December 6, 2021

Why are so many footballers getting injured? Fixture congestion & reasons for medical table pile-up

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Injury concerns are nothing new in sport, but lately, it’s like they have been nonstop

Every week, it seems as if a new footballer has been seen limping off the pitch, or there is news about another player having been withdrawn from the squad due to an injury picked up in training.

While some players, such as Virgil van Dijk, have needed surgery due to on-pitch collisions, there have been more and more footballers who have been sidelined due to other injuries.

So what’s been happening with footballers? Goal takes a look.

Why have so many footballers been getting injured recently?

The natural answer is that due to the strange nature of this year’s fixture schedule due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, players have been more overworked than normal, causing their bodies to cramp and strain.

The congested fixture schedule – with its aim to make up for the three months’ worth of lost time in spring – has meant that the players have played more games over a short period of time.

What’s more is that there was no proper pre-season break for the players in the summer, which meant no chance for them to rest ahead of the new season.

As a result, players have had to push their bodies to the extreme to cope with the demanding fixture schedule. Most top-level footballers play multiple tournaments at a time now in quicker succession – domestic league, Champions League/Europa League as well as their domestic cup games – which were seen as plentiful even during a normal, non-Covid-19 year.

The November international break must have felt like a horror movie to club managers who received update after update that more and more of their players had been injured.

Liverpool in particular were hit pretty hard, with Joe Gomez picking up an injury in training with England and out of action for several months, and Jordan Henderson was taken off the pitch at half-time playing for the Three Lions. There was a brief scare regarding Andy Robertson, who picked up a tight hamstring during the Euro 2021 play-offs with Scotland, but he was cleared to play shortly after.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was sidelined for a few weeks after he picked up a calf injury against Manchester City, while Fabinho and Thiago had already been on the treatment plan for quite some time.

For Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos, Casemiro and Karim Benzema rounded up a string of new injuries.

Former Liverpool player Dejan Lovren explained on Twitter that we are seeing more injuries due to the influx of games and a lack of proper recovery time, as well as the fact that there were no pre-season preparations.

That, as well as the added mental fatigue of coping with Covid-19 has also taken its toll. Obviously, with the virus still rampant, the coronavirus poses an additional threat to players’ health. 

Several high-profile European-based players have tested positive for coronavirus, another element to add clubs’ injury concerns.

Football figures have criticised the fact that international matches were still being played amid the pandemic, owing not just to the already demanding fixture schedule, but the fact that international competition would only act as a chance to further spread the virus across the world.

Toni Kroos has criticised FIFA and UEFA’s rigorous schedule, berating their plans to add even more fixtures to the table as he referenced the forming of the new European Super League.

“With the invention of all these new things we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA,” he said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast.

“These competitions are created to suck everything out of every single player physically and to suck out as much money as possible. When certain things work well it is a good idea to leave them that way.”