Finish Line™ Story: Martin Hristov
Soccer referee Martin Hristov was on a deadline, and it was growing tighter by the day.
Having experienced ever-increasing shin soreness in the latter stages of the 2019 National Premier League football season, the Brisbane-based whistle-blower knew the approaching off-season would be a critical time.
Not just in getting over the debilitating injury that had plagued his most recent season but in making sure he was fully fit heading into the 2020 season, and beyond.
The next season was shaping as Martin’s time, his window of opportunity opening to take the next step and turn his passion for refereeing at what was already a high level into a career, first in the A-League and, hopefully, beyond.
But as December rolled around Martin had become desperate.
With the season kicking off in February the 28-year-old surveyed the previous few months as mostly wasted when every bit of progress was undone with the medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) in his left leg returning with a vengeance.
“Two thirds into the season I started feeling pain in the lower left shinbone towards the end of one of my games. It wasn’t a specific moment where I twisted something or pulled a muscle, it just started to slowly build up and towards the end of the game I started feeling it a bit more,” he said.
“It kept on persisting and eventually it was pretty uncomfortable at all times.
“I had to stick with it until the end of the season, which for me was the end of August.
“I visited a physio around the beginning of August when I realised it could be something serious. He suggested that it was probably what it has turned out to be, a bone stress reaction.
“The information I got from him was ‘rest for two weeks, put ice on it, and then get back to work afterwards’.
“But I wasn’t able to do that because it was the last three weeks of the season and I had to be doing my games.
“The season finished – it was the 24th of August – I did some research and decided to do a month of no running based on my suspicion of what it was and the confirmation of the physio.
“I took a month off and then went back to running. I was fine for the first five or six runs and then the thing came back.
“I went and visited the same physio and he said to take another four weeks off’. He gave me two or three exercises for the gym and that was pretty much it.
“I followed what he told me and came back for a second time around the end of October. This time the pain came back even quicker – two or three runs and the pain was back.
“It wasn’t an excruciating pain, but I knew it was there and it was getting worse the more I ran on it.
“I knew I had to stop.”
Martin by this stage had an eye on the calendar knowing his time to fully prepare for the season ahead was vanishing by the week.
He returned to the physio and requested to be sent for an MRI “so I could be 100 per cent sure what was going on”.
“The diagnosis was correct, it was a bone stress reaction Level 2 on the Frederickson Scale for bone stress injuries,” he said.
“I went to see him again but I sensed there was a lack of clarity of what exactly I’m supposed to be doing, and he couldn’t give me any specific exercises. He suggested I should wear orthotics, but he didn’t examine exactly how I run, so none of that made any sense in my head.
“He basically said ‘There’s nothing else I can do here. You have to rest some more and come back (to running) more slowly’.
“Basically my back was against the wall, knowing that I had only six weeks to work with and that if I stuffed it up I was basically going to miss portions of the season. And that wasn’t an option at this time in my career – the most important season of my life.
“At that point I decided I needed to get help from somebody else.”
The civil engineer, who is working on the Gold Coast light rail extension, knew the next decision he made would be the most critical in his recovery if he was to be ready in time for the fast-approaching season.
“I did quite a lot of research and the end result I got was that within the state Brad Beer was the best option,” he said.
“I based that on a numbers of factors – the fact that he’s an athlete himself, the fact that he’s dealt with other top athletes, the fact he has a podcast, the fact that he’s constantly making knowledgeable posts on Instagram, and the types of injuries he writes about.
“I saw Brad for the first time just before Christmas.
“I had already sent him my MRI and one of the things I was looking for when I went in there was had he actually had a look at my MRI beforehand and when I arrived for my first session he was well aware of my case.
“I spent the first 15-20 minutes explaining to him how my injury occurred, what my history with sport is, my history with running. Then he got me on the treadmill to check my running technique, just to make sure everything is covered in that department.
“He didn’t just try to give me a massage or ‘put a bandaid on the wound’ what he was trying to do was get to the root cause of the issue, why it happened and how it could be prevented.
“He said he wanted to build me to a point where I have a body which is ready to deal with the pressure of refereeing, not just the season ahead but for years to come and to have the right mindset and the right approach to get the right systems in my life to make sure that I’m capable of dealing with that pressure.
“He asked me about nutrition and sleep and training regime.
“He even asked me to get some blood tests to make sure that there were no underlying problems there.”
Martin said he questioned the need for blood tests but knew he was dealing with someone who would leave no stone unturned in revealing if there were mitigating factors which were complicating his issues.
“I felt I had met somebody I could trust, somebody who had the ability and potential to get me across the finish line,” he said.
“My previous physio … I just thought he didn’t possess the knowledge to get me to where it wanted to get.
“With Brad, I knew that he’d dealt with that particular injury on multiple occasions and he knew exactly how to deal with it.
“And what impressed me from the outset was him saying he was not interested in seeing me one single time more than what I actually needed to be seen.”
Martin says the nature of the injury made it difficult in the early stages to tell if he was making progress.
But armed with a specific training and strengthening program targeting the lower body and focusing on the glutes, quads, hamstrings and particularly the calves, as well as regular feedback, Martin started to feel like he could reach the deadline that just a couple of months earlier had felt out of reach
“I had faith that if I follow 100 per cent what Brad told me, he’s the best person to get me across the line. I knew I had to do my due diligence and do everything he told me to do. That part was up to me.”
By early-March he was back into the full swing of the season – training on Tuesdays and Thursday and then refereeing on either Saturday or Sunday.
No one could have foreseen the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has forced on sporting codes across the nation and across the globe.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Martin’s plan, the bring his A game once football returns in the wake of the crisis.
Physio With A Finish Line
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