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Euro 2020: Should footballers play while injured?

Belgium midfield star Kevin De Bruyne reveals he played the Euro 2020 quarterfinal match against Italy with an ankle ligament tear

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in action during the Euro 2020 quarterfinal match against Italy. Belgium lost 2-1.
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in action during the Euro 2020 quarterfinal match against Italy. Belgium lost 2-1. (AFP)

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said he had played in Friday's Euro 2020 quarterfinal defeat by Italy with a tear in his ankle ligaments. Manchester City's De Bruyne was a doubt for the game after picking up the injury in the last-16 win over Portugal but said he had been determined to play.

"For me personally it has been four or five weird weeks. But I especially want to thank the medical staff," he said. "It was a miracle that I played today because there was definitely damage to my ankle. A tear in my ligaments. But I felt responsibility to play for my country today. Too bad I couldn't do more," he added in comments on

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The 30-year-old De Bruyne, widely regarded as one of the top midfielders in the world, has had some bad luck with injuries and had to go off with a head injury playing for City in their Champions League final defeat by Chelsea last month.

Belgium were without their Real Madrid winger Eden Hazard through injury and De Bruyne acknowledged that fitness issues had plagued the team's bid to win the Euros. "It was a difficult tournament for us, we suffered many injuries. We fought until the end. Italy were better than us in the first half, but in the second we created more chances. We could have got it to 2-2 but we didn't," he said.

"We lost against a top-notch team. We'll try to win next time, at the World Cup, but first I have to recover physically. I've had too many (injury) problems in the last few years but I've always tried to give everything for the team," he said.

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Responding to this revelation of De Bruyne playing while injured, football experts have decried the culture of playing through pain, pointing out that this has long term impact on the players' health. Journalist Tariq Panja of the New York Times, who has written a book on the football transfer market called Football's Secret Trade, in a twitter thread pointed out the struggles that players face.

"Kevin de Bruyne playing with a torn ankle ligament shows grit and courage etc but such decisions can have catastrophic impact on rest of career and even post career. So many ex-pros limping around in excruciating pain. Spoke to a couple of former Premier League players summer before last and they talked about constant need for pain killers, particularly anti inflammatory medication, throughout their careers. Did a real number on digestive system," he said.

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