La Liga Table: Gameweek 26 Results and Updated Table

Gameweek 26: There are several top games set to take place as part of GW 26, with Lazio already having beaten

Here is everything you need to know about Gameweek 26 in the Serie A 23/24 season:

Thursday 22nd February

Lazio vs Torino

In a pivotal Serie A clash that could significantly impact the race for European qualification, Lazio emerged victorious with a clinical 2-0 win over Torino at the Olympic Grande Torino Stadium. This match, a rescheduled Week 21 fixture originally postponed to accommodate Lazio‘s participation in the Supercoppa Italiana, was crucial for both teams, who were separated by just one point in their pursuit of seventh place prior to kickoff.

Despite several key absences on both sides, the game was a tale of missed opportunities for Torino and ruthless efficiency from Lazio. The home team squandered numerous chances, with Antonio Sanabria and Duvan Zapata notably failing to convert. Lazio, on the other hand, capitalized on their moments, with Matteo Guendouzi opening the scoring in the 51st minute, followed by Danilo Cataldi doubling the lead five minutes later. Both goals were a testament to Lazio‘s sharp counter-attacking play and clinical finishing.

The match also saw Lazio reduced to 10 men after Mario Gila received his second yellow card. However, Torino could not capitalize on their numerical advantage, continuing their trend of missed opportunities throughout the match.

This victory for Lazio not only boosts their European qualification hopes but also serves as a statement of intent from the Biancocelesti in their quest for a strong finish in Serie A.

As the Serie A season progresses, the intensity on the pitch heats up with every match. Gameweek 26 was no exception, offering its share of drama, excitement, and shifts within the league table. Let’s delve into the key outcomes and how they’ve influenced the current standings.

Saturday 24th February

One of the standout fixtures of the weekend was Empoli‘s thrilling 3-2 victory over Sassuolo in a battle that had significant implications at the bottom of the table. Empoli, under the guidance of Davide Nicola, have shown remarkable resilience, continuing their unbeaten run and moving up to 13th place, now five points clear of the relegation zone. This match was a testament to their fighting spirit, with Simone Bastoni heading in the decisive goal in the dying moments of the game.

Sassuolo, on the other hand, find themselves in a precarious position. The loss to Empoli marks their fifth defeat in the last six matches, leaving them teetering on the edge of the relegation zone, level on points with 18th-placed Hellas Verona.

The pressure is mounting, and the team will need to find a way to halt their freefall if they are to secure their Serie A status for another season.

Elsewhere in Serie A on Saturday

Genoa also defeated Udinese 2-0, with the away side seeing a player sent off in the 48th minute after Genoa had already gone ahead in the first half.

Sunday 25th February

Inter Milan Continues Unbeaten Run

Internazionale has solidified their position at the top with a commanding 4-0 victory over Lecce.

Lautaro Martínez was the star of the show, netting twice, with Davide Frattesi and Stefan de Vrij also getting on the scoresheet.

This win extends Inter‘s unbeaten streak to 10 games across all competitions, keeping them nine points clear of their closest rivals, Juventus.

Juventus‘ Late Drama

Juventus secured a thrilling 3-2 win against Frosinone, thanks to a late stoppage-time goal from Daniele Rugani.

The Bianconeri had initially taken the lead through a Dusan Vlahovic double, only for Frosinone to fight back.

Rugani’s late heroics ensured that Juventus remained in contention for the title, albeit nine points behind the leaders.

Napoli Stumbles

Napoli, the reigning Serie A champions, were held to a 1-1 draw by Cagliari. Victor Osimhen’s second-half goal was cancelled out by Zito Luvumbo’s late equaliser, costing Napoli valuable points in their quest to defend the title.

The Battle for the Top Four

The race for the top four spots, guaranteeing Champions League football next season, remains fiercely competitive.

Atalanta managed to secure a 1-1 draw against Milan, thanks to a penalty from Teun Koopmeiners, which cancelled out Rafael Leao’s opener. This result keeps Atalanta in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Monday 26th February

Roma‘s European Ambitions Strengthened

Paulo Dybala’s remarkable hat-trick propelled Roma to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Torino at the Stadio Olimpico. The win is a significant boost for Roma‘s aspirations of playing European football next season.

