The plague of serious injuries continues to increase in football. The latest to join the list: Neymar. Is it time to stop and think about the damage, exhaustion and pressure on footballers these days? Absolutely, yes.
According to a FIFPRO report a couple of years ago, the number of consecutive matches in elite men’s and professional football has increased in the last three years, with some players spending 70-80% of their playing time at a rate of at least two matches per week.
To this must be added the large amount of travel and kilometres they have to cover due to international commitments, continental competitions and national tournaments.
The famous ‘FIFA virus’, national Super Cups moved to Arab countries, World Cups and continental Cups held in different countries at the same time, midweek matchdays and much more. The little rest time, the media pressure they are under, the high pace of play they are subjected to, etc. These are all factors that contribute to the fact that more and more elite stars are being held back by increasingly serious injuries.
Fanaticism in football increases over the years. More fans, more media involvement and therefore more criticism and pressure to perform. Of course, footballers have to give 200% in every training session or match, because of the huge mass of people and money they move.
But there is a limit to everything. A limit that is being exceeded more and more frequently and that, with the plans for World Cups and competitions that speak of an even greater number of matches, will continue to be exceeded. A limit that the players’ physique isn‘t being able to withstand.
The most common injuries in the world of football are: muscle ruptures, pubalgia, sprains and the most serious, ruptured Achilles heel and cruciate ligament, which force footballers to stop for practically an entire season.
There is a long list of players who, with just a few months of competitions into the new season, have suffered serious injuries. Courtois, Militão, Timber, Nkunku, De Bruyne, Giuliano Simeone, David Silva (which led to his retirement), Alberto Marí, Wesley Fofana, Emiliano Buendía, Luis Javier Suárez, Lemar, Bartra, Aidoo, Toni Villa, Perisic, Bentancur, Nuno Mendes, Tammy Abraham, etc. And the most recent and most talked about, Neymar Jr.
“People are falling. And they keep falling and they will keep falling. Because ‘show must go on’. And if Courtois isn’t here, there will be another one, and if Militão isn’t here, there will be another one, or Kevin, there will be another one. Because you finish the Champions League and then you have two weeks with the national teams and then next year the Club World Cup in the United States with 37 teams. It’s too much, adapting, throwing, training too little and energy in the matches. This is a losing battle until the players stand up and say ‘we don’t play’. And now they are playing more minutes, 110 or 112. They are looking for quantity and not quality”. This is what Pep Guardiola said a few months ago, with all the reason in the world.
Where does the solution lie? Surely, it isn’t so simple, due to the large number of commercial and television agreements, etc. Perhaps it involves continuing to provide spectators with a spectacle, but looking after the health of the footballers. To continue with the business, but for the institutions to listen to the clubs, coaches and players. It is their responsibility to collaborate to manage this burden of travel and matches.
Injuries will always coexist with football and sport, there is no doubt about that. The first step is to stop being a society that applauds selfishness and self-centredness. Analyse all points of view and try to find a win-win balance. Stop ‘crossing’ the line, because in abuse, nothing brings benefit.
Translated by Marcos Rodríguez.
Main image: Edit Marta Calle.