“What We Would Expect” – Injury Expert On ‘Outstanding’ Liverpool Ace Who Faces Lengthy Layoff

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By Yannick Jonker

Dan Clubbe sat down with Premier Injuries founder Ben Dinnery for an Expert Insight into Liverpool’s injury list. An injury list which compared to seasons gone by, has been fairly quiet; a trend which goes against the rate of injuries this season. The number of injuries this season has seen a general increase of 15% in comparison to the average data recorded of the last five seasons, per Dinnery. Furthermore, since the 2022/23 season, there has been a rise of 30%.

To many people, it will come as no surprise that the hamstring has been the most common injury suffered by players. The muscles run along the back of the thigh to just below the knee, in fact, 42% of muscular injuries occur in the hamstring group. The aforementioned injuries have seen an alarming increase of 93% in comparison to the five-season average.

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Joel Matip unfortunately finds himself atop that list, having ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). The former Cameroon international sustained the injury following a routine challenge with Fulham winger Willian. The central defender is out of contract at Anfield following the conclusion of the 2023/24 Premier League season in May. The expectation is however that the club will help and provide another contract, likely to be short-term.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has indicated the above will happen adding: “I am pretty sure the club will show their class.” Additionally, Dinnery said there is an “expectation at a higher level” that clubs provide aftercare regardless of the contractual situation. Matip has been an excellent servant during his current eight-year stay on Merseyside and for that to end in such a manner, would be a great shame.

Liverpool will be very weary to rush the defender back, with the risk of injury being 51% greater if returning with nine months of the injury in comparison to longer than. Specialists are conscious of rushing and putting a date on things, with the rate of return now monitored by “activity protocols” rather than a timeline.

“Internally there’s been a move away from a regimented fixation on a timeline for players. What we tend to do now is we look at protocols and it’s activity-based. So instead of saying by four weeks they’ll be running on an anti-gravity treadmill, they tick off boxes along the way. So it could take one player 7-10 days and someone else 21-25.”

As is well documented, there are no guarantees that players return to pre-injury levels. They have to rebuild the confidence they once had in their body. As much as it is a physical injury, the detriment it has psychologically can be huge. The impacts of playing a high level of topflight football have to be eased into and according to Dinnery, it is estimated that it takes two seasons to get back to optimum level.

A prime example of this is none other than Liverpool’s number four, Virgil van Dijk. After he sustained his ACL injury in October of 2020, he is now beginning to reach his best football once again two full seasons later, a timeline Dinnery himself said is about the norm for players return from such serious injuries based on regaining confidence in their bodies once more.

“Typically what we would expect to see is players returning from such a severe setback as an ACL reconstructive surgery is that second season where we’re starting to see that level of consistency back at optimum levels. So Van Dijk fits that framework in terms of that recovery.”

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It will now never be known whether or not the club would’ve offered Matip – who was recently hailed as ‘outstanding’ by Klopp – a new deal prior to his season-ending injury, however, as stated above, it would certainly be the correct decision for the 32-year-old to at the very least be offered a contract that would allow him to get back to full fitness on Merseyside. 

Having gone through successful surgery, Matip will now begin his lengthy rehab process before looking to return to action, thereafter it remains to be seen what happens with the centre-back at Anfield and regardless, Klopp and co will undoubtedly have one eye on a long-term successor, albeit in Jarell Quansah he could already be in the building. 

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