Doctor Josean Lekue Provides Medical Update On Athletic First Team
It’s been one week since Athletic reported to Lezama for medicals ahead of preseason training. In the initial PCR screening a total of six players tested positive, which forced the club to alter some of the plans. On Monday Athletic’s Head of Medical Services, Doctor Josean Lekue, conducted a press conference where he provided an update on the squad and the current health concerns.
“I can verify that within the club and the medical services we experienced it as bad news,” Lekue said about having six players test positive. “You just have to look at the general context because any sum of positives is bad news. From there, the general condition is very good, practically all are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms.”
Those who tested positive have been self-isolating at home since getting their results, but have also been provided work out plans by the club to stay in shape. They must all test negative three times before joining their teammates in training.
“The six have been given specific work systems adapted to their characteristics and are active at home. What the protocols recommend is that in two days they have a new PCR test and, if it’s negative, after three days the tests will be repeated. With the negative tests they would be incorporated into the group normally.”
Fans were frustrated when hearing that six players tested positive because a group of players had recently taken a vacation together to Ibiza and posted pictures on social media. However, Dr. Lekue ensures that everyone has been following the guidelines during the break.
“I won’t speak about negligence. All of us who are fortunate enough to work for this club have a great responsibility. The players of the first team have a lot of impact and their actions are analyzed with a magnifying glass. I emphasize that all of us are especially rigorous in complying with the use of masks, social distancing, hygiene, and minimizing contact. We’re focused on the first staff and the rest of the club’s teams.”
When asked about the trip, Dr. Lekue highlighted that those who traveled together had already been playing and training with no issues, suggesting that those in the group weren’t at any additional risk. Only one of the players who went on the vacation to Ibiza tested positive.
“When we saw that a group of players from the club went on vacation together it was a positive thing for the club, a group model. It has to do with human ties and from an epidemiological point of view, reducing the circle of contacts could have a positive outcome, although I don’t know if that bubble has remained. A closed group offers more epidemiological guarantees, although there is still risk.”
In the final stretch of last season no players contracted the virus. “Our impression is that it worked quite well, and we didn’t have any positive tests,” Lekue said when asked how the club handled the situation. As players return, following strict guidelines will be more important than ever before.
Ultimately, the most important thing is that players recover and are able to rejoin the team as soon as possible. Having such a short summer break will also help the players to return in better shape than usual because there hasn’t been as much time to rest.
“Health is a priority. We don’t make further assessments, but rather control their period of confinement. They are active and will be incorporated in the best conditions. The rest period has been brief, just three weeks, so the capacity to lose shape is smaller. Transitioning back into football will be easier for everyone.”
Doctor Lekue also provided an update on Yuri Berchiche and Peru Nolaskoain who have been dealing with injuries since training began. Berchiche’s groin problem from last season is still an issue, while Peru Nolaskoain is recovering from a right ankle sprain suffered at the end of his loan with Deportivo.
“Yuri ended with a groin injury in the last part of the season, as you will recall, and it’s required individualized management because each case is a challenge. It doesn’t cause absolute immobility but it causes a lot of discomfort and it’s difficult to live with. We made an assessment and valued all of the possible options at the time last season ended.”
The decision was made for Berchiche to not undergo surgery. The groin injury will be manageable, although there will still be discomfort and pain. Berchiche will follow an individualized plan to limit the demand on his body and ensure that he will be ready to play when the season starts.
“We ruled out an operation because it wasn’t required. We talked with the coaches and with the player himself to make an individual work plan. Yuri is active and does many things in an alternative way to the rest of the team so that he can return to start the season with everyone.”
On the other hand, Nolaskoain is close to being cleared to train fully with his teammates. The 22-year-old is coming off of an exceptional loan spell and is ready to challenge for a permanent role at Athletic this year.
“We have two physical problems in the squad. Yuri Berchiche, who I have mentioned, and the other is Peru Nolaskoain, who suffered a major sprain in the last stage with Deportivo. He’s working apart from the group at the moment. Peru still has some discomfort, but we have an idea that soon, in a few days, he will be back with the rest of the group. Therefore I think that both should be well for the start of La Liga on 12 September.”
Athletic aren’t the only club to have players test positive before starting preseason. Nearly every other team in La Liga has had at least one positive test, which could impact the start of the season. For now, the campaign is scheduled to begin on 12 September, but there is a chance that it could be pushed back with the virus still a health concern.