Players’ union concerned over heightened injury risk


BERN (Reuters) – Players may be at an increased risk of injury as professional sports rush back into action following the coronavirus stoppage, a global union representing 85,000 athletes said on Thursday.

Some soccer leagues in particular have condensed a large number of fixtures into a short space of time in an attempt to complete the season.

“Many players will not have had access to the necessary training methods to ensure that they have the necessary fitness and conditioning to compete,” said the World Players’ Association (WPA), whose members play in the NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, European soccer and Australian Rules football, among others.

“At the same time, many sports will be eager to make up for lost time and revenue which may result in compressed schedules and elevated demands on playing and training load,” it added in a statement.

WPA executive director Brendan Schwab pointed to a study conducted by Australian sports scientist Joel Mason last month which suggested an increased injury rate in the Bundesliga since Germany’s professional soccer league restarted on May 16.

According to the study, a pre-stoppage rate of 0.27 injuries per match this season climbed to 0.88 in the first round of matches following the restart.

“While many players around the world have demonstrated their commitment to get back to work, it cannot be at any price,” said Schwab. “Player rights and safety cannot be compromised by the economic pressure of resuming sport.”

The WPA said that one key measure would be to reduce the strain by modifying rest periods, substitutions and duration of matches, as soccer had done by allowing five substitutions per team instead of three.

Other key concerns were whether players had been provided with enough time to return to competition fitness and whether, in the case of injury, they would have access to the usual range of treatment and rehabilitation, given the strain on health services.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis