Experts analyse spike in non-contact injuries in football

Players pay price for lockdown inaction with strange injuries

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Andile Jali is one of the players who picked up injuries.
Andile Jali is one of the players who picked up injuries.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Since football returned after a long coronavirus-induced break, many players have been sustaining a host of bizarre injuries, without being challenged by an opponent.

Such injuries led to eight Bafana Bafana players withdrawing from the squad that faced São Tomé and Príncipe in back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers during the Fifa week.

SuperSport United's Bradley Grobler, Andile Jali of Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City's Abbubaker Mobara headlined the long list of players who had to miss Bafana’s outings after suffering strange muscle injuries.

Orlando Pirates ace Thembinkosi Lorch incurred similar agony. Lorch, who will be out for up to five weeks, twisted his knee unmarked in their 1-0 win against Bloemfontein Celtic earlier this month. The 27-year-old has undergone surgery. 

Utility Kaizer Chiefs defender Reeve Frosler got injured without being touched by any player in their MTN8 semifinal second leg against Pirates two weeks ago. A few days later, Amakhosi confirmed Frosler would be sidelined for eight weeks after an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan revealed the seriousness of his injury.

Renowned high-performance specialist Joshua Smith, who's on the books of AmaZulu, has given his insight into this heightening crisis of players suffering injuries without being challenged. 

“The big thing with players picking up these [non-contact] injuries now is that there was a very short turnaround time from the bubble to now starting the new season. Players were inactive during lockdown for a long period, especially at level four and five,” Smith told Sowetan yesterday.

“They could only do exercises at home. That football fitness wasn't necessarily there. We had a very short preparation period going into the bubble. Teams were always playing a huge amount of games ... we played six games in a month, Sundowns and Chiefs were playing eight, nine. So there was a large amount of football after a long period of inactivity.” 

Safa chief medical officer Thulani Ngwenya echoed Smith's reasoning. “Most players withdrew from Bafana due to muscle injuries they suffered unmarked ... off the ball. The main factor here is that players were inactive for a very long time,'' said Ngwenya.

“For about five months, players didn't do high-intensity training. To suddenly go and play 90 minutes will always cause these kinds of injuries. Most players' muscles are stressed and that's why they get injured. Clubs didn't have a thorough preseason to condition players.”

Smith and Ngwenya concluded that the situation can get better only if  players can get better sleep, better nutrition and keep more hydrated.

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