Football forgets the injured.
Just how adversities, sorrow and setbacks are part of life, injuries are a depressing and rather sad element in football that can have various impacts on a player’s career. They play a massive role in football as player availability is very crucial especially for big clubs in their big games. Mohammad Salah was substituted in the Champions league final of the 17/18 season at the 29th minute after indulging in a challenge with the notorious Sergio Ramos. Salah suffered a shoulder injury which provoked a substitution leaving Liverpool handicapped without their best player and top scorer. Injuries shape games in certain ways and a team’s success over competitions along with their pursuit for silverware can be hampered by it.
Injuries also impact a player mentally and this is probably the most important factor that needs to be highlighted. The process is slow and it could be agitating as players need to rest, recover and then regain their fitness. Most players also need to re-earn their place in the first team XI after missing out due to a long term injury, such has happened to Eden Hazard. Not to mention that players struggle to re-find their form and Hazard himself is the prime example. Of course they are tactical reasons as well but a long term injury can cater a player’s output on the field. We will also discuss career threatening injuries and how Erling Haaland’s father Alf-Inge Haaland went through after Roy Keane’s infamous revenge. In some cases injuries are absolutely serious as football is a heavy contact sport where players are willing to put their bodies on the line because they believe in the cause. Many times these knocks can get serious as we saw a few months back when Raul Jimenez suffered a skull fracture after a voracious challenge from David Luiz, the former was not conscious for minutes.
Why do injuries happen in football?
Injuries are a part of life and just so it happens football is a contact sport which requires physical dedication and a lot of high intensity work on and off the ground. There is a common theme we have seen in football that the rate of injuries is high only second when compared to other sports with Basketball with the first rank in this regard. So what is the science behind injuries in football? Well for starters the harsh contact for 90 minutes straight is not a factor to be ignored and when we combine that with the ferocious intensity workout on the field and in training your body might get burnout and get tired of it. After surpassing your own physical limits one could possibly suffer pulls or serious muscular injuries that take time to heal. The football field is nearly 100+ meters and research proves that the average premier league player runs 10.5 kilometers per 90 minutes which is a ridiculous amount. Not to mention the routine of the distance covered with going up and down the field, jogging and then suddenly sprinting, nonstop running with less intervals and this would usually lead a player to injury once the body limitations have been broken.
Another very important point to highlight in regards to the modern game is the fixture load. Yes, these are professional players with magical fitness and endurance but at the end of the day they’re humans whom are overworking themselves. Especially with life in Covid the dismantling of fixture routine has really distorted progress and caused multiple injuries since the emergence of the pandemic. Taking an example of player in the premier league playing at the highest level for one of the top clubs which are adamant to do well and succeed in all competitions often crumble under the never ending fixtures. From the EFL Cup to the FA Cup, Premier league and the Champions Leagues these are 4 different fixtures that can possibly compromise up to more than 60 fixtures which means 5400 minutes of football. Harry Maguire, the captain of Manchester United has only missed two games in his entire career for Manchester United playing 103 out of a possible 105. This specifies that they are also some players who are incredibly fit and possess supernatural like physical characteristics. Harry is a great example because out of the 2 games he has missed, 1 was due to injury/rest.
This season Harry Maguire ranks at 11th for most games played all over the world with a total of 4786' minutes and 54 games played.
How do injuries effect a team and their performance?
As mentioned before that injuries make a huge impact over a team and their schedule. Earlier we gave the example of Mohammad Salah and how his injury possibly cost Liverpool a Champions league trophy. The truth is that injuries are demonic and can shapeshift a team’s season in very negative ways. The best recent example of this would be Liverpool itself this year in 20/21. The current Premier League champions and recent Champions league winners were one of the best teams in the world, arguably the best but the problem started this season when injuries started flowing in out of nowhere. Their main player and arguably the best centre back in the world Virgil Van Djik suffered a Ruptured cruciate ligament and his nonavailability effected his team massively but then things got worse for Liverpool with their main players all falling apart one by one. Joe Gomez, Liverpool’s 2nd starting centre back also suffered a very serious knee injury which was an undesirable situation considering that their 3rd choice Joel Matip already had a long list of injuries and has never proven to be reliable for multiple courses of games. This chaotic situation prompted Liverpool to experiment various solutions to the problem at hand after which we saw Fabinho quite a lot playing CB which was not a problem considering his versatility and ability to play 3 to 4 positions. Things began to look worse when even Fabinho had to be sidelined because of injuries and Klopp had to look towards the academy and promoted Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips. Not only that but we also saw Jordan Henderson the club captain play centre back on many occasions.
Unfortunately but as expected these solutions did not work very well and Liverpool had to invest in two new Centre backs in the January transfer window where they signed Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies. To conclude the injuries to the main centre backs forced Liverpool to look towards their midfield to become versatile in different positions after which the situation worsened and they began looking towards the academy. When the academy youngsters proved to be experienced they signed two Centre Backs in the window which highlights how injuries can shape team performances at such a large scale. Liverpool, the defending champions are now 6th in the league table with the most goals conceded of all the teams present in the top 6 except for West Ham.
