PWM Release 2023

Congested professional football calendar raises mental health concerns for players


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PWM Release 2023
  • New FIFPRO report warns of risk to mental health, careers, and personal lives of players

  • Today’s elite young players like Vinicius Jr have played up to double previous generation

  • FIFPRO seeks mandatory season breaks, limit on back-to-back games to protect players

Overlapping competition schedules and elevated individual workload demands in the 2022/2023 football season are highlighted in a new FIFPRO report that warns of the impact on the health of professional players. While the risks of injury and deteriorating performance are widely known, the report also illustrates dangers to career longevity, mental health, and personal lives.

The end-of-season report, Extreme Calendar Congestion: The Adverse Effects on Player Health & Wellbeing, was compiled with Football Benchmark. It considers the impact on players after one of the busiest seasons ever because of the mid-season 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The report also analyses the cost of injuries to clubs, broadcasters, and fans because of the large number of players missing matches in the ‘big five’ leagues this season.

Extreme Calendar Congestion: Adverse Effects on Player Health & Wellbeing

Overlapping competition schedules and elevated individual workload demands in the 2022/23 season are highlighted in a new FIFPRO report that warns of the impact on the health of professional players.

PWM 2023 Men's Report Cover

There is an unprecedented amount of domestic and international competitions, expanded national team tournaments, and travel for footballers. Players such as Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham have played as much as double the competitive professional football at their age as their peers in previous generations, increasing the risk of injury and burnout, according to the report.

  • Vinicius Jr has at age 22 already played 18,876 minutes club and national team football, more than twice as much as former Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho at the same age.

  • Spain’s Pedri had at the age of 20 played more than 12,000 minutes, 25 percent more minutes than Xavi at the same age.

  • France’s Kylian Mbappe has at age 24 played 26,952 minutes, 48 percent more minutes than Thierry Henry at the same age.

  • Jude Bellingham will have played more than 30 percent more minutes of competitive football by his 20th birthday later this month than Wayne Rooney, at the same age.
Jude Bellingham PWM
Jude Bellingham
Pedri PWM
Vini Jr
Vinicius Jr
Kylian Mbappe PWM
Kylian Mbappe

So far, football stakeholders have disregarded health safeguards in favour of competition expansion, which is expected to generate extra revenue. In addition, the report shows that for the 2024/25 season because of the expansion of the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup, there could potentially be an 89-game season for players in the most successful clubs, meaning they could face up to 11 percent more games.

"Evidence shows that the cannibalisation of the match calendar is putting more mental and physical stress on today’s elite players than the previous generation," FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said.

"Even though some are having to reduce their commitments or leave the game early, there is no sign of a solution to protect them. The match calendar from 2024/25 will put more pressure on their health and careers. Together, all of us have a duty of care towards these players and the industry must fast-track the implementation of actions that look after their health and wellbeing."

FIFPRO continues to seek the adoption of safeguards including mandatory in- and off-season breaks, regular breaks outside the club environment, a limit on back-to-back matches, and the minimisation of international travel.

"The health and safety of footballers and everyone else in the game should come before every other priority," FIFPRO President David Aganzo said.

"It is extremely important that we bring in some of the measures that we have been calling for at the pinnacle of the game to help protect players from suffering mental or physical injury. We are ready to resume contact with football stakeholders to improve the working conditions of players."

The report shows the insufficient preparation and recovery times before and after the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar

Many of the report findings are from FIFPRO Player IQ, a player-centric knowledge centre that operates the Player Workload Monitoring platform and tracks the workload of 1,800 men and women professional footballers.