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Taking a deeper look at Real Madrid’s pre-season injuries

Prevention is not always quite as easy as it sounds 

AS Roma v Real Madrid - Mabel green cup Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The pre-season programme is almost over and the days between now and Real Madrid’s opening fixture of the league campaign at Celta Vigo this Saturday will quickly pass.

In the meantime, criticism of both the team and the management has been harsh and where injuries are concerned nothing seems to have changed in the eyes of many a scribe.

The media were quick to jump on the fact that there have already been several injuries to deal with since the squad returned to training in early July, and as expected the usual questions are being asked of Zinedine Zidane’s fitness team.

Just like his predecessor Antonio Pintus, new fitness coach Grégory Dupont is quickly finding out that whenever injuries begin to stack up it’s generally the fitness people’s fault for not preparing the team properly!

The players are either training too hard, too little or in some cases not at all; and that of course explains why players find themselves on the injury list.

It’s even been pointed out that at one stage of the pre-season period, only two out of five injuries at the time were muscular injuries; a back-handed compliment if ever there was one.

But just like last season, the intonation remains that if the players are getting injured at all then it means that somebody isn’t doing their job right.

There’s been such a big deal made over the number of injuries sustained at Real Madrid in the last few years that in some ways this has almost become something that is now referred to in the media as a matter of course.

We seem to place a great deal of importance on the number of muscle injuries sustained at Real Madrid; yet the stats from FIFA indicate that muscle injuries constitute the highest proportion of injuries sustained at elite club level during an average season (Ueblacker et al., 2015).

There’s been a few injuries picked up this pre-season at Real Madrid. Marco Asensio (ACL & meniscus), Thibaut Courtois (ankle), Ferland Mendy (calf), Brahim Diaz (hamstring) and Luka Jović (severe bruising after a collision).

Thibaut Courtois and Luka Jović are now back in action of course; and with the exception of Marco Asensio who has just undergone ACL surgery, the others won’t be too far behind them in terms of returning to the squad.

It’s obvious that the busy periods like pre-season are always likely to produce more injuries, and this is something that all clubs have to address. It’s not a problem that Real Madrid have the exclusivity on.

Looking at the pre-season injuries, though, it’s difficult to say hand-on-heart that more could have been done to prevent these than the club are already doing.

If we’re talking about injury prevention, then we need to take a look at several aspects of injury data first before making sweeping statements.

First of all we need to know what injuries are being sustained and exactly how they occurred – whether these are through training or playing. We need to know if we are dealing with contact or non-contact injuries, and whether they are new injuries or recurrences of previous injuries.

We also need to look at the structures involved: i.e. whether we are talking about injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves or bones etc., and link these to the relevant medical histories for the players.

Nacho Fernández, for example, is Type 1 diabetic; and therefore needs a specific approach to injury management that is different to the rest of the players in the squad.

The bottom line is that the statistics will give a good indication of the incidence, severity and nature of injuries and help to provide a clear picture about a club’s injury record.

We also need to look at the stages of the football calendar to see when the majority of injuries are occurring.

There seems to be a general acceptance in football that players are going to miss part of the pre-season programme with injuries; but in some cases you find that injuries can be carried over from the previous term.

Others might not have been fully addressed (or even reported) before the players break up for the summer.

It’s also worth mentioning that the management aren’t always able to ‘police’ the squad in their leisure breaks to keep an eye on how the players are using their down-time!

By all accounts, Grégory Dupont is a stats-driven professional. He’ll be looking at Real Madrid’s injuries since he came to the Bernabéu in the summer and linking this in with Zinedine Zidane’s approach to training and fitness.

As we know, the coach favours high-intensity training akin to match play and for sure Grégory will be looking at (although not confined to) the number of muscle injuries sustained but there’s a lot more to it than that.

With Zidane favouring a rotational system then the general number of injuries versus matches played ratio might not always be completely true; so we need to dig a bit deeper to get an accurate picture.

If fringe players are used a lot in pre-season games, cup matches and in the early stages of the Champions League for example, then simply matching the number of injuries with games played won’t add up correctly; and of course injuries received in training need to be excluded anyway.

The close season (such that it is) is a great time for player profiling and assessing what type of injuries different players in the squad appear susceptible to; and trying to find the reasons why this might be so.

Analysing the injuries is a major part of injury prevention; but the question is always whether clubs are physically able to prevent injuries at all; or if the true focus is actually on minimising the risks as opposed to delivering prevention outright.

If it’s the latter then maybe we need to rethink the terminology used in order to reflect that.


Ueblacker P, Mueller-Wohlfahrt, Ekstrand J (2015). Epidemiological and clinical outcome comparison of indirect (strain) versus direct (contusion) anterior and posterior thigh muscle injuries in elite male football players: UEFA Elite League study of 2287 thigh injuries (2001 – 2013). British Journal of Sports Medicine. Bjsports - 2014-094285 Published Online First: 9 March 2015.

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