Thermography as a tool for potential economic savings in sports.
How much does a sports injury cost? Can thermography lead to substantial savings in a team? That is what authors such as Eliakim have proposed in different studies. et al. (2020) or Ekstrand et al. (2013), which sought to respond to the impact, not only on the health of athletes but also on the budget of sports institutions.
Injury in sports and, more specifically in football, affects different dimensions of the financial field of a sports entity:
Firstly, it affects the health and performance of the player, which will be diminished in the presence of an injury. In addition, inactivity harms the athlete’s physical condition, which will be negatively affected. For this reason, an adequate work of readjustment to the practice of sports and strategies that allow safety in the return to competition is demanded, thus avoiding the recurrence of the injury. One of the most feared events, since it has a great impact on medical departments, is when to incorporate the player into his sport, being one of the most sensitive moments. In addition, within this decision-making, numerous factors must be taken into account, such as the previous injury in the same region, since it is the factor that most increases the risk of injury (Hägglund M. et al 2006).
Secondly, team performance suffers when we can’t have all the players, especially when it comes to the players with the highest performance and technical ability. This has been shown by research where a greater availability of players during the season is correlated with better positions in the final classification and more points per game (Hagglund M. et al. 2013).
These factors, both the performance of the player and his days off due to injury, as well as the availability of the players to be lined up by the coach have a direct influence on the club’s economy.
The sources of funding for a club
Scientific literature has wanted to investigate how an injury affects the financial department of clubs in different leagues. The economic area of a club is reduced by the absence of players due to injury due to the cost of wages. In addition, due to the economic benefit of television rights and the final position on the leaderboard, it can have a great economic impact. It may depend on this whether a team ends the season in a higher or lower position, as well as playing international tournaments or being relegated from the league.
In the Premier League, for example, Eliakim et al. (2020) investigated the economic costs of not achieving goals during the season due to injuries. To calculate the economic cost of injuries, they included the three main factors, on which their financing depends:
- The league contributes a certain amount to clubs based on their position at the end of the season. In this way, the last classified in the league earns £1.9 million and, for each higher position in the classification, an extra £1.9 million is added.
- Television broadcasting rights parties are also an important source of income. Regardless of whether they are broadcast or not, the teams charge £13.9 million for the first 10 games. If more are broadcast, the teams get paid an extra £0.94 million per game.
- Finally, participation in top-tier domestic leagues or international leagues such as the Champions League or UEFA is another very relevant means of financing. The authors standardized the financial income by the average of the Premier League, at £84.4 million, plus an extra £12.7 million if they participate in a European competition.
The economic impact of the injury in different leagues.
The results of losses due to injury for these authors go through analyzing the objectives proposed for the season that was not achieved. For them, the authors point out that the fact of not achieving the objectives decreases the economic gains by £36 million on average for each Premier League team. In this sense, absences due to injury, that is, the impact of days off from the squad was an average of £9 million per team. The total accumulated amount is £46 million per team (more than €53 million in losses).
In this sense, Fernández-Cuevas, 2010 conducted an analysis of the Spanish League, where he presented two scenarios. The first went through analyzing the losses due to injury of the teams through a method that established the salary value of the players for the minimum stipulated in the LaLiga agreement (for the first division it was €643,000 per player and for the second division, €330,000).
The second scenario was established by extracting the annual budgets of the football teams to divide them among the players, thus establishing an average salary of €7,000,000 per player in the first division and €1,000,000 in the second. division. The analysis shows 24,360 days of absence during the competition of the players, which means a drop of 16% of the squad annually. These results reflect an economic impact of sick days of a total of 9.4 million wage losses for each team, results very similar to those found in the Premier League when only wages were valued.
The implementation of thermography and economic savings
Lastly, the doctor of the Brazilian soccer team, Ana Carolina Cortê, conducted a two-season study on the use of thermography for the prevention and follow-up of injuries. In the 2015 season, she analyzed the muscle injuries that occurred: 11 muscle injuries in total, which meant 189 days of absence due to injury for the team. In the following season, 2016, she implemented a thermography analysis protocol, where she adapted interventions based on thermal information. Thus, the players who were classified as having a certain risk of injury did not train normally but rather underwent physiotherapy, an adaptation of the training load, change in the training load, cryotherapy or placement of pressotherapy boots. With this protocol, he achieved a 69% reduction in muscle injuries, down to just 4 injuries during the season. Additionally, she improved player injury absences to 62 days, which resulted in thermal imaging, by her calculations, saving $317,500.
In the first season, the team spent $472,500 due to sick leave, while in the second season the economic cost of sick leave was reduced to $155,000, thus demonstrating that the implementation of thermography produces savings significant ($317,500 or €292,000).
These results are in line with those proposed by Ekstrand et al. (2013), who established that the annual cost per team was around €500,000 due to player absences from the competition.
Conclusions on savings thanks to thermography
Technological tools that help in decision-making, among which we have thermography, have a positive impact on economic savings for clubs since they contribute to reducing the risk of injury. In addition, the readaptation of players to their sports practice is a key factor in avoiding the risk of recurrence, so monitoring this process with thermography is essential.
These tools help to understand the physiological processes of the player and improve the analysis of the internal training load. This is especially relevant when work protocols are established based on thermography information, which implies greater savings than the economic cost of its implementation.
- Côrte AC, Pedrinelli A, Marttos A, et al. Infrared thermography study as a complementary method of screening and prevention of muscle injuries: pilot study BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2019;5:e000431. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000431
- Fernandez-Cuevas I. Economic costs estimation of soccer injuries in first and second spanish division professional teams. Paper presented at the 15th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Sciences ECSS Antalya, Turkey.
- Eliakim E, Morgulev E, Lidor R, et al Estimation of injury costs: financial damage of English Premier League teams’ underachievement due to injuries BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2020;6:e000675. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000675
- Ekstrand J. Keeping your top players on the pitch: the key to football medicine at a professional level British Journal of Sports Medicine 2013;47:723-724.
- Hägglund M, Waldén M, Magnusson H, et al Injuries affect team performance negatively in professional football: an 11-year follow-up of the UEFA Champions League injury study British Journal of Sports Medicine 2013;47:738-742.
- Hägglund, M., Waldén, M., & Ekstrand, J. (2006). Previous injury as a risk factor for injury in elite football: a prospective study over two consecutive seasons. British journal of sports medicine, 40(9), 767–772. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2006.026609
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