Footballers are very lucky to earn a level of wage that almost everyone in society could only ever dream of. Tens or even hundreds of thousands are deposited into footballer’s bank accounts every week by their clubs, without even considering external investments or sponsorships.
That being said, compared to most it is a very short career. Most players turn professional at around 18-years-old and then retire at around 35-years-old. That is why they have to make so many sacrifices in relation to family and friends if they are to achieve the maximum amount possible during that short window.
With this limited time frame, long-term or persistent injuries can be tragic for footballers as they put your career on hold or even make it regress. The most high-profile example of this right now is Italy’s Leonardo Spinazzola. He has struggled with injuries during his whole career, but he suddenly emerged as Italy’s player of the tournament at Euro 2020.
Then in the semi-final, he ruptured his Achilles tendon whilst sprinting and faces at least six months on the side-lines following surgery. His club, AS Roma, are now seeking a replacement left-back for the upcoming season.
Who are some of the most injury prone past and present players?
The player that springs to many football fans’ minds when it comes to injuries ruining a career is Ronaldo. The Brazilian striker was so talented that he is held up as a legend of the game, but realistically he spent significantly less time at the top than a player of his talent should.
He is the youngest ever Ballon d’Or recipient having won it when he was 21, but he then had a series of knee injuries and was inactive for three years. He retired earlier than most due to persistent knee injuries.
Another very talented individual who hasn’t managed to capitalise on his promise is Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus. The German midfielder had seemed destined to be a key player for the national team and earn a move to the likes of Real Madrid or Manchester United. He has still enjoyed a successful career, but his repetitive ankle injury has limited his game time. He also suffered a cruciate ligament injury in 2017 that resulted in a spell on the side-lines.
Ronaldo and Marco Reus still managed to achieve a lot in their careers despite the injuries, but ex-Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has literally had his career ruined. After having a breakthrough game against Barcelona in the Champions League at 19-years-old, Wilshere has suffered a series of ankle injuries and foot fractures that have stopped him ever fulfilling that incredible potential. He has played just 30 times since 2018.
Another ex-Arsenal midfielder, Aaron Ramsey, is a good example of how one very serious injury can set the tone for a career and stop the player ever getting properly fit again. The Welshman suffered a serious leg break which kept him out for over a year. Even before that he had repeated groin and ankle problems. The leg break meant he has never quite been able to stay fit for long periods of time despite possessing immense talent.
Do all players with injury-afflicted careers have the same issues?
When you hear of a player who has repetitive injury problems and can’t hold down a place in their team, it is more often than not related to their knees. The knee is an incredibly complex and delicate part of the body. It gets put under a disproportionate amount of stress during football as players twist and spin whilst having their foot planted on the floor.
Other body parts can be the problematic area too though, such as ankles or hamstrings. The ankle has many of the same properties as the knee, and hamstrings are a part of the leg that once damaged are incredibly difficult to fix.
Some players such as Jack Wilshere are unlucky enough to have just suffered a host of different injuries during their careers, which suggests that their overall fitness levels are lower than many other players.
Euan Burns is a features editor at Origym Centre of Excellence, which provides high-quality personal training courses and packages.