The Football World

Is Modern Football so Modern?

You hear constantly around the media, fans, and coaches alike that sport is more advanced than ever. You hear that sports medicine, nutrition, strength & conditioning, sports science, and the rest are more sophisticated than ever before.

Sports Science in Focus

Professional Footballers have every facet of their life cared for. Clubs hire in-house expertise to manage almost every part of the player’s training, health, and performance. There has been a rise in performance technology, including wearables and diagnostic machines. Every year there are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on new equipment, devices, and expertise.

It’s a cycle of continual evolution in the attempt of perfection, but when do you take a step back and ask, “Is any of it working?”

It is easy to get fixated on this idea of more, more, and more: New technologies, new facilities, new improvements. You can imagine the top tier of professional football is very competitive, but not only on the pitch. There is extreme pressure to not be seen as falling behind as other teams invest in new modalities & staff across the club. This largely fuels the current dysfunctions and normalizes less than ideal philosophies all the way down to grass roots football.

How many sports surgery clinics are popping up in the last 20 years? How many new sports scientists are coming out? And why have we such an epidemic of injuries? How can we have faster running tracks, better running shoes, bigger gyms, bigger sporting arenas, and more injuries and poor performances?

Anthony “Star” Geoghegan
Arsenal Strength & Conditioning

We also hear that football itself is more demanding than ever before.

They say coaches are demanding more from their players than in year’s pasts. There are more competitions, more travel, and more training than there used to be at the professional and youth level.

England National Team

This line of thinking is often used as justification for the ever-increasing rates of injury and fragility of the modern footballer. Some of them are true, but like you’ll begin to learn, there is much more to this story. There are many other things different than 20+ years ago.

I often say that less rest and more games in this football world is not the cause of any increase in the quantity and severity of injuries, but is merely shining a light on the cracks of the professional footballer. More games in a shorter amount of time leaves less room for dysfunctional lifestyle and training regimens.

Players were injured much less often the farther we look back in professional football. They were robust athletes on top of just being a footballer. Not to mention, the common habits of drinking, smoking, and partying were much more prevalent at the top level than nowadays. Elite footballers decades ago had no access to nutritionists, strength coaches, and all the other modern amenities there are now.

We hear quite a lot that pro footballers now are faster, stronger, and last longer than players in year’s past. There is this idea that top players now would outperform top players 20 or 30 years ago with ease. While we are biased to believe the best of our ourselves and think less of the past, I think there is some truth to that idea, but also quite a bit of wishful thinking.

The Modern Game has evolved?

Maybe it has. I wasn’t around in the 1970s watching Football so it is hard to say one way or another.

What I do know is that players are getting more fragile every year. There are more non-contact injuries every year, and supposedly lifestyle, nutrition, and gym work is more advanced than before.

There is always a bias to say that the Superiority (Mainstream) is at the forefront of innovation, but in truth, it comes from the outside. It comes from those that think differently and push the boundaries.

“Great minds are always met with violent opposition from mediocre minds” – Albert Einstein

What Actually is Going on

Injury numbers and their severity increase year on year.

Young children are getting injured earlier than ever before. There are middle-schoolers having ACL reconstruction surgeries. This is not normal. No person let alone a young, vibrant child should ever have a non-contact injury of any kind. Humans both young and old are more fragile than ever seen before.

Child Obesity is only getting worse.

This crosses over into youth sports and amateur football as the average body composition worsens and becomes the norm. We see the very peak of athletic physique improve, but this only casts a shadow over all the incompetencies and dysfunctions of the system as a whole. It is not hard to cheat the outward appearance of top stars with injections, supplements, and other synthetic boosters when they already possess the talent and athleticism that gained them that status in the first place.

More top footballers than ever are merely collapsing on the field. Non-contact ankle, achilles, and knee injuries are more common every year.

Players are actually being forced to retire from their professional and collegiate careers because of injury. To make it worse, these players are conditioned to think it’s just not meant to be, and that there’s nothing they can do about it.

Players Dropping like Flies

This is absurd. The football world is asleep in a burning room.

Alphonso Davies

  • Bayern Munich
  • Non-Contanct Torn Ankle ligaments
  • October 2020
  • There was no one around him and his ankle did as shown.

Kingsley Coman

  • Bayern Munich
  • Non-Contact Knee/Hamstring Injury
  • December 2019
  • Running on his own, his knee inverted, and he fell down in a heap.

Nicolo Zaniolo

  • Roma/Italian National Team
  • Non-contact ACL tear
  • September 2020
  • After recovering from a previous ACL tear on his right knee, he tore his ACL in his left knee when attempting to change direction.

