MANAGING THE UNPREDICTABLE: THE SEVERITY OF INJURIES IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
The league features world-class players from every continent, demanding the close attention of the football world from August to May.
Like in all other sports leagues, however, be they professional, amateur, or recreational, injuries remain a nagging problem in the Premier League.
To date, there have been 10 ligament injuries this calendar year affecting players from seven different teams. Additionally, nine teams currently have five or more players sidelined due to injury. These cruciate ligament injuries, along with hamstring, groin, quad, calf, hip and knee ailments account for over 50 of the recently reported injuries in the current season.
There are of course, frequent injuries in the game of soccer. The constant change of direction, pace, and frequent cutting, along with the fatigue of intertwined domestic and international play and the infamous physicality of the Premier League impose many opportunities for these muscle and knee injuries, the most common type suffered by players.
Without a doubt, injury prevention can significantly impact a team’s season by curtailing the nasty detriments that accompany injuries. The monetary cost is as abrasive as the injuries themselves; teams spent an estimated 198 million pounds on injured players in 2014-2015, a 2.2 percent increase over the prior season. Teams would much rather pay players to perform on the pitch rather than nurse injuries on the sideline.
Most importantly, however, injuries come at the expense of the team’s performance. In an environment as competitive and scrutinizing as the Premier League, this is a sacrifice no club can live with, much less prosper and succeed. Just last year, Daniel Sturridge missed significant time with Liverpool, who looked to the Englishman to fill the goal-scoring boots of Luis Suarez after his departure to Barcelona.
The 25-year old played in just 12 games and scored only four goals due to recurring hip problems throughout the season. Second place Manchester City surely missed the services of David Silva, as he was out for 42 days while the club chased League Champions Chelsea for most of the season.
In total, no team accrued fewer than 428 days lost to injury (Chelsea), with Newcastle taking the undesired top spot with a staggering 1871 days lost to injury. Manchester United reported 39 distinct injuries throughout the season, with no team reporting fewer than 16, and 14 clubs totaling 22 or more. These figures are devastating and clearly affect every team from Championship contenders to teams in danger of relegation.
The Premier League has acknowledged the role of sport science in curbing the negative effects of injury. It launched the Elite Player Performance Plan three years ago, with injury prevention a key component in the development of domestic players. However, much of the research has focused on assessing the causes of injury, while predictive analysis and identification of risk factors of injury have not yet gained traction in the Premier League.
As such, there is an urgent need for sophisticated and comprehensive injury prevention approaches to address the alarming injury numbers experienced in the Premier League.
“In the US, Major League Soccer (MLS) faces many of these same issues. “Using analytics to predict injuries, it has come down to understanding the interactions of everything. There’s never one cause for injuries,” said Dave Tenney of the popular Seattle Sounders team.
Companies such as Kitman Labs, provide systems to enable teams to gain insights from performance and biometric data that are aimed at giving coaches, trainers and analysts powerful tools with the intent to ultimately increase player availability.
As more and more teams look for ways to reduce injury risk and increase their odds of winning, sport science driven systems like Kitman Labs will become more prevalent. And players can spend more of their time where they belong every weekend: not on the injury list, but instead on the field, where they can continue to dazzle the world.