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Return to play: the challenge of balancing research and practice
  1. Alan McCall1,2,
  2. Colin Lewin1,
  3. Gary O'Driscoll1,
  4. Erik Witvrouw3,
  5. Clare Ardern4,5,6
  1. 1Research & Development Department, Arsenal Football Club, London, UK
  2. 2Research & Development Department, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  4. 4Aspetar Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  5. 5Division of Physiotherapy, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  6. 6School of Allied Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alan McCall, Arsenal Football Club, Bell Ln, London Colney, Hertfordshire AL2 1DR, UK; alan_mccall{at}

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Life is full of risky decisions, from mundane ones, to matters of life and death.1 In professional football, risk is everywhere: For the club—the risk of having a poor season and loss of income by not qualifying for an important competition. For the manager—overseeing a bad run of results, potentially jeopardising his position. For the player—poor performance and, of course, injury. For the medical/science team—bringing a player back too early from musculoskeletal injury, and he/she suffering a reinjury. The dilemma is that, usually, riskier options promise higher returns.1

In football, the decision to progress or delay a player's return to play (RTP) after musculoskeletal injury could be the difference between having a key player back two games earlier (giving the best chance to earn six points) contrasted with keeping the player out for two extra games, lowering his/her reinjury risk, but potentially ending up with fewer points. Which risk is more important? Do we aim for a reinjury rate of 0%? Or might we settle for 10% recurrence, where every injured player is back one game earlier?

RTP has been prominent …

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  • Twitter Follow Alan McCall @Alan_McCall_, Clare Ardern @clare_ardern

  • Contributors CL proposed the idea for this editorial. AM and CA wrote the first draft. All authors revised the manuscript for important intellectual content and approved the final version. AM is the guarantor. AM and CL are co-first authors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.