Analysing injuries at Real Madrid (past or present) has always been topical, and as usual the media have a lot to say about the potential reasons for this. Not surprisingly, the debate has reignited as a result of the current situation.
But as we have mentioned in previous articles on this theme, Real Madrid are no worse than other clubs in this sense. The incidence and nature of injuries at clubs across La Liga varies, with previous experience indicating that those who have recently returned to fitness are likely to be replaced by colleagues who are currently fully fit.
That was never more evident than before the Eibar game in December when Real Madrid went from having a fully fit squad on a Friday morning to three players down in the space of 36 hours, well before a ball had even been kicked.
Zinedine Zidane will be bit happier this weekend because the injury list has trimmed down a little with the return of Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez. Despite their return, several players remain unavailable, with the majority of these due to muscular injuries.
Muscle injuries, though, are generally regarded as an accepted part of football life. The statistics will support that. In football, muscular injuries to the lower limbs (hamstrings, thighs, adductors and calf muscles) significantly outnumber those of the upper regions (arms, shoulders, wrist and hand).
Muscular injuries also occur in the lumbar spine and the neck muscles, but these are less frequent, although they do exist. Isco, for example, recently missed some time due to a back injury, and Marcelo is another who has suffered from back problems on previous occasions.
The problem arises when those who have recently returned to fitness find themselves back in the treatment room after only playing a handful of games before suffering unfortunate recurrences of their previous injuries.
We talk about players being injury-prone, but for the medical staff, nothing compares with having to deal with recurrent injuries regularly, and there lies the difference.
A recurrence of a previous injury is the worst possible scenario for any player, and the same applies to the staff. Most medical teams would happily settle for dealing with three times as many new injuries, even if meant a dramatic increase in the daily workload.
The reason? Recurrent or repeated injuries lead to a loss of confidence in the medical unit if players are declared fit to play but find themselves back in the treatment room before they have had the chance to establish themselves in the team again.
Repeat or recurrent injuries also provide the media with the opportunity to unfairly target players struggling with injuries. That can negatively influence their returns, forcing them to bow to indirect pressure by attempting a return to the team well before they are ready to do so.
Eden Hazard, who has suffered from a succession of injuries since coming to Spain, is a classic example of this, having been labelled as injury-prone by some sections of the media. Most of his current problems can be traced back to when he had surgery in the USA, but Eden has struggled to regain full fitness.
By his own admission, media criticism has affected him, and consequently he’s tried to come back too quickly in the past to avoid being seen as letting his teammates down.
Not surprisingly, all this does is destroy someone’s confidence. When the next injury comes along, and they find themselves back in that dreaded routine again of going through rehab, they start asking themselves how long they are going to be out for this time.
The current injury list at Real Madrid shows that Rodrygo, Eden Hazard, Fede Valverde, Álvaro Odriozola, and Marcelo are all out of the team with muscular injuries. Sergio Ramos is still in post-operative rehab following surgery to a meniscus in his left knee, and Eder Militão also missed training in the week due to a recent adductor muscle injury.
Breaking that down a stage further, none of them are out with an injury that does not fit in with the usual pattern of football injuries.
Hamstring, thigh, and calf injuries occur regularly, and that will account for most muscle injuries at the club. Even Sergio Ramos’ meniscus operation is a common football injury that used to be referred to in the old days as a torn cartilage.
Zidane’s main worry will be if players are missing games with recurrences of previous injuries instead of new injuries.
There’s a big difference between one or two players suffering from recurrences of previous injuries and several new injuries of the same type being picked up by different players throughout the club.
A spate of injuries of a similar nature can be annoying, but often a link can be identified to a series of particularly hard or physical matches played within a short space of time between each, ground and weather conditions, footwear, or a change in training intensity.
We know Zidane likes to train at a high intensity and perhaps some players have found this difficult to adapt to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are injury prone, nor that the injuries are the fault of the fitness staff.
Injuries occur for several reasons, with a player’s age and past medical history including the severity and nature of previous injuries contributing more and more to the likelihood of sustaining further injuries as they get older.
Injuries are known to occur through a complex interaction of multiple risk factors and events (Bahr and Holme, 2003), but it is the interaction of these risk factors that leads to players sustaining injuries in given situations (Bahr and Krosshaug, 2010).
The timing of an injury is unpredictable, and for that reason it is impossible to say that anyone who is regularly training and playing will not pick up an injury at some stage in their careers, but for some players, the interaction referred to above happens more often than others.
Bahr R, Holme I (2003). Risk factors for sports injuries - a methodological approach. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 37 (5), 384 – 392.
Bahr R, Krosshaug T (2010). Understanding injury mechanisms: A key component of preventing injuries in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 39 (6), 324 – 329.