Neymar injured, PSG

Metatarsal injuries: Recovery time, can it ruin careers and footballers who suffered them

Due to the nature of football, injuries are almost inevitable and some are, naturally, more serious than others.

The legs and feet are the principal tools used by footballers so they are the body parts most at risk and the metatarsal bones in the feet can be particularly vulnerable.

Plenty of footballers have suffered and will suffer a metatarsal issue during their careers. Goal brings you all you need to know about it.

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What is a metatarsal injury?

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The metatarsal bones are a group of five bones that are found in the foot. They are located in the middle of the foot, between the base of the leg and the toes.

Injuries occur to the metatarsal bones in a variety of ways, but one of the more common causes is direct trauma resulting from a blow, stamp or kick, for example. Injuries can also occur during movement if there is an instance of overextension or extreme stress.

Why is a metatarsal injury common in football?

Football involves using the feet to both control and pass the ball, but also to make tackles. Such activity can sometimes result in unintended collisions between players.

It has been suggested that the design of some modern-day football boots provides players with less protection on the top of the foot, with certain designs favouring lower weight and less material.

Can you play again after a metatarsal injury?

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Yes, a metatarsal injury is not known as a career-ending injury. However, depending on the severity of the injury and how it is treated, it can potentially have lasting effects.

Some players have endured a series of metatarsal injuries during the course of their careers after their bones were weakened from an initial break.

Metatarsal injury treatment & recovery time

It can take anywhere between four and eight weeks for a metatarsal fracture to heal fully, depending on severity, and the treatment involves wearing a cast or protective boot over the injured region.

Sufferers are advised to keep the weight off their injured foot for the first couple of weeks, so crutches may be required, and physiotherapy is becoming increasingly important in the recovery process. Specialist exercises and pool work can be used in this regard.

Footballers who suffered metatarsal injuries

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Lots of high-profile players have suffered metatarsal injuries during their careers, but some have been affected more seriously than others. It isn't a particularly serious injury, but it can keep players out of action for lengthy periods and they have plagued some of the best footballers in the world.

David Beckham

There were cries of horror in England when a metatarsal injury threatened to rule David Beckham out of the 2002 World Cup. The then-Manchester United star suffered the injury in a Champions League clash against Deportivo La Coruna when he came off second best against Aldo Duscher and it had the effect of bringing the bone into the consciousness of the wider football-loving public.

There was serious concern over whether Beckham would make the tournament due to the projected recovery and rehabilitation time, but the midfielder was lucky that it was not as serious as first thought. 

Wayne Rooney

Metatarsal is probably a word that makes Wayne Rooney wince every time he hears it such has been the difficulty it has caused him in both feet during his career. The former England captain first suffered a cracked metatarsal in his left foot as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004 and it has popped up a number of times throughout his career.

He almost missed out on the 2006 World Cup due to a similar injury in his right foot and the following year he was forced to miss a series of Euro 2008 qualifiers with another fracture.

Gabriel Jesus

Manchester City's Brazilian sensation Gabriel Jesus had his maiden season at the club cut short after a few weeks when he suffered a metatarsal fracture. The striker had hit the ground running in the Premier League until he was laid low with a broken foot picked up in a match against Bournemouth.

Jesus missed the bulk of the season as a result with a full recovery taking two and a half months.


Even the most expensive player in world football can be struck down by the metatarsal curse, with Paris Saint-Germain seeing a €222 million addition shunted to the sidelines during a Ligue 1 clash with arch-rivals Marseille on February 25, 2018.

Like Beckham and Rooney before him, Brazil international Neymar suffered an untimely knock with the countdown on to a World Cup finals, with an unfortunate injury ruling him out of a crucial domestic and Champions League fixtures.

Neymar suffered further metatarsal woes in 2019, with the injury keeping him out for 18 games.