This week the world of sports was shocked by the news: soccer superstar Lionel Messi pulled a hamstring and will not be playing for the time being.
The suggested cause of his injuries however raised my curiosity: Messi loves red meat, especially the chorizo-sausages and this seems to be causing injuries.
I have heard a lot of strange stories about sports and athletes in my life, but this one really puzzles me. Please get my point of view, I just finished lecturing a course called Performance Nutrition, to state that I do believe that nutrition can play an important role in health and performance.
I can think of many causes for hamstring injuries, but eating sausages is not on that list.
Is red meat anyhow related to health? Yes, serious research suggest that eating red meat is related to colon rectal cancer.
Red meat differs from white meat because of 1. its myoglobin content (a great source of iron, but also of free radical formation) and 2. its fat content, red meat in average contains more fat.
Already these two factors only could be accountable for their effect on health.
I think that if the fat content is the same, the difference between red and white meat, after digestion, can be neglected. The amino acid composition is virtually the same. After all white and red meat both consist of muscle fibers, where the white meat is more fast twitch and the red meat is more slow twitch.
If this is true, people who only eat white meat, or fish, or follow a vegetarian diet should have less (hamstring-)injuries than red meat eaters. Is that true, my bet is NO.
In case of Messi, it is very likely that his hamstring injury is the price for his qualities and salary, being a player who is able to make a difference for his team and has to be present on the field, injured or not, fatigued or not. In the end, the pressure to play every week and to travel and train, is a short term vision, because now he is definitely out with a more serious injury than it was a few weeks ago when he started having problems. At the other hand, a soccer coach in Europe has a “career span” of few months. Even a few matches lost back to back, may end a career at a club. So the pressure on the coach results in pressure on the players and the medical staff who are supposed to work miracles (only in the short term, of course). No need to say that in the end the vision (or better lack of it) is self-defeating, costing millions of Euro’s.
But no pity, for soccer as far as money is concerned they have the broadest financial support system in society. Most city councils in Europe prefer to close a fire station or hospital, before they stop supporting and subsidizing the local soccer club.
I still believe that hamstring injuries are caused by anatomical limitations and compensations, bad running technique and/or stress/fatigue.
The messages for Messi: make sure you train as much as necessary, make sure you recovery well and keep eating those sausages.