A Grade Two Christmas Hamstring

Firstly, this is not a literary piece; it is not peer-reviewed, nor has it been written for those working in football. This article has been written as an opinion piece, and my audience is specifically for the fans, those who play fantasy football, and those who are passionate about the game of football. This piece will no doubt upset and offend many managers and sports medicine practitioners in football. To these people, I make no apologies. To these, I say move on and read no more of what I write, for they are not capable of change and change is the true outcome of all learning.

Flushing Game: Let the dog see the Pheasant

Hamstring injuries in the Premier League are now widely accepted as being part and parcel of the festive period. They are as common as mulled wine, Christmas carols and elves on shelves. Ask John Stones or Patrick van Aanholt if you don’t believe me. And just like another tradition in this country, many more hamstring injuries are sure to be flushed in front of the guns just as an English Springer Spaniel will flush pheasant after pheasant up and down the country this December only for it to be shot from the heavens.

Wounded in battle

Findings from Injury analyst Ben Dinnery are in contrast to that of researchers such as the likes of Ekstrand and his mates: HAMSTRING INJURIES ARE NOT ON THE RISE!!!!! However, it’s not even the middle of December and players such as Allan Saint-Maxim, Nathan Ake, Tyrone Mings and Callum Wilson have already fallen foul of the 16 bore Rizinni shotgun. They have been wounded in action, watched by millions clutching the back of their thighs in agony. Not a fatal shooting, but none-the-less, it was the dreaded hamstring.

SeasonNo. of Hamstring Related InjuriesTotal Days Lost

* Up to, and including game week sixteen.

** ‘Significant’ hamstring injuries. Only those resulting in a player missing at least one game (minimum ten days out). 

*** Only reported injuries during a Premier League season. From game week one, fully inclusive to the final weekend.

The Santa Claus Effect

The incessant onslaught of hamstring injuries over the past five seasons, their tendency to recur upon return-to-play (RTP) have lead to frustration, anger and puzzlement between players, sports medicine staff and managers. Players and managers complain, in part, or incomplete rehabilitation, too many games in too short a period of time, inadequate squad sizes, too much media pressure and being tired; surely they don’t mean overworked and underpaid?!?!

Top Ten teams: Reported Hamstring Injuries from the previous three-years

Sports Medicine Twitter Mafia

Then if we take the perspective of the sports medicine guys, all you have to do is jump on Twitter you will find plenty of these people posting about new research regarding the importance of shared decision making when it comes to RTP, how effective Nordics (a type of hamstring strengthening exercise) are at preventing hamstring injuries and rehab videos showing the players supposedly working hard in the gym and sprinting on the field in their quest to get back to fitness. Yet, these injuries continue to occur and reoccur over and over again.

So what’s going on?

You don’t have to have a degree in sports science or have played in the professional game to acknowledge the continual increasing physical demands that the Premier League places on players year on year. It’s not rocket science. It seems that there is no end in sight to the ability of players to run faster and faster for longer and longer.

So rather than managers complaining of the “injury crisis” that they’re club is facing, and how unfair life is, and rather than the sports medicine social media mafia spouting on about research findings on RTP (which is less than adequate by the way), maybe there should be more of an emphasis on the things which might actually make a difference:

  1. Stop managing the club and start coaching the players. The manager to be responsible for team tactics and technical aspects of training only. Unless he is appropriately qualified, he SHOULD NOT assume responsibility for conditioning players.
  2. Let the sport scientists plan the training schedule, volume, intensities and contents. However, and this is important: sport scientists and physios need to do more than what is stated in research papers. The game is faster than the research, and the players are not faster as a result of the training they are currently doing within the club. The game is faster because clubs are RECRUITING faster players. Therefore sport scientists and conditioning coaches need to acknowledge this fact and adjust their training methods accordingly. Go old school: GO BIG OR GO HOME.
  3. Put more of an emphasis on training at the intensity you want to play at rather than keeping players out on the training ground time on end.
  4. Identify players at high risk of injury and limit their playing exposure when possible.
  5. Stop extolling the merits of very poor research in relation to RTP; it’s not fit for purpose yet.

Reported Hamstring Injuries in December 2019

First NameSurnameTeamPositionFurther DetailsStart Date
TyroneMingsAston VillaDefenderHamstring InjuryDec-19
AllanSaint-MaximinNewcastle UnitedMidfielderHamstring StrainDec-19
NathanAkeAFC BournemouthDefenderHamstring StrainDec-19
JohnStonesManchester CityDefenderHamstring StrainDec-19
CallumWilsonAFC BournemouthAttackerHamstring StrainDec-19
YerryMinaEvertonDefenderTight HamstringDec-19
Patrickvan AanholtCrystal PalaceDefenderHamstring StrainDec-19

In reality, the complexities surrounding hamstring injuries in the Premier League is influenced by a far broader spectrum than Christmas itself or those stated in this opinion piece or any peer-reviewed research for that matter. The nuances in and around the training ground, the treatment room, the gaffer’s office and the boardroom are not yet known to the scientists, the fans, the media. They are under the radar, and yet they play a significant role on an Advent Injury Calendar. This script is still unwritten, watch this space…….

Johnny Wilson