As soccer fans, we see it all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite English Premier League team, one of the national teams in the World Cup, or even the Charleston Battery or their opponents. We see players go down all the time and yell toward the field or TV screen, complaining that they need to get up and keep playing. FIFA has tried to crack down on diving, but it seems that faking injuries has become part of soccer.
But is diving a phenomenon only in the men’s game? A new study out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center published in the July issue of Research in Sports Medicine suggests that faking injuries is common among female soccer players as well, but they do not use the tactic as frequently as men.
Daryl Rosenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, and his fellow researchers analyzed video of 47 games from two international women’s soccer tournaments. They noted all the incidents that occurred in which there appeared to be an injury. They noted injuries in which there was visible bleeding or where the player came out of the game within five minutes as a “definite” injury. The other incidents were marked as “questionable.”
They noted that while there were, on average, 5.74 apparent injuries per match, there were only 0.78 definite injuries, meaning that a large percentage of these incidents might have been faked or exaggerated. Rosenbaum points out that in the 2007 Women’s World Cup, his team noted approximately six apparent injuries per match, but team physicians only reported 2.3 injuries per match, also suggesting some degree of embellishment.
But how do these statistics compared to the men’s game? He compares these numbers with those of a study his team did in 2010 where they analyzed injuries from men’s international soccer. Men did seem to have a higher rate of apparent injuries (11.26 per match in men’s soccer versus 5.74 in women’s). However, the percentage of these injuries that were classified as definite was much higher among females. 13.7% of the incidents in the women’s games were found to be definite injuries, compared to 7.2% in men’s. Interestingly, in neither the men’s nor women’s tournaments did the teams with players who faked injuries win more often.
“In the end, I think this study shows that women are less likely than men to fake soccer injuries,” Rosenbaum said. “What isn’t clear is if injury simulation is used to gain a tactical advantage. Only the players themselves know the answer to that question.”
Maybe I’m a cynic, but in my mind, it seems pretty clear that “injury simulation” is used to gain a tactical advantage. “Questionable” injuries resulted from contact and led to referees calling fouls more often than definite injuries, so it makes sense players would try to use these incidents to their advantage. And while women seem to have a lower rate of faking injuries than do the men at the international level, it still seems to be a common tactic.
Soccer fans, what do you think? Is diving part of soccer? Should we try to eliminate it? And do you believe girls are less likely to fake injuries than boys? Let me know what you think!