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We stand with the players: a call to action for the football community
  1. Torstein Dalen-Lorentsen1,2,
  2. John Bjørneboe2,3,
  3. Joar Harøy2,
  4. Thor Einar Andersen2
  1. 1 Department of Health Research, SINTEF Digital, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Torstein Dalen-Lorentsen, Department of Health, SINTEF Digital, Oslo, Norway; torstein.dalen{at}

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On 19 November 2023, Gavi the teenage phenomenon of FC Barcelona tore his anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus while playing a European Qualifiers 2024 match for Spain.1 At that point, the 19-year-old had played 81 matches since the beginning of last season in August 2023. In a commentary the next day, the sports daily Marca asked the question: ‘¿Quién lesionó a Gavi?’ or: ‘Who injured Gavi?’, a question implying a link between the injury and match load.2 This commentary addresses the important question of whether the growing number of matches jeopardises the physical and mental health of top-level football players.

A consistent rise in match load

Gavi is not the sole victim of injuries threatening future performance3 and knee health,4 as well as barring players from important events like the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Euro 2024. In a recent report, the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPRO)5 has raised concerns about the mental and physical health of top-level footballers of both sexes, as the 2022/2023 season has witnessed an unprecedented match load. While this season was atypical, with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup in Qatar overlapping with the European domestic seasons, players will have to brave similar match loads this season (2023/2024). And the trend is clear: more and more matches each year.

The UEFA Champions League is set to increase the number of matches by roughly 30% from next season, the FIFA Club World Cup is expanding, and so is the FIFA World Cup. In addition, during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the new interpretation of stoppage …

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  • X @torsteindalen, @JohnBjorneboe, @JHaroey, @DocThorAndersen

  • Contributors TD-L: first draft and conceptual idea of the manuscript, review, editing and writing manuscript. JH, JB and TEA: editing and reviewing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center has been established at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences through generous grants from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Culture, the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, the IOC, the Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sport and Norsk Tipping AS.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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