Numerous promising players have seen their career severely affected due to playing while not fully recovering from injuries. Diego Costa and Luiz Suarez have been selected for their national teams in the 2014 world cup. How risky would it be?
Diego Costa’s inclusion in Spanish squad
The recent news on the injury of Spanish striker Diego Costa is that he is still recuperating from the injury he suffered in the match against Barcelona and aggravated it against Real Madrid in the Champions League final after actually having struggled to even get ready on time for the match. Medical reports say that he has a grade one tear in the femoral biceps in his right thigh. Though not the worst sort of injury, Diego Costa will require solid rest for at least 15 days which would mean he’ll have to battle to get fit in time for the World Cup. Even if Del Bosque risks Costa for the World Cup, we can be sure he’ll be far from his best and would not be match fit. We have far too many instances of unwanted injuries occurring when a player plays because of not being at his best fitness.
Luis Suarez might play despite serious injury
Luis Suarez, on the other hand has a more serious injury and with him undergoing knee surgery, he would not have been risked in any other tournament or competition. But up comes the World Cup and every player is hungry to perform and shine at the world’s largest stage and in football’s greatest nation Brazil. Uruguay are in a tough group for the World Cup with England and Italy drawn along with them and progression of their team would depend heavily on their attacking prowess. Suarez may be tempted to join them despite not being match fit as Uruguay may look to upset the odds. But again, it would be a poor move for numerous reasons.
Players who paid for playing without attaining full fitness
The Fernando Torres example
Let us take the case of a high flying Fernando Torres before the last world cup. In April 2010, Torres was one of the best out and out strikers in the game and with the world at his feet, he had an injury prone pre-world cup season at Liverpool. Despite being prolific in whatever number of appearances he had, he could not attain match fitness.
In January, Torres underwent a knee surgery and made an unlikely speedy recovery to start playing again. A couple of months after his recovery, Torres injured himself again in a Europa League match, and this time he was ruled out for the season. He underwent another surgery in middle of April, possibly in order to get fit in time for the World Cup selections. Many fans and critics thought of his move as something he’s doing to secure his international place rather than serve his struggling club Liverpool, who looked an altogether different team whenever they were bereft the Spanish International.
In the World Cup that followed, Torres was far from being match fit. Players are hungry for glory and fame at the biggest stage, and probably Fernando Torres at that time was as hungry as anybody in his team. He had a poor campaign and was dropped from the side mid-way due to his lack of goals and attacking contribution. Torres had an unlikely important moment in the final when he lobbed a cross for Iniesta that was awkwardly intercepted by Dutch defenders only for Fabregas to get the ball easily and assist Andres Iniesta for the World Cup winner.
Having failed to score even once in the World Cup, this tournament ended in an even worse way personally for Torres as he injured himself yet again, which had to happen sooner or later considering his match fitness was just on the brink of the marginal minimum. Fernando Torres’ hamstring collapsed seconds after the winner from Iniesta. That hamstring injury further dented the striker’s pre-season and beginning of the next season for Liverpool. The World Cup marked the beginning of an end of Fernando Torres’ prolific goal scoring form.
The decline of the Spaniard’s form and performances have been well documented in the footballing blogs and books all over the internet especially after his sensational 50m move to Chelsea. But the main reason lies in the confidence and the powerful legs that Torres lost in the World Cup campaign.
The Michael Owen case.
Owen had signed for Newcastle after having a season at the side-lines of the ‘best’ club in the world, Real Madrid. Michael Owen had an injury hit start to the season after injuring himself in the pre-season as well as in late December when he broke a metatarsal bone.
Owen tried to speed up the recovery process by inserting a pin into his foot but that didn’t help either as his recovery which was expected to go on till late March was foiled and he needed another minor operation at that time. He said he would be fit for the final games for Newcastle, but having played against Birmingham off the bench, finally making a comeback, he said after the match that he was not feeling 100 per cent sure about his foot. Thus he made himself unavailable for the final game for Newcastle and his season ended in late April.
Owen’s break was scheduled in such a way that he would be ready for pre-world cup games and in turn be selected for the World Cup. Probably among most talented English players of his time, he was quintessential for England’s chances of a world cup. But again, despite shining at the World Cup, and probably not even showing any signs of fatigue or lack of practice, it seemed natural that Owen was hungry for the World Championship and was raring to go.
Owen famously ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the first few minutes of a group stage against Sweden. One may argue that Owen was always injury prone, but he was a striker who could score goals at will, with his eye for a goal and amazing pace off the mark, he was scarily similar to Fernando Torres. A striker who was without much match fitness in the league, having played a couple of warm up matches, Owen actually felt later that he rushed himself to the World Cup.
After looking at two of the world’s most celebrated strikers, who lost a lot after their injuries in the world cup period, after being rushed into the tournament, we can all but hope that star players in their prime, Luis Suarez and Diego Costa are not rushed.
It is one thing having injuries and constant niggles because of lack of squad depth in the club, which both Atletico and Liverpool suffer from, but it is another thing getting injured when a player gives his 200% for his country. Diego Costa is not actually an injury prone player, as throughout the season, he was barely given any time to recuperate as Atletico didn’t have an able and consistent replacement ready. We can thank God for the physical strength and toughness that Costa has that helps him to remain strong in injury situations as well. But talk about players like Owen and Torres who are comparatively, the more delicate types, and we get ruined careers in our minds. Luis Suarez has the same surgery that Torres had 4 years ago and it can be a nightmare for a striker with the world at his feet, to become injury prone after being rushed.
The conclusion to this article will be a recent case, which was cleverly stated by Arsenal’s physician, when Theo Walcott got injured against Spurs and ended his season and World Cup hopes. The doctor said that players tend to be mentally fatigued to take on an important match if they haven’t been playing at the same level. As Walcott suffered a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament after supposedly being fit from a previous injury that he had suffered, the doctor said that when players are rushed before adequate rest and easy match practice, the nervous system of the body is a tag fatigued and slower than usual, so players who would normally move after a simple pass, would get injured in the process if the nervous system responds to the stimuli a nano-second slower than usual, which in Walcott’s case, left his knee unprotected for a split second in his movement that caused the injury.
Such a statement, can only tell us how we can avoid a player becoming injury prone. It would also help Spain and Uruguay themselves as the striker, when not fully fit, would perform below par anyway which would only lead him to lose confidence as he lets his fans down.
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