Dybala’s penalty kick opened the scoring, and despite a quick equaliser from Torino, the Argentine’s brilliance ensured Roma reclaimed the lead twice more.

This victory places Roma in a promising position, just four points shy of the Champions League qualification spots, igniting hopes among the Giallorossi faithful.

Fiorentina‘s Comeback Victory

In another match that had fans on the edge of their seats, Fiorentina staged a remarkable comeback to defeat Lazio 2-1.

Despite hitting the woodwork three times and falling behind to a counter-attacking goal from Lazio, Fiorentina‘s resilience shone through.

Michael Kayode’s equaliser and Giacomo Bonaventura’s decisive goal not only secured three points but also allowed Fiorentina to leapfrog Lazio in the race for European qualification.

This result underscores Fiorentina‘s tenacity and their ability to overcome adversity, traits that will be invaluable as the season enters its final stretch.

Who are the favourites to win Serie A in 23/24?

Based on the latest insights and odds from Squawka, Inter Milan emerges as the overwhelming favourite to clinch the title.

Despite losing key players like Andre Onana, Milan Skriniar, and Edin Dzeko, Inter has shown resilience and dominance on the field.

Under the guidance of Simeone Inzaghi, the Nerazzurri have secured a comfortable lead at the top, winning 20 of their 24 matches and sitting nine points clear of their closest rivals Juve.

FAQ: Serie A 23/24 Season Favourites to win

Who are the current favourites to win the Serie A 23/24 season? Inter Milan are the clear favourites to win the Serie A title this season, with Juventus and AC Milan also considered strong contenders.

Why is Inter Milan considered the favourite to win the Serie A? Despite losing key players, Inter Milan has shown exceptional form, leading the league by a significant margin. Their performances under coach Simeone Inzaghi have been outstanding, with 20 wins in 24 matches.

What challenges has Juventus faced this season? Juventus has struggled with consistency, suffering three losses, including a defeat to Inter Milan. Their absence from European competitions has allowed them to focus on the Serie A, yet they’ve faced difficulties maintaining a winning streak.

Here is the table as it currently stands for Serie A:



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Football Managers Sacked This Season: European Leagues

In the high-stakes world of football, the role of a manager is both coveted and perilous.

The 2023-24 season has seen its fair share of managerial departures across Europe’s top leagues, with the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1 all witnessing significant changes at the helm.

The Premier League, often hailed as the most competitive football league in the world, has witnessed a number of managerial changes in the 2023-24 season.

Each sacking, while unique in its circumstances, underscores the relentless pursuit of success and the thin line managers walk between triumph and turmoil.

Wolves Part Ways with Julen Lopetegui

The departure of Julen Lopetegui from Wolverhampton Wanderers set an early precedent for the season. Before the first match had even kicked off, Lopetegui and Wolves agreed to part ways by mutual consent.

This decision was emblematic of the chaotic pre-season Wolves had endured, with the club seeking stability and a fresh direction under new management.

Gary O’Neil, a former Bournemouth manager, was brought in with the hope of revitalising the team, and he has certainly done that in the 23/24 campaign, to the point that he could be in consideration for the best manager plaudits.

Sheffield United Dismiss Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom’s sacking came after a particularly dire start to the season for Sheffield United.

Anchored at the bottom of the league table, a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Burnley was the final straw. The club’s management decided that a change was necessary to salvage their season, leading to Heckingbottom’s dismissal.

Chris Wilder, returning for a second spell at the club, was tasked with steering the Blades away from relegation.

Nottingham Forest and Steve Cooper Part Ways

Steve Cooper’s departure from Nottingham Forest was another casualty of poor results.

A six-game winless streak, leaving the team perilously close to the relegation zone, prompted the club to act.

Cooper, who had previously guided Forest to promising positions, found himself unable to turn the tide, leading to his replacement by former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Roy Hodgson Steps Down from Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson’s exit from Crystal Palace was a mix of personal and professional reasons.

Health complications, combined with a series of disappointing results, led Hodgson to step down.

His departure marked the end of a challenging period for Palace, with ex-Eintracht Frankfurt boss Oliver Glasner stepping in to rejuvenate the squad.

