Injuries are part and parcel of the beautiful game, football. From the niggling injuries that hinder players for a few weeks at a time to the horror challenges that put careers at risk, all fans have those moments of angst when they think back to the injuries that shook them to the core.
The landscape of football continues to change. Gone are the days when players like Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Vinnie Jones could scythe through an attacking player without the yellow card being brandished. However, horror tackles still exist.
With the average age of football retirement at 35 years old, sometimes these challenges can torment players for the rest of their days, with knee and ankle injuries often flaring up years after what might have seemed an innocuous injury has passed.
As ex-Liverpool and England winger John Barnes becomes an ambassador of B-Cure Laser by Good Energies, a low-level laser therapy device that targets chronic pain, we take a look back at some of the injuries that shook British football to the core.
Shaw-ly he’ll be out for a while
Back in June 2014, Luke Shaw made a dream move when signing for Manchester United in a £31 million deal, but just a year later, he was sidelined following a gruelling injury in a contest with PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
At just 20 years old, the double fracture of his tibia and fibula could have put an end to his career when a dangerous two-footed challenge from Mexican centre-back Moreno left him on the deck, writhing in agony. Surgery and seven months on the sidelines put an end to Shaw’s season, while he also missed out on England’s run to the last 16 at Euro 2016.
Win or Busst for Sky Blues defender
In what transpired to be a career-ending injury, Coventry City defender David Busst suffered one of the most traumatic incidents in British football history on 8th April 1996. Competing for a corner in a match against Manchester United, the 28-year-old collided with Denis Irwin and Brian McClair, suffering extensive fractures to the tibia and fibula on his right leg.
After 10 operations in 12 days Busst was forced to call time on his career.
A head for heights
Thankfully, head injuries are not commonplace in British football, but in November 2020, Wolves striker Raúl Jiménez clashed heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz, which left him with a fractured skull.
While there was no ill-intent in the clash, Jiménez lay unconscious on the pitch, and he required an operation to stem the bleeding and repair damaged nerve cells. After spending a week in hospital and continuing his recuperation at home, the Mexican returned to light training in January but is yet to make his return to Premier League action.
Larsson returns to lead the line
Sometimes, the football gods are looking down on players when traumatic incidents occur. This was certainly the case for Swedish striker Henrik Larsson following a gruelling injury in the UEFA Cup. Just 12 minutes into Celtic’s match against Olympique Lyonnais, the striker came out on the wrong end of a challenge on Serge Blanc and left him with a double fracture.
Unaffected by the tackle, Blanc scored the only goal of the game as Lyon won 1-0. For Larsson, an eight-month recovery period ensued, after which he returned to full action, leading the line for Celtic and Sweden once more.
When rivalries subside
Nothing beats the atmosphere of a fierce Premier League rivalry, but when Alan Smith endured a freak accident during Manchester United’s FA Cup match against Liverpool at Anfield in 2006, that rivalry was put on hold.
No one could have envisaged a free kick resulting in a broken leg, but such was the force of John Arne Riise’s free kick that Smith not only broke his leg when he dived in to block the shot, but he also dislocated his ankle.
The former England international made a successful return to club action though, only retiring 12 years later in 2018.
It’s all about the timing
Mistimed challenges can have disastrous consequences, and that was the case for Croatian Eduardo Da Silva when Premier League leaders Arsenal faced Birmingham City at St Andrews in February 2008. Five points clear at the top, Eduardo was very much leading Arsenal’s title challenge, but when Martin Taylor slid in, Eduardo’s season came to a bone-crunching end as he suffered tibia and fibula fractures and a dislocated ankle.
As Arsenal drew the match 2-2 and went on to miss out on Premier League glory, Eduardo underwent surgery and returned just under 12 months after the injury, but he was never the same player again.
Bouncebackability in abundance
The treatment table and Kieron Dyer go hand in hand – you can’t find one without thinking of the other. In an injury-prone career, there was one injury that stands out above the rest: a double fracture that saw him stretchered off the pitch in West Ham United’s Carling Cup tie against Bristol Rovers in August 2007.Ap
In a tackle that was deemed reckless by then-Hammers manager Alan Curbishley, Dyer sustained a double leg break below the knee which kept him out until the following season. The promising England star’s career never came to fruition though as he was plagued by knee, Achilles tendon, and calf strain injuries.