With the news this morning confirming that France talisman Franck Ribery will miss the 2014 World Cup through injury, it is just the latest addition to an injury list that, if fielded, would potentially win the entire tournament.
I was speaking with my brother just the other evening, a fantastic athlete in his own right in his day, and he was reflecting on the fact that never had he seen so many professional athlete’s, in all sports, deal with so many injuries so frequently and at such young ages.
It is not just the international game that is currently suffering, you see this phenomena all throughout club level. Some clubs are more injury ravaged yearly than others, but on the whole, footballers deal with fitness and injury concerns at at alarming high, even more than just a decade ago.
List of players who will miss out on the World Cup (not counting those who still are questionable)
Australia: Tom Rogic, Joshua Kennedy, Curtis Good
Germany: Lars Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Holger Badstuber
Netherlands: Rafael van der Vaart, Kevin Strootman, Gregory van der Wiel
England: Theo Walcott, Kyle Walker
Croatia: Ivo Ilicevic, Milan Badelj, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Strinic
France: Franck Ribery, Clement Grenier, Steve Mandanda
Mexico: Luis Montes, Jose Medina
Spain: Thiago Alcantara, Victor Valdes
Argentina: Erik Lamela
Belgium: Koen Casteels, Christian Benteke
Italy: Ricardo Montolivo, Romulo
Chile: Matias Fernandez
Colombia: Radamel Falcao
Costa Rica: Alvaro Saborio, Bryan Oviedo
Already, this summer will be missing some of the best and brightest attacking players in the game in Falcao, Ribery, van der Vaart, Fernandez and Alcantara, and the likes of Strootman, Gundogan and others when it comes to midfield players you just love to watch. Further current fitness concerns over Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and many other players continue to threaten the entertainment value of the greatest spectacle in all of football.
Let me be clear however, there is no way that over a billion people will not be tuning in this summer, but the simple fact that many of the worlds greatest players at current will not be present and playing is certainly a bummer. So many injuries in the last few years in the sport must surely call into question just how influential modern sports medicine actually is.
Surely broken bones are one thing and there is no treatment that can avoid the shattering effects that a two-footed tackle studs up into a players shin will have, but the amount of serious muscular and tendon related injuries has escalated to epidemic levels. The amount of fixtures currently clogging the yearly calendar, coupled with clubs who often times try to limit the time spent on the treatment table by their players certainly has a part to play.
Events such as these make you think back to so many managers who have been openly critical of fixture congestion, especially in leagues such as the Premier League, where there is no winter break in the schedule. Combined with which the speed of the game has increased over the years, it clearly has been a recipe for disaster.
With the advancements in sports medicine, and the decrease in recovery time necessary before a player is deemed fit, FIFA should surely look deeper into the matter. As football’s overall governing body, with which all subsequent federations answer to, FIFA needs to take a proactive role in making sure that there are guidelines and standards that always must be adhered to. Yes clubs want their players available as much as possible, but with the various types of injuries that a footballer can suffer which could potentially ruin and or end his career, there needs to be greater consideration and more need for airing on the side of caution.
In the end, we all want the icons of the game to be at the forefront of the sport we all adore, and even though they too want to express their passion for the sport via their performances on the pitch, sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.