Premier League Sackings List

Julen Lopetegui – Sacked by Wolves on August 8th 2023

Paul Heckingbottom – Sacked by Sheffield United on December 5th 2023

Steve Cooper – Sacked by Nottingham Forest on December 19th 2023

Roy Hodgson – Sacked by Crystal Palace on February 19th 2023

Sacked La Liga Coaches This Year

La Liga’s 2023-24 season has been as tumultuous as ever, with several clubs opting to change their managers in hopes of altering their fortunes.

The reasons behind these decisions range from poor performances and loss of the dressing room to strategic misalignments between the managers and the club’s visions.

Villarreal and Quique Setien’s Departure

Quique Setien’s tenure at Villarreal came to an abrupt end after just four games into the season.

With one win and three losses, the club’s hierarchy decided that a change was necessary to reverse their fortunes.

Setien’s tactical approach and the team’s performances did not align with the club’s expectations, leading to his sacking.

Pacheta, his replacement, however, found no better luck and was also shown the door, highlighting the club’s desperate search for stability.

Almeria Parts Ways with Vicente Moreno

Vicente Moreno’s dismissal from Almeria followed a disappointing start to the season, with the team languishing at the bottom of the table.

The decision was driven by the club’s fear of relegation and the belief that a new managerial approach was needed to galvanize the squad.

Gaizka Garritano was brought in with the task of ensuring Almeria’s survival in Spain’s top flight.

Sevilla Sacks Jose Luis Mendilibar

Sevilla‘s decision to sack Jose Luis Mendilibar came after a series of underwhelming performances that left the club in 14th place.

Mendilibar’s approach and tactics were questioned, with the club’s management deciding that a new direction was necessary to salvage their season.

Diego Alonso replaced him but was unable to turn the tide, leading to yet another managerial change at the club.

Barcelona Announces Xavi’s Resignation

One of the most high-profile departures was Xavi from Barcelona. His resignation was announced following a particularly humiliating defeat, marking a low point in the club’s recent history.

Despite his legendary status at the club, the decision underscored the immense pressure at Barcelona to perform at the highest level.

Xavi’s departure was a mutual decision, reflecting both the club’s and his own acknowledgement that a new approach was needed.

Granada and Paco Lopez

Paco Lopez’s sacking from Granada was a consequence of the club’s dire position in the league table.

Sitting 19th, the decision to part ways was driven by the urgent need to avoid relegation.

The club sought a new managerial perspective to inspire a turnaround in their fortunes, with Alexander Medina stepping in as Lopez’s replacement.

La Liga Sackings List

Quique Setien – Sacked by Villarreal on September 5th 2023

Vicente Moreno – Sacked by Almeria on September 29th 2023

Jose Luis Mendilibar – Sacked by Sevilla on October 8th 2023

Pacheta – Sacked by Villarreal on November 10th 2023

Paco Lopez – Sacked by Granada on November 26th 2023

Diego Alonso – Sacked by Sevilla on December 16th 2023

Sergio Gonzalez – Sacked by Cadiz on January 20th 2024

Francisco Rodriguez – Sacked by Rayo Vallecano on February 13th 2024

Sacked Serie A Managers This Season

The 2023-24 Serie A season has been a rollercoaster, with several clubs opting to make significant changes at the managerial helm.

These decisions, often driven by a mix of poor results, tactical mismatches, and a desire for a fresh approach, underscore the relentless pressure and high expectations in Italian football.

Empoli and Paolo Zanetti’s Exit

Paolo Zanetti’s early departure from Empoli was a direct consequence of a disastrous start to the season.

After suffering four consecutive defeats, including a humiliating 7-0 loss to Roma, the club’s management decided that a change was necessary to arrest the slide.

Zanetti’s tactics and team management were under scrutiny, leading to his sacking.

Aurelio Andreazzoli was brought back for his fourth spell at the club, tasked with stabilizing the ship and steering Empoli away from the relegation zone.

Salernitana Sacks Paulo Sousa

Paulo Sousa’s tenure at Salernitana came to an end after a series of disappointing results left the team second from bottom.

The 3-0 defeat to Monza was the final straw, with the club deciding that a new direction was needed to salvage their season.

Sousa’s approach was criticized for not getting the best out of the squad, leading to his replacement by Italy legend Filippo Inzaghi, who also struggled to turn the team’s fortunes around.

