What actually is a metatarsal?
Well, the average foot contains five metatarsal bones, one for each toe, only slightly further up the foot. A metatarsal injury is usually sustained from heavy contact with another player. In Beckham’s case, this came from a rather clumsy tackle from Duscher, causing a fracture of the second metatarsal (the one next to the big toe to you and me), and within a few months both Gary Neville & Danny Murphy had been ruled out of the World Cup with similar injuries. Since then, we have seen Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney (three times), Michael Owen, Xabi Alonso & Roy Keane suffer the curse of this hitherto unknown word.
We all remember the furore with Wayne Rooney before the last World Cup in 2006. Rooney injured his metatarsal in a collision with Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira in April 2006, and was rated as doubtful for England’s assault on the world in Germany. The pictures of a grinning Rooney wearing what looked like a giant cube on his foot, and stories of him spending hours a day in an oxygen tent in order to aid his recovery, dominated front and back pages. Eventually Rooney made it to Germany, and returned to competitive action on 15th June 2006, just over six weeks after sustaining the injury. It was deemed a pretty miraculous recovery, especially considering Rooney had taken around 14 weeks to recover from a similar injury sustained playing for England at Euro 2004.
But that was lightning compared to Michael Owen. Owen picked up a metatarsal injury of his own whilst playing for Newcastle, in a collision with England colleague Paul Robinson of Tottenham , that was on New Year’s Eve 2005, Owen would not play again until May 2006, some twenty one weeks later.
It drew large debate in the media about the standard of protection offered to players both from referees, and from modern day football boots. Many experts opined that in their efforts to make boots as lightweight and flexible as humanly possible, boot manufacturers had sacrificed the protection against injuries such as the metatarsal that older, more traditional football boots had afforded. And whilst that is nigh-on impossible to prove conclusively, the rise in metatarsal cases since Duscher clattered Beckham, and the world learnt a new word, is blatant.