Football Injuries At The World Cup 2014 – The Most Dangerous Football Tournament Ever?

On Thursday 12th June at 9pm the world is set to go football crazy as the FIFA World Cup 2014 kicks off.

I’m not usually much of a football fan, but the World Cup is different. There’s a feeling of hope, and national identity that surrounds it like no other tournament, and whether you like it or not, this is going to be the most watched event ever (last World Cup was watched by 17.9 million Britons) and is likely to break all records this year as digital media records every angle, thought, and opinion.

Given the global stage the World Cup is being played on, it’s no wonder that the players push themselves harder than ever, and in the process get themselves injured. In fact the FIFA World Cup is the competition with the highest incidence of ‘time-loss’ football injuries (defined as injuries that require players to take time off), at a rate of 2.6 per match.

As with amateur footballers the majority of the football injuries affect the lower extremity (70%) especially the ankle (19%), and lower leg (16%). The head and neck are also vulnerable particularly as the players jump to impressive heights to head the ball and account for 15% of the total tally. The most common types of injury are likely to be strains and sprains accounting for 55% of most professional footballers’ injuries.

Unsurprisingly the majority of these injuries occur on contact with other players (approx.80%) almost half of which were deemed foul-play, which begs the question can the referee’s do more?

Football Injuries - Michael Owen injured

Michael Owen after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament

One of the best ways to avoid football injuries during the world cup is to go there fit, and there are several key players waiting to get the all clear from their fitness tests. This usually involves creating a series of controlled test scenarios designed to make sure players are ready for the intensity of match play. One such player is Luis Suarez (Uruguay) who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn cartilage (meniscus) in his knee. The chances are that within 3 weeks he’ll be back training, and he’ll be available for the first match.

I treated a player at Clitheroe Football Club with a similar injury. After his return from surgery we rehabilitated him by getting him mobile as fast as possible, and grading his return back into activity carefully. He managed to play competitively in less than 4 weeks post-op.

The good news for the English football team is that they’ll have an osteopath with them, as Carl Todd will be travelling with them again this year, to help give their sports medical team with an osteopathic perspective on the players and their football injuries.

One key member of the team, Steven Gerrard has been using osteopaths for many years, and has been quoted as saying his career was transformed by an osteopath who managed to get him pain free.

This may be because of the unique way we look at the body, incorporating a biomechanical model with key therapeutic principles. This makes our treatment patient specific and more relevant.

I’ve worked for a semi-professional football team for 2 years, and found that often as osteopaths we’re particularly useful pre-injury (looking for areas of potential physical weakness) and post-injury (helping rehabilitate players back to full fitness) looking beyond the site of injury.

In a game that penalizes players so heavily for genuine fouls, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of diving and amateur dramatics, however the referee’s may have no choice if they’re to keep the injury count down. That having been said even they’re not invincible, with one bookmakers offering odds of 8-1 that a referee will get injured at some point and need to be replaced by the 4th official – happy watching!


If you’d like to have an appointment with James Ruddick – previous osteopath to Wharfdale Rugby Club, and Clitheroe FC, previous OSCA (Osteopathic Sports Care Association) committee member, and sports scientist – please ring the clinic’s friendly reception team on 01865 558561.
by James Ruddick

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