Howden’s European Football Injury Index reveals record injury cost of over £500m for 2021/22 season
Injury costs leapt by 29% on the previous season with Paris Saint Germain (PSG) recording the highest injury amount (£34.22m / €40.73m), followed by Real Madrid (£33.95m / €40.41m) and Barcelona (£27.92m / €33.23m).
29 September 2022, London – Howden, the international insurance broker, has today published its European Football Injury Index for the 2021/2022 season for the men’s game, which reveals that injury costs for the continent’s top clubs broke through the half a billion-pound mark for the very first time (£513.23m / €610.75m).
The latest report, the third to be published by Howden, is published against the backdrop of an ongoing debate concerning fixture congestion and demands for football’s authorities to implement radical reforms to the game’s calendar. It delivers a detailed analysis of Europe’s major leagues and clubs and poses the question over whether the costs incurred due to injury are becoming unsustainable.
The total number of injuries sustained across all of Europe’s top five leagues was 4,810 over the course of last season – representing a 20% increase on the 2020/2021 season (2020/21 number of injuries was 3,988). The English Premier League experienced the most injuries with 1,231 in total (Chelsea topped that particular table with 97), a full 540 more than the lowest recorded in France’s Ligue 1 at 691.
English clubs suffered the greatest loss at £184.57m (€219.64m) with Spain’s La Liga a distant second with £109.34m (€130.12m) paid out due to injured players.
Other Key Findings:
- Chelsea topped the injury count for the English Premier League table with 97, Manchester United registered 81 injuries and Liverpool 80.
- Manchester City (with a total of 67 injuries over the season) defended their position at the top of the league, despite having an average of three unavailable players per match.
- Liverpool lost the league to Manchester City by just one point. Liverpool felt the effects of a full season of competitive matches after victory in both domestic cup competitions and a one-goaldefeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final - did the injuries their team sustained cost Liverpool the cup?
- PSG topped the table in terms of injury cost once again, paying out £34.22m (€40.73m) to injured players
- Real Madrid recorded the highest number of absences at 114 and at the second highest cost of £33.95m (€40.41m)
- The top five in the Bundesliga recorded the highest combined injury figure (379), almost double that of the top five in France (209)
Under 21 Player Injuries
A new element to the research is injuries to under 21 players. The report shows that the number of injuries sustained by younger players have risen sharply over the last four years from 30 in 2018/2019 to 326 in 2021/2022. This increase may be attributable to clubs’ increasing reliance on younger players.
The Winter Break
An overall comparison of non-Covid-19 injuries in January and February provides an interesting point of analysis. These absences rose by 57 instances – a comparatively high figure when we consider that similar absences remained constant in September and October (500) and even declined going into November (441) and December (411). This indicates an initial net positive effect of a winter break (from December to January) but overall rates of absence quickly returned to previous levels from February onwards.
An analysis of the champions in each of the five leagues offers an interesting insight on squad size. Bayern Munich (97), Real Madrid (114) and PSG (91) all recorded the most injuries during the season yet still claimed their respective titles. This points to vast squad depths at these clubs which enabled them to overcome league-leading injury rates.
James Burrows, Head of Sport, Howden says:
“This research confirms what leading club managers have been saying for a while now – injuries are on the rise across European football.
“The reasons for this will be the subject of much debate but Howden’s extensive research shows there’s a 20% rise season on season in injured players. With football’s authorities currently negotiating the game’s calendar the Injury Index provides a deep insight into the human and financial cost of congested fixture lists and a packed calendar. It will help answer the question of whether there’s just too much football being played.”
Caveats and assumptions
- Player injury details are considered for the full 2021/22 season.
- Injury cost is calculated by multiplying the cost per day of a player by the number of days they were unavailable because of an injury.
- For figures in EUR, we have used a conversion rate of €1.19 = £1.
- For monthly injury count, the injury has been counted in the month in which it occurred/started. For example, Player A was injured from January to February during the season, his injury is reported in the figures for January.
- Any injury that kept a player out for more than a day has been considered.
- Injury cost only includes the base salary of the injured player and not additional costs associated with treatment/rehab.
- Player salary data has been provided by Sporting Intelligence and this has been used to calculate injury cost.
- The length of time that a player is paid whilst under contract will vary from league to league, for the sake of comparison we have assumed that all clubs pay all injured players wages in full.
- The total injury figures for each league include players who tested positive for Covid-19 or suffered other illnesses during the season.
- Covid-19 and ‘Illnesses’ are included as stand-alone categories in the injury analysis sections.
- Clubs and leagues adopted different testing regimes, so in some cases a player may have been tested twice/three times for the same incident, and the figures should be seen in this light.
- Covid-19 cases were only recorded when the name of the player was confirmed publicly, this enables us to assign each positive test to the individual player and club.
- So as to avoid any duplication, confirmed cases are not recorded where the player in question was already absent due to another injury.