Women’s World Cup Players Much Less Likely To Fake Injuries Than Men

By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap's Sports Science Expert


With the Women’s World Cup in full swing, we have plenty of great soccer to watch, along with an extra bonus: less drama than those excitable men. That’s right. Despite our misperceptions of women athletes being more emotional, it’s the men who actually whine more, celebrate more and fake injuries a whole lot more than their female counterparts. Two recent studies, one from Germany and one from the U.S., describe how men are the real prima donnas.

Despite the running clock in soccer, the game can be stopped for up as much as 40% of the 90 minutes with some gameplay stopped as much as 53% of the total time for both men and women. However, researchers at Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) found that women players get back to the game much faster than men.

After reviewing 56 international level games (28 for each gender), TUM Professor Martin Lames recorded the time, location and duration of every interruption of play. He found the delays are significantly longer for the men.

While women celebrate a goal for about 30 seconds, the men carry on for twice as long before play resumes. Getting on and off the field during substitutions takes the men 10 seconds longer. But the most dramatic of the differences is when an injury occurs. Men roll around on the ground and stay down for about 30 seconds longer than women.

"In general the differences can be interpreted as follows: For men the thought of staging themselves is much more pronounced than for women, where the game itself is obviously paramount,” explained Prof. Lames. "The reason for this could be that men's football generally pulls in more spectators and receives greater media coverage."

Speaking of injuries, a second study out of Wake Forest University showed that the men love to “simulate” an injury much more than women. Daryl Rosenbaum, M.D., assistant professor at Wake Forest, watched replays of 47 international matches, both men and women, and categorized each stoppage of play for an apparent injury. If the player was actually substituted from the game or there was blood evident, the injury was tagged as “definite.” All other injuries that did not cause the player to leave the game were labeled “questionable.”

For the women’s games, there were 270 injuries observed, a rate of 5.74 per game. Of those episodes, 0.78 were deemed “definite” while 4.96 were “questionable.” That may sound a little mischievous of the women––but it pales in comparison to the men.

Men’s games had an average of 11.26 injuries per game, about twice the rate of women’s games. In addition, 13.6% of women’s injuries were definite compared to only 7.2% for men.

One explanation for the higher rate of questionable injuries for men is gamesmanship to gain advantage with the referee. As we saw in the other study, the men go down more and then stay down longer.

"In the end, I think this study shows that women are less likely than men to fake soccer injuries," said Rosenbaum. "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.”

So, one thing's for sure watching the Women’s World Cup: the action will move along faster and with shorter interruptions. And maybe we should give the men the label of “drama kings.”

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Dan Peterson is a recovering sports dad who is fascinated with sports science research, skill development and the athlete’s brain. He has written over 400 science-based articles across the Web and consults with parents, coaches and young players to help them understand the cognitive side of sports. You can visit him at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental and at @DanielPeterson.

Release Date: Jun 29 2015

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