Divock Origi‘s recent ankle injury could have been avoided if the Anfield pitch wasn’t tightly surrounded by artificial turf, a prominent podiatrist has claimed.
The Belgian caught his left foot on the ground while attempting to keep the ball in play midway through the first half, and was eventually replaced by the game-changing Roberto Firmino.
As a result, he did not travel with the first-team squad to Naples for their Champions League opener on Tuesday, as he undergoes treatment for an injury which, claims podiatrist and research scientist Athol Thomson, was avoidable:
Recent injury for a player stepping onto Artificial grass from a natural grass (hybrid reinforced) playing surface. The mechanical properties of each surface are most likely different (traction and hardness etc). This player had to come off with an ankle injury. pic.twitter.com/r0yLgHMxio
— Athol Thomson (@AtholThomson) September 16, 2019
He pointed out that, due to the proximity of an artificial turf to the natural grass pitch at Anfield, Origi’s left foot stayed behind while he pulled away.
Origi ended up falling over in a challenge with Miguel Almiron, with his loss of balance caused by the change in surface while he was running at speed, and his change in movement.
Thomson, who works for Aspetar—the Qatar facility where Adam Lallana received specialist treatment in 2017, and Liverpool hired medical rehabilitation and performance manager Philipp Jacobsen from 2018—pointed to another situation involving Alberto Moreno.
As Thomson notes, for a player’s safety the surfaces both on and off the pitch “should be uniform,” with the decision to implement artificial turf beyond the touchline at many stadiums largely cosmetic.
He pointed to the distance between natural and artificial turf at the Nou Camp as “a good place to start,” and highlighted a season-ending ACL injury for Brisbane Lions’ Michael Close in an Aussie rules game at North Melbourne in 2015 as another example.
Interestingly, ex-Liverpool head physio Andy Renshaw—who was sacked in 2017 as Klopp oversaw a shakeup of his medical department—agrees with Thomson’s assessment.
“Players don’t have time to think about adapting to a different surface when they’re chasing a ball,” Renshaw wrote.
“The same surface needs to remain beyond the line for considerable distance.”
It is not only at Anfield that these issues occur, but it seems negligent for the club to utilise this setup if there is any chance of it causing injury to a player.
Fortunately, Origi’s injury is for the time being treated as a minor one, but as Close’s issue proved, there is a possibility that this change in surface could inflict serious damage.