Footballers heading to this month’s World Cup in Qatar face increased risk of injury and stress due to a packed schedule, the global players’ union FIFPRO said in a report.
The report, published on Tuesday, highlighted the lack of recovery time that players will have upon the conclusion of the World Cup.
Europe’s top leagues have just entered a mid-season break to accommodate the tournament in Qatar, which runs from November 20 to December 18.
The English Premier League is set to resume on Boxing Day - just eight days after the World Cup final, compared with breaks before national leagues resumed of 26 days and 34 days after the 2018 and 2014 editions respectively.
“After a packed first half to the current league season, the average preparation and recovery time for many players will be seven and eight days, respectively, about four times less than usual,” the report said.
“This is likely to increase the risk of muscle injuries and mental stress. Significantly reduced preparation and recovery periods before and after this World Cup pose an ominous threat to player health and hinder performance optimisation.”
The report also analysed the workload of players between July 2021 and October 2022, finding that members of Portugal’s squad have the most cumulative minutes on the field out of all the 32 teams at the World Cup, followed by Brazil and Mexico.
Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk topped the charts for most minutes played during the time period analysed, with 7,597 minutes on the field. Joao Cancelo, Sadio Mane, Antonio Ruediger and Harry Kane are the other footballers to have played more than 7,200 minutes.
“The data emphasises the mental and physical strain many national team players are facing because of a congested match calendar that does not properly consider their health and performance,” FIFPRO deputy general secretary Simon Colosimo said.