In 1999/2000 former president of UEFA Nils Lennart Johansson initiated a football injury research project, the aim of the study was to reduce the number and severity of injuries in football, and ultimately improve the safety of players.
Now entering its 16th year, the group, led by Professor Jan Ekstrand (Vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee and professor at Linköping University, Sweden) has studied data from some of Europe’s top clubs spread across 10 countries.
Martin Hagglund, an associate professor and colleague of Professor Ekstrand at Linkoping University and a member of the UEFA Injury study group, is better placed than most to talk about the impact of match congestion and injury rates.
According to Hagglund, increased match congestion, shorter periods of recovery and the added pressure of playing UEFA Champions league football has led to an increase in muscle injuries, especially to the thigh and the hamstring muscle groups.
These muscles, primarily used for high speed running injury, can be injured due to fatigue and playing intensity caused by increasing matching, or shorter time periods between games.
It’s a difficult situation for managers and medical professional to manage. Managers and coaches want to their want best players on the pitch and will often take chances with minor injuries, leading to increased re-injury rates.
At the business end of the season, with the Champions League and domestic leagues entering its final stages, the intensity and pressure are increased with the games even more high profile.
Studies by the group have also revealed that that players playing high intensity and high levels of games 10 to 12 weeks before major tournaments do worse than those that have played less.
Big squads mean that the larger teams are able to manage their squads to a degree and can rotate their players however that same competitive level is not at the smaller clubs so players play more.
Medical professionals tend to normally speak a different language but if they speak using language that coaches and managers understand it helps, using words like decreasing team and players performance help, as does explain how the risk taken with a player can impact the planning and physiological of the team.