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Knee injury surge cause for concern in football

After a host of international players picked up serious knee injuries over recent weeks, Dubsports considers whether football needs to be doing more to protect its stars.

Over the last month, Chelsea pair Wesley Fofana and Christopher Nkunku, Real Madrid defensive duo Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao, Aston Villa playmaker Emi Buendia, and new Arsenal signing Jurrien Timber have all sustained serious knee injuries which will likely curtail the majority of their respective seasons.

Injuries have always played a big role in football, and will continue to plague the game regardless of medical advancements.

However, such a large spate of serious knee injuries occurring before the football season has even started is an alarming event which requires deeper analysis.

Increased amount of matches
FIFPro President, Jonas Baer Hoffman. Image credit: FIFPro

A report released by FIFPro in 2021 claimed that 70-80% of men at the elite level spent their playing time in a two-game-a-week rhythm. The report went on to state that individuals playing two matches a week are far more likely to pick up an injury.

It is therefore no surprise to see a large amount of internationally capped players, playing for clubs with European pedigree falling victim to such injuries more often.

At the time of the report, FIFPro general secretary, Jonas Baer Hoffmann said: “The data shows we must release pressure on players at the top end of the game, we need regulation and enforcement mechanisms to protect players.

“These are the type of solutions that must be at the top of the agenda whenever we discuss the development of the match calendar. It’s time to make player health and performance a priority.”

Despite Hoffman’s pleas, football has added more matches to it’s calendar. UEFA have introduced an extra competition, in the form of the UEFA Conference League, and are set to revamp the UEFA Champions League from the 2024/25 campaign to include four more teams and increase the amount of matches from 129 to 185.

FIFA have also expanded the World Cup and Club World Cup to include more teams and matches to further cluster an already busy schedule.

if football’s largest governing bodies are opting to ignore calls for more player welfare by increasing the footballing schedule then more serious injuries are likely to persist.

Issues in Women’s game
Arsenal and England Captain, Leah Williamson, rupturing her ACL against Manchester United in April. Image credit: Sky Sports

Beyond the rising problems with scheduling in the men’s game, women’s football is going through an even worse epidemic of serious knee injuries.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are causing a particular problem, with roughly 1/3 of game time missed due to injury in the UK, are caused by ACL issues.

England Captain Leah Williamson, and player of Euro 2022 Beth Mead, have both missed the Lionesses World Cup campaign due to ACL injuries, with around 25 other women missing from various World Cup squads due to this issue.

Female footballers are up to eight times more likely to suffer from an ACL injury compared to their male counterparts, whilst it also takes longer for them to recover from any problem too.

The Women’s football calendar is smaller than the men’s which means an overload of fixtures is not as likely a prominent cause for knee injuries.

However the increasing problem of knee injuries in women’s football needs to be solved soon, as the game is being deprived of some of it’s biggest stars far too often.

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