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Were there More Injuries During the Festive Period this Season?

There’s been much discussion as to the merits, or lack thereof, of a potential winter break in the Premier League in recent years.

And with the news that Richard Scudamore and co. are seriously considering introducing such a break once the i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed on the new broadcasting rights deals, debate has and will continue to rage.

In a statement in early-February, the league’s governing body said: “The Premier League has been in discussions with the FA and EFL for several months regarding the challenges of the increasingly congested English football calendar and ways in which we can work together to ease fixture congestion while also giving players a mid-season break.

“Provided space can be found in the calendar, we are open to this in principle and will continue constructive discussions with our football stakeholders to seek a workable solution.”

Here at PhysioRoom we’ve done our own research on the subject in the past, as well as spoke to those in the know, and the results have been mixed, with no consensus seemingly ever on the horizon.

That’s why we’ve decided to trickle some more information in to the discourse by taking a look at our database to see what the injury figures looked like from this season so far.

And without further pomp, here’s what we found:

  • From August 1 up until December 22, the number of injuries suffered was 267, with 116 of those ruling the player out for 14 days or more.
  • While from December 23 up until January 31, the number of injuries suffered was 113, with 59 of those ruling the player out for 14 days or more.

On the surface, these numbers may appear somewhat normal. The former period is much shorter than the latter, and it makes sense that there’d be significantly less injuries, nothing to see here.

But consider that the latter figure is over a mere span of just 39 days compared to the former period of 144 days, and our interest is piqued.

 

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was injured in late December – Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

 

If we ‘do the sums’, the period of December 23 – January 31 has an average injury rate of 2.9 injuries per day(ipd), compared to that of 1.9 ipd from August 1 to December 22.

Of course, when bearing in mind these figures we must take in to account cumulative fatigue. Surely players will become progressively more injury prone as the season goes on?

Not so, according to our historical data, which says there isn’t a continuous rise in injuries throughout the campaign.

In 2016/17, only April, when the season hits crunch time, had more injuries than January, with various peaks and troughs, before and in between the two months.

This would seem to indicate that the sheer number of games in these heavy periods leads to more injuries, rather than a continuous rise to a peak towards the end of the season.

But there are other statistics that somewhat conflict with the theory that players are more fatigued over late December and January.

Indeed, earlier this year, Opta(via the BBC) released stats that showed players generally perform at a higher intensity during the festive period (23 Dec – 31 Jan), both in terms of ground covered and average number of sprints per game.

For example, the 2016/17 season saw 523.6 sprints per game across the league during this time, compared to 511.7 during the rest of the season.

The stats also show that in the last three seasons performance in terms of goals and shots don’t suffer at Christmas, with the average number of goals per match (2.7) being identical to any other time.

While shots per game (25.5 during the festive period 25.8 during the rest of the season) also seem to fortify the notion that there is no real difference.

So what exactly is going on?

One may argue that there is a chicken and the egg situation developing, in that players naturally and subconsciously up the intensity during the festive period, which leads to more fatigue and more injuries, rather than it being down to number of matches played alone.

This would echo a recent interview we performed with former physio of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, David Wales, who suggested that it’s not as simple as implementing a break, and it’s in the preparation where the failings, in the form of injuries, come, rather than the sheer amount of football.

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, at least some sort of post-Christmas break now looks inevitable, and with it a continued debate.

 

 

For all your English Premier League injury news, check out our up to date Injury Table, where you’ll find info like injury types and expected return dates, all at the click of a button!