Champions of injuries – The statistics of injured players in the second division

Club news nearly from hell: “Player XY acquired a sprained-rolled-hamstring-affected break of his ankle/joint/knee“. None of us is in favour of reading such news from their club.  Particularly, if there is more than just one of such news in a short timeframe and some fans slightly get the impression that their club is particularly prone to injuries. And this is why I wonder: Is the FC St. Pauli actually more often confronted with injuries than other clubs of the division? And I did some research concerning this question:

Thus, I used the first couple of days of the current international break to dive into some statistics. But before I will focus on the hard facts, I have to define the terms I am going to write about:
I particularly searched for the times players missed matches due to injuries as reported on transfermarkt.de. The lists published by this website inform about the missed matches of each player of every matchday of the division that are due to injuries. Eventually, I simply added up the data presented there. However, this summation isn’t completely flawless.
First, the list does not inform about e.g. sprains which happened shortly before international breaks and which did not cause a player to miss a match (as they recovered already during the international break), however, they might contribute to times in which the player has to pause with training.
Additionally, I only took matchdays of the division into account, but not the two rounds of the DFB Cup.
Furthermore, the listing on transfermarkt.de is lacking a bit of in-depth analysis, as training deficits following an injury or minor injuries as such aren’t reported at all. However, I couldn’t find a better source than that.
This is why my listing for sure isn’t flawless but the numbers at least allow to draw some conclusion about those clubs with either more or fewer players who missed matches because of their injuries. And there are some clear winners and losers of this statistic.

Frequencies
How frequent is a respective injury actually? Nearly one-quarter of the news of clubs reporting injured players will contain the word “thigh”. And even more general, almost three-quarters of injuries are about regions of the body that are literally located below the belt. If you are looking for more information regarding statistical data about injury times due to particular injuries don’t hesitate to visit fussballverletzungen.com.

The percentage of injuries per body part of the season 2017/2018 of the Bundesliga.
(Source: fussballverletzungen.com)

Causes
In general, injuries are quasi unavoidable in football. In a contact sport such as football, the bodies of the players are constantly confronted with extreme physical stress. This inevitably leads to some traumatic injuries, i.e. injuries that are due to external violence (For example, a player is defending and fouling another player, thereby hits the ankle joint of his opponent which gets thereby injured.) Additionally, there is another category of injuries caused by strain reactions of the body, for example, the classic checking of the back thigh after a sprint (as we were all able to witness by Christian Conteh two weeks ago in the home match).
I would like to point you to an article worth reading focusing on injuries in football which was published on spielverlagerung.de. The author is, by the way, a guy called Rene Maric, who meanwhile (*slightly coughing*) successfully joined the team of managers at Borussia Mönchengladbach. In his article, he describes in a very readable manner and loaded with some interesting scientific facts what causes the majority of injuries and which methods are suitable to prevent such injuries. Briefly summarised: there are a few things that have to be taken into account when it comes to the prevention of injuries: nutrition, training, sleep patterns and genetical disposition.
Bad nutrition causes a weaker metabolism, higher amounts of fat and is eventually leading to a decline of the physical stress limits. A lack of sleep surely causes weakness which is directly influencing the coordination but also indirectly (e.g. when a player is belatedly evading in duel situations). Additionally, due to a higher level of exhaustion, muscles and strings are in general more prone to injuries. It should also be evident that some players are more injury-prone than others because of their genetical disposition. And the wrong training is a blooody important aspect when it comes to injuries. Maric describes within his article, that e.g. intermittent and endurance runs in a non-football specific setting can massively add up to the risk of getting injured. Additionally, regeneration is very important. And for sure, not every player is equally resilient (keyword: genetical disposition) which shows that an individually adjusted training and load control is of enormous importance. For sure, there are also many traumatic injuries that are simply caused by a not inconsiderable amount of misfortune. Nevertheless, to speak of the oftentimes mentioned “injury misfortune” is not exactly the valid explanation, when instead at least one of the aforementioned reasons is really causing the respective injury. And according to Raymond Verheijen, who authored a study which Maric is citing in his article, 80% of all injuries could be avoided by the right training, enough sleep and balanced nutrition. E-I-G-H-T-Y percent! So it’s by no means a surprise that many clubs from time to time report within their news that some of their players missed training due to training and load control reasons.

