COMPLETING the 2019/20 campaign when the coronavirus crisis is over this summer and then immediately kicking off the new season will increase the danger of multi-million pound footballers suffering serious injuries, a leading Scottish surgeon last night warned.

UEFA are desperate for the current European and domestic campaigns to be played to a finish when the suspension of football has been lifted.

The lucrative broadcasting deals that UEFA and the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish leagues have, and the possibility of them having to pay back millions in compensation if the season is abandoned, is believed to be the main motivation behind their stance.

The governing body have moved the Euro 2020 finals, originally scheduled to be played in June and July, to next year to create a window for the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A, as well as the Champions League and Europa League, to be decided.

Scrapping the winter break – which top flight clubs in many nations, including Scotland, currently enjoy - next year has also been mentioned as a possible way to deal with a later start to the 2020/21 campaign and accommodate all of the domestic league and cup fixtures as well as European ties.

However, the prospect of Aberdeen, Celtic, Motherwell and Rangers players going straight into the new term without their normal summer break and pre-season programme and then playing right through until next May has raised concerns about their wellbeing.

Jon Dearing, a sports injury surgeon at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow, believes that footballers should be able to take part in competitive matches fairly soon after clubs are given the all clear to hold group training sessions again.

“The players won’t really have dropped much fitness other than match fitness during the shutdown,” he said. “The guys can still train. They are all professionals, they are still going to have kept their fitness levels up. They may not be match fit, but their level of fitness won’t be too bad.

“It is almost like an extended mid-season break at the moment. They shouldn’t need an awful lot of training sessions to be ready to play competitive football again. They will have, as part of their training, bounce matches and things like that. When they return to training they won’t be match fit, but within a couple of weeks they should be in a position to be able to get back to it.”

However, Dearing, who has volunteered to help the NHS during the current Covid-19 outbreak, has misgivings about clubs kicking off the 2020/21 season so soon after finishing the current campaign and predicted players could suffer from being involved in such a punishing schedule in the long term.

“If they go from finishing this season straight into next season there is the potential for overuse injuries,” he said. “They would need to rotate squads. The issue is lack of down time. Generally, the more games that you play without a rest the more likely you are to pick up injuries.

“In terms of player welfare, there are clear issues which aren’t being addressed. Particularly if you take out the mid-season break where there is the potential for some down time.

“Potentially, they are not giving players the chance to get up to proper match fitness before starting playing them again, which increases risk of injury. Then you are asking them to play more matches without a break, which again increases the risk of overload injury.

“The way that professional players are monitored these days, sports scientists and fitness coaches at clubs are very conscious of what a player’s peak looks like and when they are deviating from it.

“They will know when a player is on the upslope beyond that peak or if they have gone beyond it and are overloading. There are specific protocols and exercises which players do these days on a daily basis to reduce the risk of injury.”

UEFA have mooted playing the remaining Champions League and Europa League matches as one-off games – either at the ground of the team that has been drawn to play at home or at a neutral venue – in order to get those competitions finished before August 3.

However, Dearing, one of only two surgeons in the country who holds a specialist qualification in sports and exercise medicine, can foresee problems returning from a lengthy lay-off and immediately playing high-pressure matches which will decide the outcome of league and cup competitions.

Celtic are currently 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Premiership table – but their nearest challengers still have nine games to play and can potentially pip them to the title.

“The intensity of the fixtures they will be playing when football starts up again – if they are to finish this season – feeds into the risk of acute injury,” said Dearing. “When they come back they may not have been able to get themselves up to full match fitness.”