Udinese and Andrea Sottil Part Ways

Andrea Sottil’s sacking from Udinese was the result of a winless start to the season, leaving the club languishing in the relegation zone.

The decision to part ways was driven by the club’s management’s belief that a change in leadership was required to rejuvenate the team and secure Serie A survival.

Gabriele Cioffi, who had previously coached the team, was brought in as Sottil’s replacement.

Napoli Says Goodbye to Rudi Garcia

Rudi Garcia’s exit from Napoli came after a series of underwhelming performances that saw the reigning champions fall out of the title race early in the season.

Garcia’s tactics and team selections were questioned, with the club deciding that a new managerial approach was necessary to reignite their campaign.

Former Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri, who had enjoyed success with the club in the past, was chosen to replace Garcia.

Roma and Jose Mourinho’s Departure

Jose Mourinho’s departure from Roma was among the season’s most high-profile managerial changes.

Despite leading Roma to back-to-back European finals and winning the Conference League, Mourinho was sacked due to poor Serie A form.

The decision reflected the club’s high expectations and Mourinho’s inability to consistently deliver in the league.

Legendary former Roma and Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi was appointed as his temporary replacement, signalling a new chapter for the club.

Serie A Sackings List

Paolo Zanetti – Sacked by Empoli on September 19th 2023

Paulo Sousa – Sacked by Salernitana on October 10th 2023

Andrea Sottil – Sacked by Udinese on October 24th 2023

Rudi Garcia – Sacked by Napoli on November 14th 2023

Aurelio Andreazzoli – Sacked by Empoli on January 15th 2024

Jose Mourinho – Sacked by Roma on January 16th 2024

Pippo Inzaghi – Sacked by Salernitana on February 11th 2024

Sacked Bundesliga Managers This Season

The 2023-24 Bundesliga season has seen a notable number of managerial changes, reflecting the league’s competitive intensity and the high stakes involved in German football.

Clubs across the board have made decisive moves, aiming to correct course mid-season for a variety of reasons ranging from poor performances to strategic misalignments.

Augsburg and the Departure of Enrico Maaßen

Enrico Maaßen’s tenure at Augsburg came to an early end after a series of disappointing results left the team struggling near the bottom of the table.

With just five points from the first seven games, the club’s management decided that a new direction was necessary to avoid a relegation battle.

Maaßen’s tactics and approach were under scrutiny, leading to his replacement by Jess Thorup, who was tasked with turning the team’s fortunes around.

Mainz Moves on from Bo Svensson

Bo Svensson’s departure from Mainz was prompted by the team’s poor start to the season, finding themselves in a precarious position with just one win from nine games.

The decision to part ways was driven by the club’s desire to halt their slide towards the relegation zone and inject new energy into the squad.

Svensson’s inability to inspire a turnaround led to his sacking, with the club looking to Bo Henrisken for a fresh start.

Union Berlin and Urs Fischer’s End of an Era

Union Berlin‘s decision to sack Urs Fischer marked the end of a significant chapter for the club.

Having led Union to unprecedented heights, including Bundesliga promotion and European competition, Fischer’s dismissal came after a disastrous run of form that saw the team plummet down the table.

The club’s management felt a change was necessary to revive their fortunes, turning to Croatian coach Nenad Bjelica to steer the ship.

Koln and Steffen Baumgart’s Mutual Departure

Steffen Baumgart’s exit from Koln was somewhat unique, as it came by mutual consent.

With the team languishing in 17th place just before the Christmas break, both Baumgart and the club agreed that a new approach was needed to secure Bundesliga survival.

The decision underscored the club’s precarious position and the mutual recognition that a fresh perspective was required, leading to the appointment of Timo Schulz.

Bayern Munich Announces Thomas Tuchel’s Departure

Perhaps the most high-profile Bundesliga sacking was that of Thomas Tuchel at Bayern Munich.

Despite a storied career and high expectations, Tuchel’s tenure was marred by inconsistency and a series of punishing losses.

The club’s decision to part ways with Tuchel at the end of the season was a clear indication of their lofty ambitions and the need for a reset to maintain their domestic and European dominance.

