Why the Premier League has been hit by an injury crisis

For Exepose, I take a look at why the Premier League has been hit by an injury crisis.

Premier League teams boast impressive medical resources: team doctors, physiotherapists, physical trainers, nutrition experts and state-of-the-art equipment.

Stoke City’s Shaqiri exemplified this by saying that whilst at Inter Milan he was sent to a “miraculous healer who lived in the mountains”, whereas at The Britannia, “there are seven physiotherapists, who will examine me every day”.

Yet, injuries still remain a serious problem in Europe’s top league.

Manchester City have suffered a total of 35 injuries this season, whilst title rivals Leicester City have one of the lowest figures in the league with 11. Why such disparity? Why so many injuries?

The disparity can, perhaps, be explained by City’s heavy schedule; competing in the Champions League will have, inevitably, had an impact on their players. Indeed, fellow Champions League competitors, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are all within the top band for total injuries. However, this still doesn’t explain why, in an age of progressive sport-science related technology, there are so many injuries. Sunderland and Newcastle, despite the fact they share a similar fixture list with a Swansea side who have only had six injuries this term, also find themselves in the top band.

Rather than delving into the complex world of statistical comparisons between teams, I will seek to offer an explanation as to why, generally, Premier League teams experience such a high volume of injuries.

Match-day 

Being a Premier League footballer means one is required to eat healthily, especially on match-day. Players are expected to attend team meals, meticulously chosen by nutrition experts.

Okay, so you have taken on board sufficient carbohydrates. You’re ready for the game.

Around forty-five minutes prior to kick-off you’re led out by coaches to warm-up. You treat this with contempt, refrain from deep and strenuous stretching, disregarding the words of the coaches. Andrea Pirlo’s words circulate and dictate your actions: “it’s nothing but masturbation for conditioning coaches.” However, you aren’t Pirlo. The Italian magician is an exception to the rule. Twenty minutes into the game and you’re heading for the shower with a tight groin.  

Having watched a myriad of live football matches, I can testify that players do not stretch properly.  This is one of the reasons as to why players will pull up within the first 25 minutes of a game with a hamstring, or muscle injury. Regardless of how much one has stretched in the week, warming muscles up and ensuring blood flow prior to a game are essential. A little more commitment on this front would prevent a large number of injuries.

Training

Players, during the week, are either training or at the gym. A part of me believes that this intensity, with little reprieve, also contributes to injury. Managers choose to employ different methods of training; LVG’s vigorous regime has been well documented, as has Klopp’s – is it a surprise then, that Manchester United have had the second most injuries this season, and that Liverpool are currently in the midst of a hamstring crisis?

Granted, it is important to transfer your philosophy onto the players, and the best way to do so is through training: training is irrevocably crucial to any team’s success. However, I feel if managers chose to lessen the vigour in training, then they would not have to face so many issues surrounding injury.

Intensity of league

The Premier League is unique; no other league across Europe has the same level of competitiveness. To use the footballing platitude, anyone can beat anyone. This means that there can be no ‘slacking’; a minimum level of intensity is required in every game, a minimum level that is starkly higher than in the likes of the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1.

Fans of the league praise its competitiveness, but it is one of the reasons as to why their disappointed when one of their team’s key players faces a spell on the side-lines. It is without repute that players are the victims of their league; the sheer number of sprints, tackles and jumps mean it is virtually impossible to play 38 games in one season, whilst performing at a desired level, without sustaining an injury. Unless, of course, you’re a goalkeeper.

No winter break

The debate over a winter break has long been disputed; a manager’s comment or a pundit’s opinion is enough to revive this perennial proposition. Personally, I do not agree with the principle of a winter break: the Christmas schedule is rooted in the tradition of English football, and in a world where history and tradition appear to be losing its value, it is important we hang onto this one.

That is not to say, however, that it isn’t an influence on injuries in the Premier League. If players were given the opportunity to rest, then their body would have sufficient time to shake off little niggles that would have been aggravated and manifested into something worse, if they had played with them. Indeed, a ten day reprieve would be immensely beneficial to players – their bodies would be able to recover, allowing them to come back fresher.

I am not proposing a winter break, but perhaps a break somewhere during the season would be shrewd. The end of January, or start of February, maybe.

I am sure there are a multitude of other factors that contribute to the high volume of injuries in the league, but the aforementioned reasons certainly have an impact.

There’s a whole field of science, and statistics that one can explore, but this article is rooted in common-sense, and empirical evidence. With serious, carefully monitored warm-ups, relaxed and less strenuous training sessions and a break, the league would benefit from a reduction in injuries.

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