Rick Celebrini
Bob Frid

A look at the cutting-edge work of Whitecaps FC’s sports medicine and science team

After suffering a broken foot while away with the United States U-20 national team in June, striker Omar Salgado is out of his cast and itching to get back into the line-up.

 And thanks to the work of Whitecaps FC head of sports medicine and science Rick Celebrini and the entire sports medicine team, Salgado is confident he will get there soon.

“Having Rick here really gives me the confidence that I’ll come back real quick,” Salgado told whitecapsfc.com, after taking a break from his rehab work at Thursday’s open practice. “He’s probably one of the best, if not the best, in the country and maybe in the world. If something hurts, he’ll fix it somehow.”

As Salgado masterfully summed it up, “it just works.”

He would know.

Although the 18-year-old would like nothing more than to be out there with his teammates on the training field and in games, these days he spends most of his time with Celebrini.

Take last Wednesday for example, when Salgado’s morning consisted of a few hours in the gym, working on range of motion, strengthening, balancing, and bike work to ensure his fitness level does not drop too much, followed by an afternoon pool session.

Salgado, and every one of his teammates, have an individual plan and routine to follow, which includes hard copy handouts and access to YouTube videos prepared by the sports medicine team.

Although Salgado’s focus in recent weeks has been injury rehab, Celebrini and his staff put just as much thought and effort into injury prevention.

“It’s the way of the future; not being so reactive,” Celebrini told whitecapsfc.com. “If we had to underpin a philosophy that we really want to instill in this group as a culture, it’s being proactive and addressing potential injury risk factors before they happen.”

Celebrini is only one member of Whitecaps FC’s “integrated support team,” as they call it, who look after the well-being of the players, at both the first team and residency levels.

Head trainer Jake Joachim is the “all-knowing one,” according to Celebrini. In this role, Joachim acts as the coordinator for the first team and is responsible for the overall health of the players, monitoring their progress after an injury, as well as the different aspects of their nutrition.

Physiotherapist Graeme Poole works closely with Joachim, specifically in player rehab and acute treatment and care. Poole and Joachim make up the team’s “emergency coverage.” They will be the first responders, so to speak, when injuries occur in training or games.

Finally, strength and conditioning coach Mike Young is responsible for all things fitness, which includes the hands-on fitness development and the sport science behind it. Young has been busy in recent weeks working with all the team’s new additions.

“We’re getting guys who are coming off long breaks or coming from teams where the tempo of play is not what ours is up to the fitness level that Martin [Rennie] would want,” Young told whitecapsfc.com.

Behind the scenes, Young has developed a program that gives players a daily rating of their fitness. Using Prozone data gathered from the stadiums, the heart-rate monitors they use in practice, daily surveys, and Young’s personal evaluation of the players and their potential stresses, the program will ultimately determine their readiness with a “green light, red light” type assessment.

“This gets reported to the coaching staff so they know who’s ready, who’s fatigued, what they need to do with their training sessions, how many minutes a guy can play in a game, and that kind of thing,” said Young, who meets daily with Celebrini and the rest of the sports medicine team to review every single player’s status.

Clearly, there is a lot more to injury rehab and fitness than meets the eye, and the work Whitecaps FC’s sports medicine team has done this year is truly indicative of that.

“It’s really making sure that we leave no stone unturned,” Celebrini said.