The Cost of Injury
It goes without saying that professional football is a high-risk industry in terms of the potential for injury. Research indicates that professional players suffer 25-35 injuries per 1,000 hours of match exposure, giving the game an injury risk factor more than 1,000 times greater than other ‘high-risk’ industries.
As the physical demands and financial stakes continue to increase, those injuries can be difficult to mitigate and often come with a significant cost. According to our research, Premier League clubs paid an estimated £166m to injured players in 2018/19, 14% of total fixed wage expenditure across the division.
Finance is a key consideration when it comes to understanding the cost of injury, but it only tells part of the story. Arguably more important–and yet difficult to measure–is the performance cost of injuries. We know how much a player costs in terms of wages when they are sidelined, but how does their absence affect the on-field performance of their team?
To better understand the cost of injury and highlight the importance of effective injury mitigation processes, we’ve commissioned the football intelligence agency 21st Club to quantify the impact of injuries in elite football in both financial and performance terms.
Premier League players suffered a total of 804 separate injuries during the 2018/19 season, resulting in 18,230 days spent on the sidelines. 21st Club’s research highlights the significant financial cost of those injuries to clubs over the course of the campaign.
On average, players missed 8% of the league campaign (3.04 games) through injury.
The average cost of an injury was £200k in fixed wages.
The two Manchester clubs reportedly spent a combined £43.7m on injured players and more than £6m more than the next biggest spender, Arsenal.
Unsurprisingly, there is a correlation between the financial power of clubs and the total amount spent on injured players. West Ham United were the only team among the top six spenders on injuries that did not finish in the top six in the final standings.
Champions Manchester City paid the most in fixed wages to injured players, with three players combining to miss more than 150 days last season and costing the club an estimated total of £23m.
TOTAL COST OF INJURIES
Wolves enjoyed an excellent injury record on their return to the Premier League. The club spent a league-low £680k on injuries in 2018/19, with their costliest injury being a 27-day layoff for Diogo Jota between December and January.
There are several different elements to consider when assessing the impact of injuries on performance. By attempting to quantify factors such as the quality of sidelined players and the contribution those players would be expected to make, we can start to build a picture of the impact of injury on team performance over the campaign.
HIGHEST QUALITY INJURED PLAYERS
According to 21st Club’s Player Ratings, Tottenham suffered the most key high-quality player injuries during the season, with Erik Lamela, Harry Kane and Dele Alli all missing at least 30% of the season.
Kevin De Bruyne and Alexis Sanchez were two of the highest-quality players to be sidelined for more than 45% of the season.
Manchester United suffered fewer lengthy injuries to high-quality players (e.g. Romelu Lukaku), but longer-term injuries to lower quality players
Building RTT programs
As we’ve seen, the stakes of injury – in both financial and performance terms – continue to rise. In that context, it has never been more important for teams to implement robust injury risk reduction and return to play processes.
By monitoring athletes and combining data with the expertise of medical staff, clubs can build an enhanced understanding of athlete physiology and benchmark the fitness of individual players. This can enable the identification of early warning signs or underlying injuries and protect against the financial and performance costs of injury.
If you’re interested to learn more about best practice in rehabilitation, download your free copy of Catapult’s ebook Building Effective Return-To-Training Programs: Planning, Delivery & Evaluation for insights from industry experts.
Who are Catapult?
Catapult exists to build and improve the performance of athletes and teams at all levels of sport. The business delivers wearable technology, athlete management and video analysis solutions to over 2,900 teams in 39 sports to support crucial performance optimisation, injury risk mitigation and return-to-play operations. PLAYR, Catapult’s consumer wearable technology, brings advanced monitoring devices to amateur football players around the world.
Who are 21st Club?
21st Club’s purpose is to help clients win by thinking differently. Working with over 100 teams, leagues and associations globally, the London-based company advise key decision makers on strategy and future planning, on the principle that success can be achieved without needing to outspend the competition. With world-class predictive intelligence and knowledge of how to apply insight in context, 21st Club helps clients exploit inefficiencies in order to build better futures.
Player Contribution Model
21st Club’s Player Contribution Model rates the performance contribution of over 100,000 players globally. Using a machine-learning algorithm, the model assesses a player’s importance to his team and adjusts for the level at which he is playing, enabling clubs to estimate the points above replacement value of players.
Player Valuation Model
21st Club’s Player Valuation Model assesses every transfer globally to estimate a market rate valuation for any given player, based on his performance and similar players who recently moved clubs.