Confidence and trust can be the biggest barrier to any player returning from a soft tissue injury, according to a leading analyst Ben Dinnery.
But Dwight Gayle could not be in better hands on his road to recovery, according to the premierinjuries.com expert, as Rafa Benitez is a safety first boss, unlike his former manager at Crystal Palace Alan Pardew.
Gayle has what is called a ‘sprinter’s injury’ often found in strikers
Gayle made an unsuccessful return to the Magpies XI a almost a fortnight ago against Aston Villa, after more than a month out with a hamstring problem.
After lasting just 30 minutes in the 2-0 victory, initial prognosis was that the 20-goal hitman would be absent for another month, but those fears were allayed when further tests revealed the injury was not as bad as first feared.
A lack of confidence in the muscle is something that has been alluded to by Benitez in recent days.
And Dinnery is not surprised by this in the slightest.
Although he thinks Benitez’s approach would not place his player in any harm, as the Spaniard would never rush a player back against medical advice.
“Rafa is not the type of manager who will risk a player short-term,” said Dinnery.
“He is a manager who can see the bigger picture with a player. He proved this time and time again with his players at Liverpool.
“I think he will apply this theory to Dwight Gayle.
“He will be thinking if he misses one or two games now, no matter how important, he may be fit for the rest.
“Rather than take an Alan Pardew approach and throw a player in.”
Understanding the nature of the injury is half the battle, says Dinnery.
This is not a run of the mill problem - it is only something that occurs in a certain type of player. And that is why these problems can be so damaging physiologically.
“What Gayle has is what is often known as a ‘sprinter’s injury’,” he said.
“You often find hamstring issues in strikers or wingers who are required to go from a standing start at any point to a full sprint.
“That movement causes immense strain on the hamstrings. That power required from the legs in a matter of seconds makes these players a lot more susceptible to this kind of injury.
“Trusting your body and physiology is a major factor with issues like this.
“Every player has their own battle to trust the muscles again. It cannot always be easy, see Daniel Sturridge for a prime example. Gayle fits into that category, too.
“Tests may not show major damage but a player may feel pain in the muscle after a previous injury.
“As a player they have to work when that pain is serious and when it is just the wear and tear of playing football for a living.
“Knowing the difference is key. It can be the difference between a tight muscle or grade one, to a grade two or rupture. That’s either a week or two out or a season over.”
Expectation and the pressures of playing at such a big club may have been a contributing factor in Gayle’s recent breakdown, says Dinnery.
He continued: “With Gayle I think expectation may have played a part in this,too.
He is at a big club and wants to do well and impress the fans.
As a result a player can find themselves overstretch for a ball they wouldn’t usually go for.
“The weight of expectation can never be ruled out in these kind of situations.”