Whether played professionally or not, many sports games can become quite dangerous and football is no exception to this. There are several serious cases where players have either clashed into each other or inadvertently injured themselves whilst playing, whether that be: a broken rib, a fractured arm or a dislocated knee, the list is endless. We’re not trying to give your mother more reasons for her to continue nagging you about being careful when playing games with your friends, but statistically we can tell you she has a point.
There is a phenomenon in psychology called ‘optimistic bias’, where you believe that the chances of something bad happening to you is lower than anyone else around you. In turn, this bias is something which, not a few, but nearly every footballer has before playing a match. The possibilities of something bad happening to you physically are hardly ever considered when you go to defend a corner or whether you’re trying to save a ball from escaping the side line; when engrossed in a competitive and physically invigorating game such as football, a second thought is rarely given and you simply go for it.
Petr Cech after his clash in 2006.
The issue here is that there is no contemplation at all about the aftermath of an event. Look at Petr Cech. Who would have thought that his clash with Stephen Hunt in 2006 would have fractured his skull and forced him to wear a helmet when playing for the rest of his career? Something which was arguably said by many to be the least distressing scenario he had to face, as of course, he could have died.
How prevalent are the chances of sustaining an injury?
Astrid Junge and Jiri Dvorak wrote an outstanding paper in 2004 about football injuries. They are indeed pioneers on the subject, and after gathering a wide sample of football players in their essay, they concluded that on average a professional footballer may sustain an injury once a year. This isn’t encouraging at all, as the performance of world class players is threatened by an injury that may possibly have life-changing consequences not only to their physical health but also, their entire career.
It is true that this doesn’t occur to everyone and not every player gets injured every season. Besides, more than 90% of most injuries in football are considered minor (an injury that oscillates from 1 to 7 days), as ‘Camilla Inteligente’ have stated in a report.
We hope that after you read that last two paragraphs you’ve started thinking about the likelihood of footballers that have managed to play the sport without any impediment throughout their careers. If you are an avid football fan, many names may come mind such as: Dirk Kuyt, Timmy Simmons, Robert Lewandowski or even Luis Suarez. All of them have challenged the theory established by Junge and Dvorak, right? They have barely dealt with significant injuries through their careers.
However, in contrast to these lucky players, there is a footballer that most of us know and love to be just the kind of man we want to see playing every weekend. His name is Marco Reus.
He started playing in 2009 playing for Borussia Monchengladbach, and since that day, that young blonde kid started showing how to combine speed, dribbling and finishing in the Bundesliga. In 2012 he was transferred to Borussia Dortmund for 17.1 million pounds, where expectations for him succeeding were pretty high. Marco started playing beautifully along Lewandowski and Gotze, and the team were doing more than fine in Germany and Europe. Then, the injuries started.
According to Transfermarkt, Marco Reus has had 15 injuries since the start of the 2015/16 season. Alongside those injuries, he managed to tear his cruciate ligament and further experienced severe inflammation in his pubic bone joint, which left him out for 220 and 175 days respectively. We’re talking about more than a year out of the field for only 2 of his injuries, bearing in mind he’s had 15.
Marco Reus in 2016 after suffering an injury.
How is a player with such a level of talent supposed to demonstrate his skill if he cannot play on a continuous basis due to his injuries? Marco Reus once said: “I’d give away all my money to stay healthy again”. We can’t be sure he meant it, but by the passion he has shown and the amount of injuries he sustained, it is truly difficult to doubt it. We just hope you have the World Cup performance you dreamt of having in Brazil.
Besides the German Player, we’ve seen others fall repeatedly along the same path. For example, Arjen Robben has experienced 22 different injuries during his career, according to Bleacher Report. Abou Diaby, one of the many promising Arsenal players, sustained 11 injuries within 3 years. Last but not least, we have Cesc Fabregas, the former Barcelona player who is now a ‘blues’ and has suffered 14 different injuries this last decade. The situations recently mentioned leave us wondering “what could have been” if these players had not received these injuries?
The worst tackle is when you tackle yourself
It is a normal thing to think that most injuries come from clashes between players or aggressive tackling from the opponent. Well, that is incorrect. According to Arnason, Gudmundsson and Dahl, who wrote an academic paper in 1996, the biggest amount of injuries in football come from trauma, where muscle overuse leads to strains or in some cases more delicate injuries. So, remember that the only person that can injure you more than a two-meter centre-back is yourself.
Ryan Giggs ready to enter and play as a player-coach in 2013. He was the first player to do it since 1927.
This leads us to the following point: don’t underestimate your elders. Naturally, we would conclude that if most football-related injuries come from muscle overuse, then surely it must be the older members of a team who are more likely to receive an injury? Think again. Peterson, Junge and Chomiak, in an essay revealed an astounding fact that younger players are more likely to get injured more so than the veterans. In which, this information could be used to argue how some players may go on to flourish in their careers year after year for quite some time, such is the case of Ryan Giggs, who essentially immortalised himself to play and coach Manchester United at 40 years of age.
With this matter aside however, we can deduce that long years of experience correlate with learning from mistakes and, since the majority of injuries occur without the need of foul play (occurring mainly due to a poor warm-up, inefficient training or an involuntary mistake in terms of footwork), the inexperienced will gain injuries more frequently.
The fallen ones
This is the hardest part to write. Sadly, not everything in football is an injury that can eventually heal. As the number of footballers have been increasing exponentially through the years, the number of deaths in the ‘beautiful game’ have as well. To explain, besides the increase of the playing population, we are living in a generation where football is more demanding than ever before, competition is at its finest and football players constantly push themselves to the very limit on a daily basis.
Cheick Tioté passed away because of a stroke he had whilst training with Beijing BG. Bruno Isaías Cañete died after receiving a ball to the stomach whilst playing a match with his team Sport Colombia. Joel Lobanzo died from a cardiac failure during a training session of the Royal Antwerp team. Strangely enough, what these tragic events also have in common is that they all occurred in 2017.
Tribute made by the Fiorentina fans to Davide Astori, a player who died on March 4th of 2018.
Alas, there is only so much that can be done to prevent such tragic injuries and deaths. As I mentioned at the start of this discussion, most sport-related activities (notably those which are competitive like football) can be physically demanding and often have very dangerous and even fatal circumstances. Per Olov Enquist, a famous Swedish writer, said one time: “Once we should die. But all other days we should be alive”. May all these individuals rest in peace, because besides footballers they were someone’s friend or family member as well. We must also believe in the fact that they died whilst doing something they loved. They played and felt the sport, gave it all on the field and achieved the professional level that the majority just dream about.
It’s a bit risky
Injuries may come or go, as it is inevitable to prevent many circumstances that end up ruining footballer’s careers. Fortunately, much of these injuries can be avoided, as they occur due to bad preparation or incorrect movements. For that reason, the ‘cup’ should be seen half full, not half empty.
On a deeper topic, many losses in talented footballers have been unpreventable. Football players have been taken from us without notice and there was nothing to be done. But (as there is always a but with these matters), there is a significant number of cases that could have been foreseen. As a solution, more prevention and more tracking which specifically includes a deeper check in players medical records needs to take place.
The lesson of this whole article is that football itself is not harmless. Without caution and the correct training, it can produce more than one or two injuries. Now, despite all this, the feeling when you play can’t be compared at all. The adrenaline of a challenge, the aerial duels or scoring a penalty at the last minute. For that feeling, despite knowing that football has all these risks you will be excited to play a game of football, regardless of whether you are in top form or playing with a swollen ankle. For it is that same passion which has perhaps led you to reading this article, right?