The stats from the 2010 World Cup are a good predictor of what we can expect at this 2014 World Cup.
At the 2010 World Cup, there were 229 injuries, of which 126 happened during matches instead of training. 71% of them were as a result of contact between two players and 47% of those were caused by fouls. This means a significant number of injuries, particularly to the lower leg, ankle and foot are caused by players breaking or bending the rules.
Since the 1998 World Cup, FIFA’s stats show a gradual decrease in the overall number of injuries, but considering the financial implications for clubs and the potentially altered outcome of matches because of a missing, injured player, it’s well worth looking at ways to get the number of injuries caused by fouls down. How can this be done?
1. Referees can be taught about how they are able to influence injury rates. Strict refereeing can encourage a spirit of fair play, deterring players from taking unsafe risks and doing dodgy tackles. They have already got powers to enforce strict sanctions when players carry out moves that they deem to be injurious to players. A referee is there to enforce the rules and some of the rules are there to keep players safe!
2. Rules of the game can be improved. FIFA do actually do this already. For example, players can no longer put their hands up when they jump, which has helped decrease head and face injuries caused by wayward elbows. This is a slow process, but one that will have incremental benefits over time.
3. Technology! At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we’ve seen the introduction of goal line technology for the first time after Sepp Blatter did a U-turn on his decision not to rely on tech to determine outcomes. Embracing technology in the game will no doubt see innovative ideas to reduce injury, but also, anything that’s introduced to encourage fair play will reduce the number of players going in for risky, injury-inducing tackles.
4. Alterations to playing styles. Coaches can have a hand in shaping the way a team plays and what sort of tactics players use. There are, overall more injuries during a World Cup tournament than any other type of match and this could be partly to do with the huge array of playing styles all coming together and clashing. Coaches can take the safety of the players into consideration as well as strategies for winning. Substituting a player with a previous injury or encouraging less contact between players could both impact injury rates and could ultimately mean that they’re not missing a crucial player in an important match!