineup, which is why he's been so patient with the speedy right fullback, who just three seasons ago was a nominee for USL-1 defender of the year.

Of the eight games Lyall patched himself up for last season, Thordarson started him in seven.

"If we can get him fit and healthy then we have a top-class player," Thordarson said.

Tonight could show if small stretches have added up to a big change for Lyall.

mweber@theprovince.com
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