Bundesliga Sackings List

Enrico Maaßen – Sacked by Augsburg on October 10th 2023

Bo Svensson – Sacked by Augsburg on November 2nd 2023

Urs Fischer – Sacked by Union Berlin on November 15th 2023

Steffen Baumgart – Sacked by Koln on December 21st 2023

Jan Siewert – Sacked by Mainz on February 12th 2024

Thomas Tuchel – Sacked by Bayern on June 20th 2024 (Already confirmed but he will stay till the end of the season)

The 2023-24 Ligue 1 season has been marked by a series of high-profile managerial changes, reflecting the league’s competitive landscape and the varying ambitions of its clubs.

From crisis management to strategic realignments, the reasons behind these sackings offer a glimpse into the pressures and challenges facing top-flight French football teams.

Lyon Parts Ways with Laurent Blanc

Laurent Blanc’s departure from Lyon was a significant moment in the season, signalling the club’s dissatisfaction with their standing and performances.

After weeks of speculation and a series of underwhelming results, Blanc was sacked, with the club languishing in a position far below their expectations.

His replacement, World Cup winner Fabio Grosso, was tasked with revitalising the squad, though his tenure proved short-lived, highlighting the intense pressure and high stakes at Lyon.

Marseille and Marcelino’s Short Stint

Marcelino’s time at Marseille came to an abrupt end following a difficult start to the season, compounded by an early exit from the Champions League playoffs.

The decision to sack Marcelino was driven by the club’s ambition to compete at the highest level, both domestically and in Europe.

Gennaro Gattuso, another former player with a high profile, was brought in as a replacement, signalling Marseille‘s intent to quickly turn their fortunes around.

Rennes Moves on from Bruno Genesio

Bruno Genesio’s resignation from Rennes came amid a challenging period for the club, struggling to find consistency and hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Genesio’s departure and the subsequent appointment of Julien Stephan were aimed at stabilising the club and moving away from the threat of relegation, showcasing the fine line between success and struggle in Ligue 1.

Nantes and the Sacking of Pierre Aristouy

Pierre Aristouy’s sacking by Nantes followed a series of disappointing performances, with the club making a change in an attempt to reverse their fortunes.

The decision was indicative of Nantes‘ desire for a mid-season revival, with Jocelyn Gourvennec stepping in to lead the charge.

This move underscored the club’s commitment to securing a comfortable position in the league and avoiding the pitfalls of a relegation battle.

Gattuso’s Departure from Marseille

Gattuso’s tenure at Marseille, despite starting with promise, ended in dismissal due to the team’s inability to meet the high expectations set by the club and its supporters.

His sacking was a testament to the volatile nature of football management, where past achievements offer little security, and results are the ultimate benchmark.

Ligue 1 Sackings List

Laurent Blanc – Sacked by Lyon on September 11th 2023

Marcelino – Sacked by Marseille on September 20th 2023

Bruno Genesio – Sacked by Rennes on November 19th 2023

Pierre Aristouy – Sacked by Nantes on November 29th 2023

Fabio Grosso – Sacked by Lyon on November 30th 2023

Gennaro Gattuso – Sacked by Marseille on February 20th 2024

FAQs

Who was the first Premier League manager to be sacked in the 2023-24 season? Julen Lopetegui was the first to leave, with Wolves parting ways before the season started.

Which La Liga manager’s departure marked the first of the season? Quique Setien’s exit from Villarreal was the first managerial change in La Liga.

Who replaced Jose Mourinho at Roma? Legendary former Roma and Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi took over until the end of the season.

Has any manager been sacked in the Bundesliga this season? Yes, several managers have been sacked, including Bayern Munich’s Thomas Tuchel, who will leave at the season’s end.

What trend is noticeable in the sacking of managers? A clear trend is the decreasing patience clubs have with managers, with poor performances quickly leading to dismissals.



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Cruciate ligament injuries: The recovery process

Football players are under more strain than ever, and the injuries continue to accumulate.

Some are simple strains due to the intensity of the football calendar, but in others there have been season-ending problems, with Barcelona‘s Ansu Fati and Liverpool‘s Virgil Van Dijk among those to suffer ACL injuries in recent years.

Despite improvements in technology aiding the process cruciate ligament injuries are, unfortunately, still too common an injury in football.

