Injury In The Premier League: Man Games lost To Injury 2012/13

Injuries: Which team suffered the most of them, what is the league average and are players more likely to be injured in certain months of the season? These are the questions I shall attempt to answer. The Premier League nor the individual clubs publish this data, so I thought someone needed to take a look at it.....

Firstly, the method.

I have checked every teams injury list in the 'game preview' section on whoscored.com. I then take this list and cross check it to see if the played listed as injured or doubtful actually played. If they didn't they were marked down as injured and thus was recorded as 1 man game lost to injury for their team. On many occasions I doubted whoscored.com's numbers so these were cross checked with local or national newspaper game reports/team sheets, sometimes it helped, other times not so much.

As for which playing staff were eligible to be recorded as a man game lost to injury, The top 2 goalkeepers, the 25 man PL squad, and any outstanding u-21 players who played for their respective clubs but who may not have been listed in the 25 man squad. Most teams tend to use a core of 20 players or so and rarely went beyond that number.

This was a horrendous task, the most time consuming of any of the numbers I have counted this season. It is something I may not do again. But here we are, we have a full 20 team, 380 game season to look at. Let's begin.

Part 1

Man Games Lost To Injury

The following table shows each teams man games lost to injury using the method already described.

Injury_table_38_medium

First off, the spread is enormous. Injuries aren't evenly distributed, not even close. Villa suffered nearly 50 injuries more than any other team (thank God for their youth set-up). Newcastle suffered at least 25 more injuries than 3rd place Man United, with Ben Arfa, Coloccini, Tiote and Cabaye out for sustained periods. That group are probably 4 of their best 5 players.

This is the one issue I have with my own work: how to quantify the improtance of the injury? About as good as I could do was to give each players injury a value, but then who sets the value? Would that valuation be fair? Would that valuation take into account form? Question marks all round, so I dropped the idea of the value. Far too lazy aswell!

Anyhow, back to the team numbers. Six of the 8 most injured teams played in european competition this season which fits nicely with the theory that the more games a team and it's players play the bigger the likelihood that injuries occur. This is pretty logical stuff, mind. Wigan and Villa may have incurred more injuries due to extended cup runs.

If this theory of the more games played the higher risk there is to incur injuries, then we all need to look at what Chelsea did this season. Chelsea played close to 60 games yet suffered just 81 injuries, over a third of those were due to Romeu's long term knee issue. Luck or skill on Chelsea's part?

Part 2

Injuries Per Game Week

Injury_per_week_medium

(Click to enlarge)

This is the total number of injuries all 20 teams had on a game week basis. Game week 12 to game week 21 was the peak injury period for Premier league teams.

Immediately before Game week 12 in the Premier League there was a double header of International games. From Game 12 onwards the European teams potentially played 3 European games, 2 FA Cup games and League cup fixtures if needed.

Teams that played in European competitions suffered more njuries. Why? Small samples and all, but the only evidence I have points to injuries becoming more likely the more game time a player plays.

Team Injuries: European Teams And Non-European Teams

Euro_v_non_euro_injury_medium

Obviously there can be issues with sample size over a single season and luck plays in part in injuries too. This graph paints a pretty clear picture though:play in Europe and you will suffer more injuries. It really is best to ensure you have a big squad to cope with the demands of playing on two major fronts (Tottenham) otherwise these injuries can be costly at the seasons end.

Injuries Per Month

We know about injuries per game week and a little about the frequency of games in all competitions (we need more info though) so let's now break down the injury totals on a monthly basis.

By Chart

Chart_m_by_m_medium

By Graph

Injury_month_by_month_medium

August, September and October see a gradual build up of injuries. Legs are still fresh, the helter skelter of games in all competitions hasn't yet begun. The three game weeks are coming soon though.

November, December and January, as expected, have a high number of recorded injuries and this is no surprise considering the concentration of games across all competitions.

April is an oddity but I think I cracked the reasons why. From the 7th of April to the 28th of April teams played 5 Premier League fixtures. Five in 21 days will probably take it's toll and that is probably what causes the spike in that Month. The accumulation of games over a long season will, surely, also take it's toll.

Looking over the injury total numbers for the November to January period it becomes difficult not to argue the case for a winter break. No club wants to pay a substantial wage to players who are not able to do their job. Injured players, especially crucial players, cost clubs in terms of performance and points, and thus money. Why clubs and the PFA don't push harder for a winter break in order to protect their players and assets is difficult to grasp.

A front and back loaded league schedule which avoids clashing with the bulk of the the domestic and european cups would surely be a better idea than the current setup. Games could be more evenly distributed across the months, injuries may decline due to this and teams would benefit in the ways already stated. Players may stay healthier, managers can field stronger teams and owners may not be wasting as much money paying injured players.

Seems sensible, so it probably won't happen.


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