Numbers. Data. Facts.
So, that’s the theory. But let us look at the numbers and focus on the numbers of matches that have been missed by players of the second division this season due to injuries and let us also find out if there are significant differences between the teams.
Let’s start with the current season:
If I could avoid being a player of a certain club, it would be the SV Wehen-Wiesbaden. Not only that I would be at the very bottom of the table at the moment, no, apparently, I would also be a member of a squad which has the highest amount of missed matches due to injuries in the current season. (3.1 matches on average did every player of the squad miss so far). Of course, there might be a connection between the number of injured players and the position in the league’s table. Their injury-rate is even higher than that of the players of the 1.FC Nuremberg, who ‘only’ missed 2.6 matches so far. Both teams have in common, that especially their goalkeepers are currently dealing with injuries. And while the FCN was forced to invite goalkeepers of their youth-teams into the professional squad, the SVWW even asked Marjan Petkovic to cancel his premature retirement.
These two teams are followed by the VfB Stuttgart and the VfL Osnabrück. Particularly remarkable is the number of players of the VfB who missed out on matches during this season. Some 18 players and thus almost two-thirds of the entire squad did already miss at least one or even more matches of the first leg. On the side of Osnabrück, only one-third of the players did miss matches because of injuries, however, the respective players are rather long-time injured which leads to the fact that both teams have nearly the same amount of missed matches.
At the FC St.Pauli’s situation isn’t very comfortable, too. The number of 72 marks the number of matches which taken together all players had to miss ( almost half of the players in the squad were already injured during this season), which, due to the large total squad, is however only leading to the 5th place in the ranking. With these numbers, the FCSP, however, isn’t champion of injuries, but their amount is significantly high.
Rather only a few players (nine) of Erzgebirge Aue did already miss matches during this season. Their injuries are, however, rather long-term so that Aue is to find at rank 7 in the ranking. The same is true for Arminia Bielefeld, for which only ten of their players are injured, however, rather long-term.
And less than one match on average was missed by the players of either Dynamo Dresden, Jahn Regensburg or Karlsruhe SC. But wait, there’s another club! Holy moly! The players of the  1. FC Heidenheim did only miss 0.5 matches on average during this season. This is a bloody well amount. And this number gets even better if one takes into account that in Heidenheim only two players at all (!!!) did suffer from an injury. And without the cruciate ligament rupture of Maximilian Thiel the statistic would even have gotten much better.

The average number of matches, players of all clubs missed during the season 19/20.

What do these injuries have to do with? Is it actually due to the wrong training, the great air in the heights of Heidenheim or the bad training pitch in Hamburg? A comparison with the data from the previous season, however, allows some insights:
And first and foremost it seems that the people in charge of Heidenheim are doing something extremely well. Because also during the previous season, the players of Heidenheim barely suffer from any injury compared to other clubs. Only 1.8 matches on average did the players miss. Remarkable. Maybe, some of the other clubs should send their spies to the Ostalb to figure out what these guys are actually doing there (and the same is true, however on a slightly lower scale for Regensburg & Kiel). Especially the FC St.Pauli and the VfB Stuttgart, which were both suffering a lot from injured players already during the previous season (with 4.9 or 4.8 missed matches on average respectively). And also in this ranking, the hsv was actually ranked 4th (the same as they were in the actual league table, but maybe only because I did not calculate the values for the three promoted teams due to laziness). At the very upper end of the list of the previous season were the VfL Bochum and Hannover 96 (which got relegated from the Bundesliga), followed by the SV Sandhausen, which was also deeply in the relegation battle due to their high number of injured players. Remarkable few players were missing at Holstein Kiel in 2018/2019, namely only eight (while Sandhausen was missing 20, and the hsv 19). Accordingly, based on this data, there seems to be no correlation of the numbers of injuries and the particular training of Tim Walther (who was the manager of Kiel in the previous season and is now the manager of Stuttgart).

The average number of matches, players of all clubs missed during the season 18/19 

Focus FCSP
Let’s focus another time specifically on the FCSP: While we are not joining the tango of the top 3 of the teams with the highest numbers of missed matches, our numbers are extremely high though. Also in the season 2017/2018, the 5.7 matches missed by players of the FCSP due to injuries on average are amongst the highest numbers of the division (at least I assume that we could have ended fourth in the table). So, there’s not really a development recognisable, which was, however, frequently either demanded or announced. For sure, as the squad wasn’t entirely changed from the last season to this season, it might be because certain players of the FCSP are more injury-prone than players from other clubs (Avevor, Buchtmann and Ziereis are simply raising the average on its own). But according to the article cited above, this could partly be managed and controlled somehow. If this is actually already done in certain cases and if some improvements could already be reached, is for sure not derivable from a simple listing as it is done in this article. Also, my data do not allow any particular comment to the number of muscle injuries which are a classic example of externally unforced injuries. But it is clearly recognisable that the club improved their training and load control as there’s a higher amount of news reporting that certain players missed training because of their training and load control. And yes, it’s hard to control sleep patterns and the entire nutrition of every single player. However, in any case, one should draw attention to Heidenheim!

The statistic does allow an overview of the times players missed matches because of injuries. And yes, it’s a clear hint who is currently moaning about long-term injuries and who is not. It’s hard to analyse what it does exactly mean for the respective clubs. Because it is also clear that for example, additional matches such as DFB cup matches or secondments to national teams add to the loads and thus to the player’s risk of injuries. 
By the way: If we are getting the impression that the number of injured players at our clubs is currently exceptionally high, it’s simply because these numbers are indeed higher compared to earlier times. So, for example, the number of injuries of the season 16/17 of the Bundesliga did increase by 25 % compared to the season of 09/10. This is due to the increasing speed of the game itself, just be reminded of the term counter-pressing.

Injuries in football are inevitable. But there are certain adjustment screws which can be tightened or loosened to reduce injuries to a minimum. And it appears as if some clubs did already find these adjustment screws. While other clubs are still searching for them.

//Tim (translated by @Parneq)

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