Faouzi Ghoulam

  • Napoli
  • Multiple ACL tears and Muscle injuries
  • 2017-2020
  • Reoccuring knee problems ruining one of Europe’s best fullbacks.

Sergio Ramos

  • PSG
  • Torn Meniscus and chronic muscle injuries
  • 2020-2021
  • Previously injury-free, major dysfunction pushed him out of Madrid in his final season when he wanted to stay. Rumours PSG wanted to cancel his contract when it took him 4 months to make his debut.

Ansu Fati

  • Barcelona
  • Mutliple meniscus tears
  • 2019-2021
  • Chronic knee problems lead to surgery and then more problems as doctor chose to remove the meniscus.

This is a small example of the thousands, possibly millions of non-contact injuries happening around the football world. The current understanding of pain, injury, performance inhibitors, and health is inadequate.

Nature would never design a body that would randomly break down and require 9-12 months of recovery. The human body has evolved for as long as Nature has been around (depends who you ask, but at least 3.8 billion years). Effortless athleticism, pain-free movement, and a healthy physique is a human birthright.

To name some other relevant information.

  • The average human lifespan has been decreasing since 2016.
  • Mood disorders and Mental Health issues are on the rise.
  • Autism rates have steadily increased over the last 10 years.
  • Over 20% of the world’s population suffers from chronic pain.
  • Learning disabilities were unheard of decades ago and now are becoming normal.
  • Late-stage disease like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Cancer are a very modern problem that are not present in less advanced communities.

❓ And every year we hear how healthcare costs are going up but health is getting worse?

In my short medical career of 40 odd years, things that were once rare or non-existent are now epidemic. You know the reasons are right under our face and contrived in how these changes are being manipulates against us.

Dr. Barre Lando

These points should remind you that what general medicine and health officials are doing is not working. The human body is not supposed to be sick, malfunctioning, and diseased. The football world is not immune to the inadequacies of mainstream healthcare. These problems manifest themselves in football as injury, poor performance and incomplete recovery.

Is modern health really so advanced if we are having these many problems?

Who is to blame? Why You Should Care

Of course, it is the imperative of the incumbent to ensure they remain as the de facto leader of innovation. Innovation in this case could mean control, influence, or just their position of supposed expertise. In other words, when you have the specialist who prescribes the training or lifestyle methodologies, and at the same time, they control (or their status grants them influence over) the diagnosis of any predicament, there are going to be problems.

When a few players turn up with non-contact joint injuries like an ACL or Achilles tear, we are quick to hear the excuses of bad luck, over-use, or poor circumstance. You might hear some blame poor bio-mechanics or movement strategy, essentially shifting the blame onto the player. They infer that more gym work is needed, and that there is something inherently wrong with the body that requires external repair.

It is the ultimate indicator of an inflated ego when an expert tells you that you need more of what didn’t work to fix a problem…

You can see that many experts are quick to control the story and shift the blame to something immeasurable and intangible. This same narrative can get reused for poor performance, development, and any other predicament. This pattern repeats itself across all levels of the football world, from the youth to the elite.

Whether conscious or unconscious, the natural bias for self-preservation can lead to some unethical situations that leave others paying the price; while, the position of the expert is unaffected.

A deer does not teach the wolf how better to catch it. Think twice before taking advice from anyone/thing that has an adversarial strategy.

We have to keep in mind that this continual evolution of bigger and better can turn into a crabs in a bucket scenario.

Everyone striving to do one better than the other, while all those involved lose sight of their overarching direction.

Who are the incumbent experts I refer to? It is the people that coaches, managers, chief executives, players, and parents rely on for accurate information and advice. It could be the club doctor, the physio, the trainer, the dietitian, or any other health and performance consultant.

These experts are just doing the best they can with what they know. They are not evil, and they usually have the best intentions at heart. They are just another victim of the current state of affairs in the world. They are vulnerable to their own intrinsic nature, as well as the knowledge base their education systems gave them. When you only possess a small parcel of the larger picture, any decision you make will likely be a misconception.

A very wise man Dr. Jack Kruse said “Half-truths lead to full lies”

📢 That is why players, parents, and coaches need to take back control. We need to step up, and question the football world. We need to look around and realize the path we’ve been brought down. We need to realize that what happening now is not normal, and that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is more. We must demand it.

Players need to become their own trainers. Parents need to become their own health experts. Coaches need to become their own performance specialists and smile at the attempts of others to manipulate their decisions. We need to take back control. It is time for revolution.

I’ll leave you with these two quotes below from famous author Mark Twain to ponder.