COUNTING THE COST: The Real Impact of Injury in Team Sports
New data from global insurance group Howden’s ‘Men’s European Football Injury Index’ calculates that the financial impact of injuries on the 2022-23 Premier League season was £255.4m ($322.52m), an increase of £70.8m ($89.41m) on the previous year. Chelsea, who finished a disappointing 12th, had 68 injuries costing them £40.1m ($50.64) – the most of any Premier League club. In contrast, Brighton, who had their highest top-flight finish ever, saw injuries cost them £4.39m ($5.54) – the lowest in the Premier League. We know that minimizing injuries represents a cornerstone for winning, but how much does player injury really cost a team?
Injuries Cost Money – Lots of Money
The economic impact of injury is substantial, both to a sports organization and to the athlete themselves. Howden’s report is calculated only according to salary paid to players who are unavailable through injury. In reality, the financial burden of injury also includes medical and rehabilitation costs, deterioration in player value, reduced sponsorship and lost prize money.
One study which looked at the broader economic effects caused by injuries to Premier League players revealed that on average a team loses approximately £45m per season. Only £9m of this is attributed to salary paid to injured players – the remaining £36m is due to revenue lost because of team underachievement. When we consider that each place in the Premier League table is worth a reported £2.2m, underachievement represents a considerable financial blow in lost prize money.
Higher Player Injuries = Reduced Ability to Win & Lower League Position
A 5-year study analysing the impact injuries have on the performance of Premier League soccer teams found a significant relationship between number of days out due to injuries and league position. The authors calculated:
- 136 player days out through injury costs a team 1 league point
- 271 player days out costs a team one place in the table
- Premier League clubs drop an average of six places in the table due to injuries
This trend isn’t restricted to soccer. A 10-year study looking at NFL injury data also revealed significant correlations between games missed due to injury and winning. The authors of the report found significant correlations between injury ranking and NFL Draft order, wins per season, wins % and playoff appearances. Teams ranked in the top 5 for fewest injuries outperformed the remainder of the NFL, with the team ranked top for fewest injuries having double the playoff appearances of the team ranked bottom.
Successful Teams Keep Their Best Players Healthy & Available
The most successful teams keep their best performers available for the longest amount of time. The NFL injury study also revealed that when teams had fewer games missed by their offensive and defensive starters over the course of a season, they won more games.
Increased Player Availability Results in More Tactical Options
Coaches with greater player availability have more strategic options, which improves team effectiveness and can influence the outcome of games in their favour. The importance of this was clearly demonstrated by a study which analysed the injury and performance data of a second-tier soccer team over a promotion winning season. During this season, player availability was increased due to lower injury occurrence and fewer player days lost. This had a direct impact on successful competitive outcomes, as the team won its highest number of games directly via a goal from a substitute. In other words, by having more players to choose from, the coach had a greater number of tactical solutions available, which led to them winning more games and, ultimately, securing promotion to the Premier League. It is estimated that promotion from the Championship to the Premier League is worth £135m to a club over three years, making the financial benefits of maintaining player availability obvious.
Reduce Injuries to Spread the Load
Teams that have greater player availability rates are able to distribute load more broadly throughout the squad, avoiding the overuse of key players and leaving them fresh for pivotal games. A 10-year NBA study revealed that ‘teams which do not rest their most utilized, in terms of time, players, demonstrate the lowest performance’, and that ‘teams with balanced rest/load management achieved better performance based on basketball analytics’.
- The economic impact of injury is substantial, in terms of salary, medical costs, deterioration in the value of the player, reduced sponsorship and lost prize money.
- Detailed research into a number of different sports has identified a statistically significant relationship between player injuries and a team’s ability to win.
- Teams ranked with the fewest injuries have a greater likelihood of finishing higher in the table.
- Increased player availability improves team effectiveness and the probability of winning games, including through the impact of bench players.
- Greater player availability rates enable teams to better manage player usage and avoid the overuse of key players.
- Successful teams keep their best performers available for selection for the greatest amount of time.
Minimizing Injuries = Optimizing Performance
There is a clear correlation between athlete injury and the prospects of successful performance in sport. For this reason, professional sports organisations have a strong incentive to invest in injury reduction programmes in order to ensure that athletes stay healthy, injury free and available for selection as much as possible.
About ApolloV2 Athlete Performance Software
ApolloV2’s athlete performance software unlocks data silos allowing GMs, coaches, trainers, doctors and players to become masters of data-driven performance and injury recovery with real-time data visualization and collaboration tools. Our software is integrated with over 50 performance focused technologies used by college and professional athletes. With ApolloV2, teams have the information they need to minimize injuries, optimize player availability and win.
To learn more about using ApolloV2 for injury prevention, visit www.apollov2.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Adrian Lamb, ApolloV2 Sports Scientist
Carling, C, Gall, F, Mccall, A, Nedelec, M, Dupont, G (2014) ‘Squad Management, Injury and Match Performance in a Professional Soccer Team Over a Championship-Winning Season’, European Journal of Sport Science, vol.15, pp 1-10
Eliakim, E, Morgulev, E, Lidor, R, Meckel, Y (2020) ‘Estimation of Injury Costs: Financial Damage of English Premier League Teams’ Underachievement Due to Injuries’, BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, vol 6, no.1