Is there anything worse than seeing athletes succumbing to injuries? There’s no other situation in sports where everyone loses. The team gets weakened, the fans miss opportunities to see their favourites play, and even rival teams/fans don’t get to gloat about defeating their opponents at full strength – the presence of serious injuries will always adds an asterisk to any victory over an injured squad.
Not all injuries are created equal, and not all sports are prone to the same kind of injuries. Football, boxing, mixed martial arts, even hockey – this is the domain of the serious head injury. Baseball, tennis, basketball and golf get off relatively easy in comparison. For that matter, so does the sport we’re dealing with today, soccer.
Due to the nature of the game, lower body injuries are significantly more common than upper body ones. Ankles, legs, knees, groins, they all get banged up pretty bad over time. Fortunately, soccer players – particularly the players in the big European leagues – have insane amounts of money and access to a top-notch medical staff to help them recover. 30 years ago, a torn ACL might have meant the end of a career, nowadays it just means 6 months off the pitch (sometimes less).
When star players get put on the shelf, the real devastating part of the injuries, at least from a managerial standpoint, has to be the cost. If a striker is on $2 million of wages per year and they sit 6 months of the season out, well, you’ve effectively pissed away $1 million. The opportunity cost of injuries can be horrendous, especially when a team picks up multiple injuries to multiple big players. Then the owners end up paying for the world’s most expensive unit of benchwarmers. This season, the English Premier League has been rife with injuries. These are the 10 teams who ‘lost’ the most money to injuries, calculated by taking into account weekly player salaries and the amount of weeks they've been unfit to play.
10 Tottenham Hotspur – 32 Months, €15 Million ($20.72 Million) Lost to Injuries
Spurs have not had a great season by any stretch of the imagination. They started off strong, splurging an enormous €100+ million over the summer to rebuild their squad in the post-Gareth Bale era. Unfortunately, those new signing failed to gel in the way management would have hoped. Two of their big signings, Etienne Capoue and Erik Lamela, spent much of the season on the bench. Lamela was actually the most expensive buy in Spurs history, but instead of his wages going towards contributing goals on the field they went towards building up a €15 million waste of salary fees. Thus far in the season, Spurs have had the equivalent of 32 months of time out due to injury from members of their squad.
9 Sunderland – 33 Months, €16.4 Million ($22.65 Million) Lost to Injuries
In what will surely be their last season in the Premier League before a spell in the lower ranked Championship, Sunderland have picked up more than their fair share of injuries. They currently sit at a dreadful 20th out of 20, and with their recent loss to Everton all but confirmed their relegation at the end of the season. The repeated loss of striker Steven Fletcher, among other players, has certainly been a drag on the team this season, but there’s much more going wrong at Sunderland than injuries.
8 Hull City – 36 Months, €16.4 Million ($22.65 Million) Lost to Injuries
Hull City are surely satisfied with their performance thus far in the season. After being promoted to the Premier League on the very last day of Championship football last season – in dramatic fashion – they’ve managed to do quite well for themselves in their first season back in the Premier League, despite picking up over 36 months worth of injuries on their squad to the tune of €16.4 million. They’re currently sitting comfortably in the mid-table and can be happy that they’ve managed to get to where they are, even with period injuries to key players such as Tom Huddlestone and Liam Rosenoir.
7 Newcastle United – 36 Months, €16.8 Million ($23.21 Million) Lost to Injuries
Newcastle United, led by manager Alan Pardew, have for the most part avoided any big injuries to key players. Unfortunately they’ve also been picking up smaller ones virtually all season. Injuries to key players like Loic Remy, Tim Krul, Moussa Sissoko, and Fabricio Coloccini have dulled their 2013-2014 Premier League season. After 36 months worth of injuries, Newcastle has accrued approximately €16.8 million in unused wage bills. Still, they’re sitting comfortably in mid-table. There may not be a spot in European comopetition waiting for them next year, but at least they know they’ll be playing in the Premier League with a clean slate come August.
6 Manchester United – 37 Months, €16.8 million ($23.21 Million) Lost to Injuries
It goes without saying Manchester United have had an absolutely dreadful season. After spending 20 years within the top 3 of the table, they seem set on finishing 6th or 7th for the first time in Premier League history. David Moyes’ squad racked up 36 months of injury time over the 2013-2014 Premier League season – about €16.8 million in missed minutes. Injuries to star strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have taken the firepower out of United’s usually dangerous attack, and other teams have been able to exploit the holes left by injury in their midfield and backline to put United away time and time again this season. At this rate, David Moyes and company are just waiting for the season to end and the clock to reset.
5 Fulham – 38 Months, €17.3 Million ($23.9 Million) Lost to Injuries
Fulham don’t have too much to be happy about. After a long, hard fought season, the only thing they have to show for it is a spot in the relegation zone. Over the next month Fulham will be fighting for their life to stay in the Premier League next season, and they may be doing it without some key players. Striker Kostas Mitroglou, the big signing they brought in during the winter as their secret weapon to avoid relegation, has spent much of his time at Fulham injured, which has contributed a big part to their 38 months of injury time, estimated at €17.3 million of wasted funds.
4 Crystal Palace – 41 Months, €18.7 Million ($25.83 Million) Lost to Injuries
Crystal Palace, like Hull City and Cardiff City, are enjoying their first season back in the Premier League. Barring a complete collapse, it appears as if they’ll be back in the Premier League come the fall, which is surely good news for the South London team. Injuries to players like Johnathan Parr and former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh have somewhat stifled their season, but overall they’ve held together quite well, all things considered. With 41 months of time lost to injury – an €18.7 million pile of lost wages – they can be happy that they’ve managed to avoid relegation
3 Aston Villa – 44 Months, €20 Million ($27.63 Million) Lost to Injuries
Premier League mainstays Aston Villa have been down on their luck this year. After a strong start with an opening day victory against Arsenal, things quickly started to fall apart. They picked up injury after injury at the wrong time, and began dropping points consistently to teams that, on paper, they should have been able to control. Injuries to star striker Christian Benteke dulled their firepower, helping contributing to over 44 months missed due to injury, a €20 million value.
2 Everton – 52 Months, €23.7 Million ($32.74 Million) Lost to Injuries
Everton’s place in the league table is a testament to just how good Roberto Martinez’s squad has been this season. Despite picking up multiple injuries to important players like Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Lacina Traore, and Leighton Baines, they’ve managed to accumulate more points than any other season in their Premier League history. Even with 52 months lost to injury - €23.7 million – Everton under Martinez has been nothing short of exemplary. If all goes according to plan over the next month they’ll be playing Champions League football next season.
1 Arsenal – 66 Months, €30.1 Million ($41.58 Million) Lost to Injuries
What is going on with Arsenal’s medical team? There’s certainly something wrong with their squad management, because it seems as though every season the gunners lose half their squad to injury. This year alone they’ve lost star signing Mesut Ozil and breakout star Aaron Ramsey, as well as Jack Wilshere, and Theo Walcott – all to long term injuries that have kept them out for weeks, sometimes months. Manager Arsene Wenger has blamed the incredible accumulation of injuries on Arsenal’s late season collapse, which has, once again, cost them a chance at the Premier League title. If the fans have any sense, the only resignation they’ll be calling for at the end of the season will be of the team’s head doctor.