Boosts and Blows: A Medical Encyclopaedia of Football Injuries


Injuries, real or otherwise, often impact the outcome of football matches. Today on the blog Football Cliches introduces us to his Medical Encyclopaedia of Football Injuries.


Despite the purists' protestations that football is becoming a non-contact sport, the unique anatomy of its finely-tuned athletes is at constant risk of rupture. Accepted as "part and parcel" of the game, the media are just as prepared for players' injuries as the clubs' medical teams.

Injury news in football is delivered in two broad categories. An "injury boost" usually involves a player returning to fitness ahead of schedule or finding that an injury "is not as bad as first feared". Players returning from longer-term lay-offs are "almost like a new signing" for their relieved managers.

On the other hand, an "injury blow" can strike on the eve of a crucial match, throwing preparations into chaos. In our post-Championship Manager era, we simply must know the prognosis of a footballer's injury, accurate to days and weeks. Managers find themselves being asked for timeframes for recovery straight after the matches, but we are urged to wait for the results of the omniscient "scan", on to which everyone involved will be said to "sweat". Intrepid journalists try to jump the gun by reporting that the player in question "left the stadium on crutches".

Minor injuries suffered before important matches can set up a dramatic "race to be fit". Again, the demand for quantifying a player's fitness leads to managers being asked to "rate" as a percentage their ailing star's chances of making the squad. The tantalising 50-50 rating has traditionally sufficed, but when Arsene Wenger recently rated Thomas Vermaelen as "90-10", it raised the immediate (and previously redundant) question about which way round the fitness rating should be interpreted. Gambling on a player's fitness may backfire, with various onlookers using their 20-20 hindsight to declare that he was "patently unfit". Despite advances in injury prevention and treatment, the best measure is still accepted to be wrapping the player up in figurative cotton wool.

The reporting of football injuries has helped to improve our awareness of the human body's less obvious components. Every couple of years, before a major international tournament, the curse of the dreaded metatarsal strikes and newspapers must dust off their helpful diagrams that explain exactly what and where this bone is. However, even after absorbing a couple of decades' worth of football coverage, I still don't know what a hernia is.

Injury Diagnosis

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Niche categories include the "innocuous" injury, usually sustained when there's "no-one within yards" of the victim and often quite serious. Often more amusing is the "freak injury", which has inextricably linked Dave Beasant and salad cream for all eternity and also brought us the well-documented tragicomedy of Chic Brodie and the Career-Ending Dog.

Clashes of heads are mostly "sickening", and the sight of any blood will lead Dr. Co-Commentator to diagnose it as "a nasty one". Games can be "overshadowed" by a "horror injury"; in particular, wins are "marred" and the misery of defeat is "compounded".

Luckless players can be "plagued" by injury during their careers (possibly enough to constitute a "catalogue") and whole clubs can even be defined by their perennial injury crises. Despite going trophy-less since 2005, Arsenal's fragile squad of Vincibles have sat atop the Premier League's injury table for as long as I can remember. Squad-wide injuries tend to come in "spates", which can lead to a "raft" of withdrawals from international duty.

There is a disproportionate fascination with players returning from injury wearing some extra protection. Paul Gascoigne was a trendsetter back in 1993 with his protective mask (always a "protective" mask, lest anyone think he might have been making some sort of fashion statement) and the fixation has continued to the present day with Petr Cech's rugby cap and Wayne Rooney's Storelli Exoshield™.

Injury news struggles to fill the void created by the slamming shut of the transfer window and, no matter how many prayer mats The Sun print or how eye-catching the protective headgear, it lacks the dubious thrill of transfer gossip. In between matches, the reliable conveyor belt of knocks, problems and strains provides grist for the media mill. Injuries are important filler for conjuring up a club crisis.

Title bids can be "derailed" by injury, just as they can be "dented" by an unexpected defeat. Outside of the silly seasons of January and August, footballers' musculoskeletal systems are our bread and butter.



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Tags:  Football , Humour

Adam Hurrey's crusade to analyse, in excruciating depth, the unique language of football.