Such simulated injuries ("simulation") in professional and international soccer are a frustrating part of the game. Anyone who watched the first leg of the Barcelona-Real Madrid Champion;s league semi-final this past spring will have seen what simulation does to the beautiful game.
In a paper just out Daryl Rosenbaum and colleagues provide the first scholarly attempt to quantify simulation in the women's game, looking at the 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cups, and offer a comparison to their male counterparts based on research published last year. Here is what they found:
The results did not support the notion that injury simulation is used as a time-wasting tactic by teams leading at the end of a match, as a greater number of questionable injuries in this situation were actually by the team behind (23 vs. 17). Referees were fairly accurate in allotting an appropriate amount of extra time to matches on average, so it is not certain this tactic would have the desired effect even if undertaken. A lack of association between questionable injuries and the second half or the latter third of each half argues against female players employing injury simulation as a means to rest and recover. This was more definitive than the mixed evidence from the men’s game, which showed an association with the final third of the second half (Rosenbaum et al., 2010).While the authors admit to a number of important caveats, it appears that women simulate less than men, but that rate is closing. It does not appear that simulation gains any tactical advantage but it does detract from the game. FIFA would do well to hold players accountable for simulation, perhaps providing severe sanctions in the most unambiguous cases based on post-game analyses. As we have seen, accountability works.
Players may have success using this behavior to influence referees, as there was an association between questionable injuries and fouls. Situations involving contact and being tackled may be seen as prime opportunities to influence the referee to sanction the opposing player, as evidenced by the higher likelihood of questionable injuries. There was no association with yellow/red card cautions given to opponents, however. Looking at the relative stakes of a match yielded a mixed picture as well; questionable injury rates were higher for knock-out versus group stage games but also for teams playing games that had no bearing on ability to advance. Finally, even if injury simulation is employed with the intent of gaining a tactical advantage, it may not be worthwhile, as there was no link between questionable injuries and markers of team success such as winning the match or advancing out of the group stage.
There does appear to be less overall injury incidents and less injury simulation in women’s international football compared with the men’s game. The apparent injury rate of 5.74 is nearly half the 11.26 rate found in a similar study of 4 major men’s international tournaments (Rosenbaum et al.,
Reference: Daryl A. Rosenbaum, Ravi R. Sanghani, Travis Woolen & Stephen W. Davis. Estimation of Injury Simulation in International Women's Football. Research in Sports Medicine, Volume 19, Issue 3, 2011 DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2011.556523