Domhnall MacAuley: Wayne Rooney’s ankle and the injury league

Domhnall MacauleyWayne Rooney’s ankle injury may have cost Manchester United a Champion’s League place and could still influence their premiership hopes. It is unlikely that Cesc Fabregas’s injury affected the result between Arsenal and Barcelona, but it has had a major impact on the Arsenal team performance. And, Chelsea have a who’s who of international football on the sick list. As the Premier League draws to a close, it is not spellbinding skill of superstar footballers that makes the news but the queue of injured players limping off the pitch. Looking at the final matches of the championship, will it be a case of which club copes best with their list of injuries?

What does the league look like? Look at to see a very different league table, with the clubs listed in order of their injured players. Decide for yourself which players are likely to recover and what clubs have the best chance of a successful end of season with a full squad. The battle at the top of the premiership table is tight but these clubs have large squads of quality players. It can be even more critical for lesser clubs struggling to put a team together. Portsmouth who top the league of injured players sit firmly at the bottom of the Premiership table.

Would you like to join the medical team? Sports medicine might look glamorous and exciting, working with fit healthy young people in a high profile and dynamic work environment. But, imagine the pressure to get players fit. With Alex Ferguson looking over your shoulder, how would you plan Wayne Rooney’s rehabilitation programme; how long do you think it will take for his recovery, should he be allowed to train, play, and when?  Remember, it could cost the players and the club millions, and it is all down to you.

When the managers job depends on success, or even survival in the premiership, there is huge pressure to get a player back on the pitch. Just like the manager, your job may depend on getting the player back on the training ground and back in the team as quickly as possible. And, who will take the blame if you rush it, the player breaks down, and hobbles back to your treatment room. If the manager feels you are not performing, you are dispensable. In normal clinical practice, a few extra days recovery may not be that critical, but professional sport is multi million pound business. There are very different professional relationships- this is not the NHS. Sport and medicine in a different league.

Domhnall MacAuley is primary care editor, BMJ