after Sadio Mané’s package, the specter of injuries lurks around the World Cup

Injured in the fibula, the Senegalese striker Sadio Mané, star of his national team, was forced to forfeit three days before the start of the World Cup.

In turn, Sadio Mané throws in the towel : he will not see the towers of Doha. Hit in the right fibula Twelve days before the start of the World Cup, the Senegalese, second in the ranking of the last Ballon d’Or, was obviously part of the list of coach Aliou Cissé. But the injury of the essential star of the country has not evolved as the doctors of the Lions of Teranga hoped, and the Bayern Munich striker was forced to forfeit Thursday, November 17, leaving his country an orphan.

A few days after the Frenchman Christopher Nkunku, Sadio Mané – who was immediately operated on – in turn proves Didier Deschamps right. “My colleagues are facing the same difficulties in this period. There are players in the recovery phase, some who were injured yesterday and others who could be injured tonight., warned the coach of the Blues two weeks before the World Cup by revealing his group. When it is shelled, the list of absentees on injury gives, it is true, vertigo.

Paul Pobgba, N’Golo Kanté, Presnel Kimpembé, Christopher Nkunku or Mike Maignan with the Blues; Amine Harit for Morocco; the English Ben Chilwell and Reece James; the German Timo Werner or the Portuguese Diogo Jota; and Sadio Mané, therefore – among others. Many are absent, and they are prestigious: if Senegal had to resolve to play the World Cup without its best player, South Korea holds its breath about its star, Son Heung-min, injured in the face during the match of Tottenham against Marseille in the Champions League, the 1er november.

Overloaded calendars

Should these injuries be added to the grievances overwhelming the holding of the World Cup in Qatar at the very end of the year? Many factors explain the injury of an athlete, and they are difficult to control, even to predict; but according to Joel Mason, sports researcher at the University of Jena (Germany), “the potentially increased risk of injury before this World Cup and during the tournament is justified”.

For him, “Whenever there is an increase in the workload of players or prolonged exposure to a condensed schedule, there is a greater risk of injury”, especially muscle. However, to organize the World Cup under bearable temperatures, the decision-makers of world football have compressed the calendar.

In a report published on November 15, Fifpro – the global players’ union – denounces the extreme overload faced by many players. In addition to a truncated preparation for the World Cup, most footballers playing in the big European clubs have chained matches, often at the rate of two per week. The stars of the biggest clubs have hardly had time to recover, multiplying the meetings every three or four days since the start of the season.

During the 2002 World Cup, Professor Jan Ekstrand, a Swedish football doctor who has worked all his life on injuries and how to avoid them, studied the effects of overloaded calendars on player health. Results ? “Players who played more than one game a week in the ten weeks before the World Cup were injured more than others, or performed less well”he summarizes.

Benzema’s uncertainty

For this former vice-president of the medical committee of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), “after a match, the risk of muscle injury is increased for six days”. With teams playing every four days during the group stage, the World Cup in Qatar is not going to slow down. So Jan Ekstrand hopes that the coaches will rotate their squads, in order to avoid injuries – a wish he knows well.

Impossible to predict if the World Cup will be marked by an avalanche of physical glitches, or if Sadio Mané will be its last unfortunate victim. “There will inevitably be injuries from too many games this seasondevelops researcher Joel Mason. But knowing when they will strike – before, during or after the World Cup – is difficult to predict, it depends on many factors. »

The fact remains that when it was time to whistle the kick-off of the opening match, Sunday, November 20, between Qatar and Ecuador, the bench of absentees was not empty. The French, suspended from resuming their Ballon d’Or, Karim Benzema – victim of “annoyance”, “fatigue” and “wounds” muscles for a month – hope he will not be the next player forced to throw in the towel.

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