What is the most common injury in football?
Is it muscle injuries, ligament and tendon tears, fractures, or head injuries?
We got you covered. In this article, we will be discussing the most common injury in professional football backed by research, relevant anatomy, grades of injury, expected time out, and the cases of Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), N’golo Kante (Chelsea), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG) and Alessandro Florenzi (AC Milan). Let’s get started.
Injuries are a part of sports. Different sport causes different injury mechanisms. For example, if you play cricket you are using your upper limbs more when you are bowling or batting so you are at risk for upper limb injuries. Similarly in football, you have to cover long distances in 90 minutes so you are stressing the lower limbs more. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t pull your hamstrings or twist your ankle while playing cricket or hurt your shoulder or fracture your finger while playing football. The difference is the mechanism and rate at which these injuries occur.
The most common injury in football?
Well, there is no definite answer to this question but if you ask me it has to be the hamstrings. It is said that approximately 22% of all football players sustain a hamstring injury per season. According to research done on the EFL in the 2015/16 season, there were 473 injuries recorded out of which the thighs accounted for 31.7% of all injuries. Muscle strains accounted for 41.2% of injuries out of which the hamstrings were involved in 39.5% of cases and 16.3% of all injuries.
Another research states that sprains of the ankle and knee and strains of the hamstring and groin muscles account for more than 50% of all football injuries which further proves the fact hamstring injuries are among the most common injury in football, if not the most.
Anatomy of the Hamstring muscles
The hamstrings or hams or hammy as people like to call them are situated in the posterior aspect of the thigh. The hamstrings consist of three different muscles namely the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris muscle. The biceps femoris muscle is involved in the majority of hamstring injuries.
According to a study involving 300 football players, 62% of injuries involved the biceps femoris. If we look at the structure of the muscle, the proximal part was most involved accounting for 36% of injuries while distal part injuries accounted for 18%. Injuries to the tendon are rare accounting for only 8% of the total number.
Grade of Hamstring injuries
Hamstring injuries are divided into three grades according to the severity of the injury:
Grade 1 – Micro tears/stretched muscle
Grade 2 – Partial tear of the muscle
Grade 3 – Complete rupture of the muscle
Expected time out of action
For grade 1 strain – Generally, 2-4 weeks
For grade 2 tear – Around 4-6 weeks
For grade 3 tear – Surgical intervention, out for 3 months minimum
NOTE: This is not the same for everyone as the nature of injury and rehabilitation play an important role while recovering from an injury.
Now that we have studied about the basics of a hamstring injury let us look at some cases. As we have mentioned some players in the title like Benzema, Kante, Kimpembe, and Florenzi, all of them have been struggling with hamstring injuries but of different nature.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema went down at the 30th-minute mark against Celtic in the Champions League group stage match. While many initially feared an ACL injury, Real Madrid released a statement confirming the Frenchman injured his semitendinous muscle and an overload in the quadriceps. The timeline given is around 2-3 weeks out, which is suggestive of a Grade 1 strain. Although the biceps femoris muscle is involved more often, injuries to the other muscles do occur.
N’golo Kante (Chelsea)
N’golo Kante has a history of hamstring injuries with the Frenchman suffering from six different hamstring injuries alone since the start of the 2019/20 season. The former Leicester midfielder had to be taken off against Spurs after feeling something in his thigh while making a tackle. Kante was seen holding his lower thigh just above the knee which is indicative of an injury to the distal part of the muscle potentially having some tendon involvement too. Since there hasn’t been any significant update by Chelsea, this remains only speculation for now. Chelsea do have to be pretty careful with Kante when he returns as the fixtures will become more congested as we head further into the season.
Presnel Kimpembe (PSG)
Presnel Kimpembe injured his hamstring in the 1-0 victory against Brest this past weekend. There hasn’t been much update on this but the Frenchman is expected to miss around six weeks which is suggestive of a Grade 2 muscle strain. We will keep an eye on this one with more updates expected over the next week.
Alessandro Florenzi (AC Milan)
Out of all the players mentioned, Alessandro Florenzi has suffered the worst injury and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The Italian full-back was reported to undergo surgery after suffering a severe injury in the biceps femoris of his left hamstring. AC Milan have given a return timeline of five months. The fact that Florenzi was holding his upper hams plus the surgery update does all but confirms a proximal tendon tear of the biceps femoris muscle.
The aim of this article was to let you know how hamstring injuries can differ. Most of the time, clubs vaguely state a hamstring injury but you have to consider a lot of things like which muscle is involved, is there proximal or distal involvement, and if the injury is related to tendon, muscle belly, or myotendinous junction (the place where the muscle and tendon join). We have seen four hamstring injuries but also four different mechanisms of the same injury. To all the France fans sweating over injuries to your key players – don’t worry, all of Benzema, Kante, Pogba, and Kimpembe are expected to return in time for the World Cup.
Every day is a learning day and we hope you learned a thing or two about hamstring injuries today. Don’t forget to follow Injury Season and share with your friends. Thank you!