Going back a few decades, such an injury could potentially be career-ending, but advances in medicine and surgery means that many players can make a full recovery and, in the main, return to their former range of movement and ability.

But what exactly is a cruciate ligament injury, how does it happen, and what kind of rehabilitation do players face?

How do Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries happen?

You’ll have seen the footage yourself many times. A player’s foot is planted and he or she tries to change direction. The foot remains in the ground and the knee doesn’t travel with the rest of the body.

It’s the ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament, that takes the strain and if the strain is too much, it gives in, in various levels of severity.

Can you walk on a torn ACL?

You’ll often hear commentators also say that ‘it can’t be too bad because he walked off the pitch’. ACL injuries can be walked on by the sufferer – it’s not like a broken bone. The player would be in pain but it is possible to limp off, with the initial swelling subsiding.

It doesn’t in any way provide an indicator of how serious the injury is, however. Players who walk off the pitch usually have ice applied immediately before they can be taken for surgery.

ACL injury surgery options

There are significant differences in the severity of ACL injuries and also different options that are available in order to resolve the issue.

The fantastic Twitter account Injury Mechanisms outlines this and explains the various options available.

1. Autograft v Allograft

The ‘autograft’ method utilises the players’ existing tendon in order to make repairs. It has a low risk rate but generally the surgery time increases the length of the recovery.

The ‘allograft’ users what is known as ‘donor or cadaver’ tissue to fix the problem. Historically it is a less painful procedure for the player but the risk of failure is higher than the autograft method. The cost of the surgery is also higher, though this isn’t not necessarily a concern for top professional clubs.

2. Patella Tendon Graft

This method uses 1/3 of the patella tendon using bone blocks. It has the lowest failure rate of all the procedures and involves bone-to-bone healing. As Injury Mechanisms points out, this is considered the optimum approach for athletes wishing to return to their very best.

3. Hamstring Autograft

The hamstring autograft uses the same method as the original autograft in terms of taking an existing part of the body to assist with the repair. Taking a piece of the hamstring is an easier ‘harvest’ process and requires a smaller incision, but the graft failure rate is historically higher using this method in younger athletes.

It requires longer integration in order to work and takes longer biological healing, and there are also other issues at play such as the graft stretching or the hamstring suffering weakness afterwards.

4. Quadriceps Tendon Autograft

This is the least common method of repairing ACL injuries. It has a predictable graft size and also requires a small incision, but recent studies have shown the failure rate to be higher, hence the reason that it is less commonly used.

Does an ACL injury require surgery?

Not necessarily. Players are increasingly exploring methods by which surgery isn’t required, but it requires an intense consultation and dedication to the methods of repair to work (rest + likely workload post surgery).

For example, athletes who are not pre-disposed to changing direction regularly of pivoting can see more success in this respect. But for footballers, basketball players or specific NFL positions (like wide receivers), surgery is still recommended.

Different severity of ACL injuries

Not all ACL injuries are equally serious and there are various grades to describe the severity of the injury.

Grade 1 means that the ligament has sustained mild damage and and has been overextended but is still mild and the knee joint has remained stable.

Grade 2 means that the ACL has been stretched and has become loose. In this scenario, the ligament has likely suffered a partial tear but it’s rare for this mid-level injury to happen.

Grade 3 is referred to as a complete ligament tear. It means that the ACL has split into two pieces and the knee itself needs to be stabilised. This is the most common serious injury suffered among football players.

What is the expected recovery time?

This is dependent on many factors. Players are usually walking again after two weeks and this leads them into a false sense of security that everything is ok. They need to be very carefully managed through the rehabilitation procedure to ensure that they are not overextending themselves while the ligament continues to heal.

The optimal period of recovery is sixth months but much of the process is in the hands of the player. If they are compliant with the exercises and regimes provided to them then the process can be expedited, but the utmost care has to be taken to ensure that there is no relapse.

There are countless examples of players trying to rush back to finish too soon, and in the most severe cases, it can take a player up to a year to be ready for first-team football once again.



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Cruciate ligament injuries: The recovery process

Football players are under more strain than ever, and the injuries continue to accumulate.

