The signs are there already that the return of La Liga (however rushed) is going to bring a fresh set of injuries.
It’s already happening. Several clubs across La Liga have reported training injuries in the last fortnight and it won’t be a surprise if this continues.
Mariano Diaz, Fede Valverde, Isco, and Nacho have already been reported to have missed Real Madrid’s training sessions recently as a result of minor injuries picked up in the early phases of the return to play protocol brought in by La Liga as part of the Covid-19 pandemic plan.
This scenario is likely to continue as the weeks go by and the level of training intensifies.
The telling time is expected to be once the actual games resume. Injuries have been reported in the Bundesliga and the stats from previous seasons and studies show that injuries occur far more often in matches than in training.
With the frequency of the matches scheduled once La Liga returns the likelihood is that this pattern will continue.
As Real Madrid continue to prepare for the restart with what is essentially a modified pre-season period, the potential for injury occurrence will be a concern to Zinedine Zidane and the coaching and medical team.
As we enter the final stages of the build-up to La Liga’s return, the risk of injuries will be higher than in the early phases where players were training either on their own or in small groups.
Alongside the increase in participants in group sessions will be the increase in intensity that accompanies full-contact and late-stage training.
Although the media love to talk about the mini-pre-season that clubs are currently engaged in, the reality is that even this is crammed into a few weeks and without the inclusion of the traditional, graded, pre-season friendlies to complement the training.
There’s no doubt that the clubs won’t be long in arranging some friendly games if La Liga decide to permit this. Playing pre-season friendlies has just been approved in the English Premier League under certain conditions so there’s a fair chance that we might see this in Spain as well.
No doubt that given the opportunity clubs would jump at the chance of getting some realistic practice matches in against outside opposition. The coaches will be keen to set these games up if they can, even if in Real’s case it’s limited for the time being to eleven v eleven between the current squad.
Zinedine Zidane will undoubtedly be keen to set up a friendly against Castilla for starters (pending appropriate approval and compliance with current regulations of course) until permission is granted for a game or two against other Madrid-based teams behind closed doors.
The danger though is that with the high turnaround of games in La Liga, Zidane might not be willing to take the chance of any Real players picking up injuries so close to the Eibar game.
Added to that is the potential for injury to players like Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio who are in the throes of returning to full fitness.
According to the Belgium team physio, Lieven Maesschalck, as reported on Managing Madrid recently, Eden Hazard is fully fit and ready to play. Like the other players, Eden will have been following the recovery protocols set by the medical and fitness people long before being fully integrated with the main squad.
As well as Eden Hazard, there’s also Marco Asensio now working with the full squad; and the coming weeks will test players recovering from long term injuries to the full. Players who have been out of action in the longer-term are always at risk of picking up new injuries that are not always directly related to those that they are returning from.
It is generally accepted that this is because the body needs time to adapt to returning to training after an injury and often the balance between one muscle group and another can be affected.
A great deal of emphasis will have been (correctly) placed on the muscles and joints affected by the original injury but other areas may be slightly out of tune, particularly in the opposite limb.
This tends to show up when a player returning from a knee injury, for example, drops out of training a few weeks later with something like a hamstring strain or a calf muscle injury and it’s usually overload or compensating for the original injury on the opposite limb that is the cause.
When you add these to the other more obvious injury risks it’s easy to see how the odds quickly stack up against getting through the resumption of La Liga with everyone ending this condensed campaign injury-free and ready to begin preparing for next season!
Luka Jović remains injured following his recent heel fracture but when the time comes, he’s also going to have to be careful on his return. The impact generated by running on hard surfaces won’t help and if the injuries begin to hit as hard as people are expecting them to, then the temptation to make an early return might be difficult to resist.