(Picture Credits: 1. Virgil Van Dijk Twitter, 2. Michail Antonio Twitter, 3. Luka Milivojevic Facebook, 4. Fabinho Twitter)
INJURIES VS FOOTBALL
If there’s anything that can ruin a football fan’s week, it's injury news to their favourite player and if it arrives in the crucial game week, it’s pretty annoying and heartbreaking.
Last month, the Premier League saw its best defender Virgil Van Dijk suffer a horrible tackle in the Merseyside Derby in the hands of Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. The Dutch Defensive Talisman has now joined the league of ‘Premier League injured players’ consisting of 84 players as of now with Brighton and Crystal Palace leading the pack with 9 players of each team. Indeed, the challenge by Jordan Pickford was incredibly reckless and there was an uproar that he was allowed to remain on the pitch. In fact, he did not even receive a telling off from the referee, let alone have his name taken for a yellow or red card. It has since been confirmed that Van Dijk has suffered an ACL injury and although there has been no timeline on how long he will be on the treatment table for, it is likely that Liverpool will not see him lace up his boots again this season.
Naturally, there will be anger amongst the club and the fanbase, however, there will also be some concerns about his future as well considering how devastating this particular injury can be. On a general note, it cannot be ignored that the tightly packed footballing schedule comprising of FIVE club competitions namely UEFA Champions and Europa League along with domestic competitions such as Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, with not forgetting International Friendlies keeping all football players on the toes round the clock and not letting them breathe. Also, with this particular season starting in Mid- September reducing one month from the regular football season duration and The Euros being pushed to next year, there would possibly be more games than the usual count in-game weeks during this season giving players less time to recover from previous matches and prepare for next games.
According to PhysioRoom, a study in America has shown that players will spend an average of 12.2 months to fully recover from the injury, whilst 85% of those continue to play at the same level. Interestingly, a study of elite European football has shown that a professional team can expect 0.4 ACL injuries among its team per season, or around 1 every 2 seasons/years. These injuries are no new phenomena, though, as there have been a number of players to have suffered this horrible injury but have managed to return and remain to play at their very best level. However, in recent times, we have witnessed that the players suffering long layoff due to injuries haven’t been able to return back to play at that level that they used to before the injury with Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan being prime examples.
Premier League managers have been vocal about their concerns regarding players injuries with managers of ‘The Top 6 clubs’ now fielding their second team in Carabao Cup competition to prevent injury situations as well as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, publicly being vocal about ending the existence of Carabao Cup competitions.
Whether it’s a season-ender or a niggle, injuries are part and parcel of the beautiful game and the players, being mere mortals can only do so much to stop them from occurring. And following this gruelling festive schedule, injuries are coming thick and fast to give Premier League managers an unnecessary headache for the second half of the season. Most of the clubs now use science to help restrict the amount which is suffered, using measurements to figure out when players will be more susceptible to muscle issues in particular. Doctors, physiotherapists, sports scientists and fitness or rehabilitation coaches of various clubs are in the opinion of the fact that there would be more players on the injury table if the association does nothing about the hectic football schedule being chalked out. But, it can’t be ignored that other than football schedule and travel between the games, the player's physical maintenance along with mental and emotional health plays a huge role in recovering from injuries. “It is going to be a really challenging time. “There will be a lot of pressure on the medical staff, I’m sure. I think everyone is expecting the workload to go up significantly,” says Andy Renshaw, who spent eight years as a physio with Liverpool. Rehabilitation and injury prevention are his stock-in-trade, so he is ideally placed to offer an insight into the risks players face when transitioning from an unprecedented period of lockdown into a high-intensity, high-stakes return to competitive action. In Germany, the rate of injuries since the Bundesliga restarted on May 16 has been above the norm, while England has already seen the first serious injury since training resumed, with Everton’s Jean-Philippe Gbamin having suffered a ruptured Achilles which will keep him out until at least the start of 2021.
The Achilles injury, in particular, is a source of concern for club medics – and with good reason. A study found there was an “unprecedented number” of Achilles tendon injuries during training camp and pre-season programmes, pointing to an “alarmingly rapid transition” from the end of lockout to the start of the competition. It noted that 12 Achilles injuries requiring surgery had been suffered across the league during training camp and preseason – more than any recorded numbers for Achilles injuries across an entire league season. The study also suggested an increase in the “relative risk of re-injury” following a return to training, with players, despite the best efforts of club medical staff, demonstrating “lingering deficits, that are not self-perceived and limit their potential for safe integration into the full competition.”
Even if the players are ultra-professional, that period where they have not been in the training ground is still going to cause issues. And if they haven’t been as disciplined as they should have been, they will be under enormous risk. Even if they have, there’s still a big, big risk. Normally THE CLUBS would have a pre-season over six weeks and be able to spread the minutes out across the players. But with such a short pre-season, the players need to ramp up the intensity, but any ramp up in intensity is going to risk injury. Players’ bodies are used to tolerating a certain amount of load during a week. A certain amount of distance, accelerations, decelerations, high-speed runs and changes of direction. Also, It is inevitable that muscle and soft-tissue injuries will happen because match fitness has not been replicated in lockdown. We will see novel or innovative ideas from clubs in recovery from matches as smaller teams usually have a week between matches, so we will see a lot of active recoveries rather than high-intensity training sessions before games. Also, The proposed five substitution rule would have massively worked in helping clubs to manage injury situations.
Sadly, it is inevitable that there will be injuries, but these guys are in the best hands. However, the associations controlling football should stop treating players as machines and shall pay heed to club concerns and work something out that could benefit both parties on and off the pitch to keep the excitement and passion of fans in this beautiful game.