FIFA World Cup 2022 Injuries

Update
This article was edited due to the emergence of new information.

Have you been following the world's largest sports tournament? It's happening right now in Qatar (pronounced Kuh-taar): the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup! However, as with any sport, there is a risk of injury. These injuries will be addressed in the article.

Key takeaways:
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    The player position which sustains the most injuries is the midfielder position.
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    The most common areas where soccer players get injured are hamstring sprains and tears, groin strains, knee injuries, ankle sprains, and Achilles tendon injuries.
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    Once a player is injured and cannot play in further tournament matches, he cannot be replaced (a new player cannot be added to the team roster).
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    Professional soccer players have full medical coverage provided by their team and are not required to pay the cost of their surgeries.

One quick note: what people in the United States (US) call "soccer," the rest of the world calls "football." What US people call "football," the rest of the world calls "American football." For our discussion, we will refer to the FIFA World Cup sport as soccer. Compared to American football players, soccer players use their feet more, wear little to no protective gear, and shift directions more frequently and quickly; thus, various injuries can occur.

In what position are soccer players most likely to be injured?

As you can see in Diagram 1, each team fields eleven players at various positions.

Field

A study was published in March 2022 in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, where they reviewed soccer injuries for professional players in the United States over 6 years (2014 to 2019). They found the player position which sustained the most injuries was the midfielder position, labeled center midfield in diagram 1.

What is the most common injury in soccer?

Diagram 2 shows the most common areas where soccer players get injured, including hamstring sprains and tears, groin strains, knee injuries, ankle sprains, and Achilles tendon injuries.

Injuries

The same study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found the most common injuries were hamstring strains (12.3%), ankle sprains (8.5%), and groin strains (7.6%).

What is the worst possible injury in soccer?

The worst injury that can result from play is a traumatic head injury. Unfortunately, this occurs since soccer is the only sport where players purposely use their heads to hit the ball.

In addition to using the head to hit the ball, soccer players can sustain head injuries in other ways: in descending frequency, they include head-to-head contact (with another player), head-to-ground contact, and hitting the head with a different body part.

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by trauma, such as a blow to the head, resulting in loss of normal brain function. Symptoms can include confusion, memory loss, impaired coordination, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, or tinnitus (ringing in one or both ears).

Those who follow the National Football League have heard how new strict concussion protocols have been implemented since the incident with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on 9-23-22. He suffered an apparent concussion since he was unsteady on his feet. Then he was allowed to re-enter the game and played again four days later, sustaining another concussion.

Since this incident, FIFA is taking concussions very seriously and has instituted a 19-page concussion protocol that must be followed.

What happens if a soccer player continues playing after sustaining an injury?

Well, this depends on the type of injury, but it's never a good idea to continue playing. For instance, if a muscle or tendon is partially torn, it may become fully torn. Another example is a partial bone fracture (break) becoming a full-thickness fracture. In addition, a head injury can lead to a later serious brain injury.

With any sustained soccer injury, a detailed evaluation should be performed before clearing the player to go back into the game. The evaluation depends on the type of injury.

What happens when a player gets injured in a FIFA World Cup game?

This article has previously incorrectly stated that once a player leaves the game for an injury, he cannot return to the game. However, in the USA vs. Iran game, after USA player Christian Pulisic scored the only goal of the game, he was removed for an apparent abdominal wall injury.

But after leaving the game, he was allowed to return a few minutes later for two reasons:

  • He was medically cleared while on the sideline.
  • He did not have a substitute player take his place. In those few minutes he was on the sideline, the USA team only had 10 players on the field.

In the past FIFA World Cup tournaments, the team was limited to 23 players, but starting this year, a team can have up to 26 players. However, the USA team has elected to have a 23-player roster for the 2022 World Cup.

Can a player's injury benefit the team?

In previous World Cup tournaments, a player's injury could limit game time and be an advantage for a team with a lead, but that is no longer true.

In World Cup soccer, the time lost due to an injury's stoppage of play is added to the end of that half. In previous World Cup matches, a referee may add a few minutes, 3-4 minutes tops, to the end of each half due to injuries, goal celebrations, and player substitutions. However, new FIFA regulations state that every World Cup game will have 90 minutes of on-field play and not be lost due to a delay from injury or other reasons.

Does a soccer player get paid if injured?

Professional soccer players get paid when injured and are unable to play. However, the amount paid and length of time depends on which country the league is located since different countries pay injured players differently.

If you're curious, World Cup players get paid, but it's much less than the amounts paid by the English Premier League and other professional leagues. Instead, each country pays its players different amounts for each game and bonuses for advancing in the tournament.

For instance, if the USA team bows out after its three games, each player will receive $206,000. An interesting part of this payment is that all winnings will be divided equally among 46 players: 23 men and 23 women from the USA World Cup teams. This was implemented to ensure equal pay for the different genders.

Do soccer players insure their legs?

Yes, many professional soccer players take out insurance policies on their legs in case they cannot participate. The team and sponsors usually require this since so much money is invested in these players.

For instance, before David Beckham retired, his legs were insured for 177 million Euros, equivalent to 184 million US dollars. Furthermore, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese international soccer star, has his legs insured for €103 million, equivalent to 107 million US dollars.

Do soccer players pay for their surgeries?

Professional soccer players have full medical coverage provided by their team and are not required to pay the cost of their surgeries.

What is the average number of surgeries for a soccer player?

Many retired soccer players require surgery for injuries sustained from their playing days. For example, in one study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32% of United Kingdom retired players required surgery for soccer-related injuries.

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Comments

John Conrad John Conrad
prefix 2 months ago
Great article. A lot of the questions I had about soccer related injuries were clearly presented and answered. Would definitely like to see more on other relevant sports
David David
prefix 2 months ago
Awesome info. Learned a lot of info I previously didn’t know. Thank you for writing this.