Mental impact of injuries on players
As mentioned before in this piece that injuries can leave a devastating impact on players and can affect them mentality resulting in a performance decline and lack of focus. There are certain stages in an injury in football and to define them in simple words, it all starts with recovering and then comes toward regaining and finally ends on rebirth. The first part consists of the healing process where you use rest yourself and use common techniques such as hydrotherapy, stretching, compression etc. The second stage involves regaining where a player restarts to work on the ball, tries to regain his technical ability and his fitness through on and off ball endurance work and the last stage is where the player is officially back. This may sound simple but in reality the level is complex. Most of it is dependant over the measure of the injury and how worse it is but one way or another injuries can haunt players horrifically. The mental factor is something under looked in football and many times your injury can prove to be disastrous, combining that with the pressure from fans and the social media the entire scenario turns unpleasant for the player. Let us take an example of Ronaldo Nazario who is one of the greatest football players we have ever seen. It is a common known fact that Ronaldo did not peak because of his injury problems and the mental factor came into play several times especially during the 2002 world cup where Ronaldo adopted that infamous haircut. As it turns out that haircut was a distraction to give the media and the fans something to talk about Ronaldo other than his injuries. In his words the Brazilian stated “I come to training and everybody saw me with bad hair”
"Everybody was talking about the hair and forgot about the injury. I could stay more calm and relaxed and focused on my training.
I'm not proud about the hair itself because it was pretty strange. But it was a good way to change the subject”
This is the sad reality of how psychologically congested football players become after suffering serious injuries with the media fulminating over them.
Another sad example is of Phil Jones who was signed by Manchester United in the 2011-12 season. Sir Alex was a huge fan of him with him stating in an interview that “He could be our best player ever” Unfortunately it did not work out for Phil and his injuries were rather frightening. He has stayed 500+ days out of injuries for the 10 years he has been at Old Trafford and he describes the repeated occurrence as horrible. Phil Jones completed a decade at the club this year in 2021 which earned him a chance for a testimonial. When offered the chance Jones rejected the idea and said that no one would come except for his own parents. This statement itself is full of misery which gives us an image of the horrors injuries could bring. Phil Jones is obviously no longer liked among the MUFC fan base with memes circulating worldwide on social media and in today’s age the players read almost everything. His lack of fondness among the fan base affected him mentally at to a huge extent to the point where the player rejected the chance of a testimonial
Long term impact of injuries
In some cases injuries can have a devastating long term impact on the players and can change the way they have to play the game. These cases can limit the years a specific player has and also limit his gameplay leading him to compromise on his style. In the past we have seen many examples of how these players have dealt with these career threatening injuries with some players not being able to contain while some other manage to survive and live through while having a good career. We will now discuss the impact of some long term or career threatening injuries by taking the example of the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo suffered a very career threatening and serious injury in early 2014 but we don’t hear a lot about it because he managed to contain the news and also recovered nicely preventing it from worsening. Not to mention Ronaldo and his mentally antics never stopped him going hard so there was not much a difference witnessed among his performances post injury but lets get into detail. The injury Ronaldo was diagnosed with is called tendinosis which is nearly incurable and has a history of getting worse with time. The injury effects the tendon area of the knee after several micro tears due to the voracious overuse of the knee. Healing 100% is nearly impossible and the process is very agitating and hectic. It is one of the worse injuries one that get and the mental affect is unimaginable. This injury prompted Ronaldo to work on the very same part 6 hours a day however an 8 month rest was necessary as it is the basic requirement of the healing process but it is not acceptable in the eyes of Cristiano especially considering that the world cup was near and Ronaldo as the captain could most definitely not miss it.
A researcher on twitter dug deep into this matter and figured out that Ronaldo had to adapt to this injury and as mentioned before in this piece that at times players will have to change their gameplay and style which is what Ronaldo exactly did. As a result he started scoring way less free-kicks because the knuckle ball ability requires impressive power and support from the knee so the Portuguese adapted to that as well. The impressive part was however the decrease in solo goals and dribbles completed but at the same time Cristiano had developed supreme heading prowess.
Ronaldo was forced off in the early minutes of the first half at the Euro 2016 championship due to a clash with Dimitri Payet and unfortunately it was on his same knee and that is when his decline started to become serious.
Martin Odegaard currently loaned to Arsenal by Real Madrid suffered a similar injury at his time at Real Sociedad named patellar tendinopathy where his knee came under the same effects which forced him to seek a specialist at Barcelona and had to rest for several months. The Norwegian is still in the early days of his career and we hope that his knee does not bother him in the future.
Injuries that end careers
Some injuries are extremely frightful that they end up tarnishing football careers forever. Football is a vigorously intense and physical game full of emotions and craze. Sometimes the emotion can prove to be rather harmful leading to career ending injuries. For that let us explore the famous incident between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland. Roy and Haaland once met where Keane ruptured his ACL and went down in the box but Haaland did not buy it and ended up mocking in his face. To no one’s surprise Roy Keane got back at him 4 years later with a devastating challenge on his knee which brought an end to Haaland’s career a few weeks later where had injury concerns in both his knees.