Some are simple strains due to the intensity of the football calendar, but in others there have been season-ending problems, with Barcelona‘s Ansu Fati and Liverpool‘s Virgil Van Dijk among those to suffer ACL injuries in recent years.

Despite improvements in technology aiding the process cruciate ligament injuries are, unfortunately, still too common an injury in football.

Going back a few decades, such an injury could potentially be career-ending, but advances in medicine and surgery means that many players can make a full recovery and, in the main, return to their former range of movement and ability.

But what exactly is a cruciate ligament injury, how does it happen, and what kind of rehabilitation do players face?

How do Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries happen?

You’ll have seen the footage yourself many times. A player’s foot is planted and he or she tries to change direction. The foot remains in the ground and the knee doesn’t travel with the rest of the body.

It’s the ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament, that takes the strain and if the strain is too much, it gives in, in various levels of severity.

Can you walk on a torn ACL?

You’ll often hear commentators also say that ‘it can’t be too bad because he walked off the pitch’. ACL injuries can be walked on by the sufferer – it’s not like a broken bone. The player would be in pain but it is possible to limp off, with the initial swelling subsiding.

It doesn’t in any way provide an indicator of how serious the injury is, however. Players who walk off the pitch usually have ice applied immediately before they can be taken for surgery.

ACL injury surgery options

There are significant differences in the severity of ACL injuries and also different options that are available in order to resolve the issue.

The fantastic Twitter account Injury Mechanisms outlines this and explains the various options available.

1. Autograft v Allograft

The ‘autograft’ method utilises the players’ existing tendon in order to make repairs. It has a low risk rate but generally the surgery time increases the length of the recovery.

The ‘allograft’ users what is known as ‘donor or cadaver’ tissue to fix the problem. Historically it is a less painful procedure for the player but the risk of failure is higher than the autograft method. The cost of the surgery is also higher, though this isn’t not necessarily a concern for top professional clubs.

2. Patella Tendon Graft

This method uses 1/3 of the patella tendon using bone blocks. It has the lowest failure rate of all the procedures and involves bone-to-bone healing. As Injury Mechanisms points out, this is considered the optimum approach for athletes wishing to return to their very best.

3. Hamstring Autograft

The hamstring autograft uses the same method as the original autograft in terms of taking an existing part of the body to assist with the repair. Taking a piece of the hamstring is an easier ‘harvest’ process and requires a smaller incision, but the graft failure rate is historically higher using this method in younger athletes.

It requires longer integration in order to work and takes longer biological healing, and there are also other issues at play such as the graft stretching or the hamstring suffering weakness afterwards.

4. Quadriceps Tendon Autograft

This is the least common method of repairing ACL injuries. It has a predictable graft size and also requires a small incision, but recent studies have shown the failure rate to be higher, hence the reason that it is less commonly used.

Does an ACL injury require surgery?

Not necessarily. Players are increasingly exploring methods by which surgery isn’t required, but it requires an intense consultation and dedication to the methods of repair to work (rest + likely workload post surgery).

For example, athletes who are not pre-disposed to changing direction regularly of pivoting can see more success in this respect. But for footballers, basketball players or specific NFL positions (like wide receivers), surgery is still recommended.

Different severity of ACL injuries

Not all ACL injuries are equally serious and there are various grades to describe the severity of the injury.

Grade 1 means that the ligament has sustained mild damage and and has been overextended but is still mild and the knee joint has remained stable.

Grade 2 means that the ACL has been stretched and has become loose. In this scenario, the ligament has likely suffered a partial tear but it’s rare for this mid-level injury to happen.

Grade 3 is referred to as a complete ligament tear. It means that the ACL has split into two pieces and the knee itself needs to be stabilised. This is the most common serious injury suffered among football players.

What is the expected recovery time?

This is dependent on many factors. Players are usually walking again after two weeks and this leads them into a false sense of security that everything is ok. They need to be very carefully managed through the rehabilitation procedure to ensure that they are not overextending themselves while the ligament continues to heal.

The optimal period of recovery is sixth months but much of the process is in the hands of the player. If they are compliant with the exercises and regimes provided to them then the process can be expedited, but the utmost care has to be taken to ensure that there is no relapse.

There are countless examples of players trying to rush back to finish too soon, and in the most severe cases, it can take a player up to a year to be ready for first-team football once again.



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