Sheffield United to launch independent investigation into injury crisis

Sheffield United have called in expert help to find if there is anything they can change to reduce the injuries they are suffering this season, even if manager Paul Heckingbottom is not convinced they will find an answer.

George Baldock returned to full training on Thursday, putting him in contention for Saturday's game at Arsenal, but the Blades will still be without Chris Basham (ankle), John Egan (ankle), Tom Davies (thigh), Rhys Norrington-Davies (thigh), Max Lowe (ankle), Anel Ahmedhodzic (thigh), Will Osula (muscular), and Adam Davies (knee), plus the ill Daniel Jebbison. On Thursday Oli McBurnie had a scan on the groin injury picked up during Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, which he scored a penalty in.

A recent survey of Football League players found almost 60 per cent blamed the longer playing time in games this season for injuries, with a similar number saying a lack of rest time was a factor. Nearly 75 per cent felt they did not have a proper break between seasons.

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With the voracious expansion of continental and global tournaments, it is a bigger problem still at elite level.

Even so, website, which monitors top-division absentees lists more at Sheffield United than any other club, and an alarming number are long-term.

Manager Heckingbottom thinks it is the worst injury situation he has experienced and has persuaded the Bramall Lane board to employ outside experts to look into it.

"We've been trying for a long time but there’s a cost to that," he said. "We'll get that done.

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"Am I thinking it will uncover things? Maybe not but it needs to be done. It’s an area for me that we’ve shown to be lacking in.

INJURY: Oli McBurnie damaged his groin during Sheffield United's 2-1 defeat to Manchester UnitedINJURY: Oli McBurnie damaged his groin during Sheffield United's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United
INJURY: Oli McBurnie damaged his groin during Sheffield United's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United

"If it is the way the game is going do we have to change how we recruit, or how we make substitutions? We have to get on top of this because at the minute we're getting massively handicapped by it.

"We're having muscle injuries that are massive that result in operations and ruptures.

"They’ve been on the increase in the game but it's only good practice to investigate that because we spend on players and we spend on wages.

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"Whether it's paying for investigations, or for the resources in facilities, personnel, manpower, expertise or skills... it may be none of those things.

QUESTIONS. Sheffield United manager Paul HeckingbottomQUESTIONS. Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
QUESTIONS. Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom

"Even if there are more injuries can we be the bottom side of the curve?

"If you go to any football club you're virtually copying each other. There's not too many people out there doing weird and wacky things. But if we keep doing what we're doing, we'll get the same thing."

Rhian Brewster, a substitute last week, could replace McBurnie but is highly unlikely to play the full game having only recently returned from a long-term hamstring injury.

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"He could go on the pitch for 90 but we haven't been blessed with a full squad so we can get maximum impact from all our subs,” said Heckingbottom.

"You get to a point where through physical exertions your levels do drop in the last 20, 30 minutes.

"If I'm starting Rhian I certainly won't be wanting him to think he's got to last 90, I want the impact for as long as he can give it and when he blows up, we change him."