RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) - It will be no consolation to Neymar and other injured players, but there has been a 40 per cent reduction in the number of both minor and serious injuries at the World Cup compared to previous tournaments, FIFA said on Friday.
The reasons for that, according to FIFA's medical committee is because there is now less contact between players than there was in previous finals and tougher sanctions for fouls that lead to injuries.
A total of 95 injuries have been recorded in the competition so far with seven "severe" injuries including Brazilian forward Neymar's broken vertebra and Mexican defender Hector Moreno's broken leg.
Injuries are deemed "severe" if they sideline the player for four weeks or more.
In a statement on Friday Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer said: "The medical committee believes there is less contact and fouls, more sanctions for fouls that cause injuries, and continuous improvements by referees from 1990 onwards in terms of education and fair play."
Statistically speaking, he said, "In 1998 and 2002 there were 2.7 per cent injuries per game and now we are down to 1.6."
FIFA's head of refereeing Massimo Busacca said the reduction was thanks to a more flexible approach by match officials and co-operation from the players.
"We have had a lot of co-operation and respect from players," he told reporters. "In general, we've had a lot of respect, and that is the message we have to give around the world."
"The refereeing decisions were accepted, we saw the players accepting and understanding the referees. This is what has been done for the beginning, preventing and talking to the players.
"In some games, we may be missed (failed to give) some cards but not because there was instruction (to do so)," he added.
"Again, what we really asked the referees was to have some football understanding, to understand in the first few minutes what kind of match you have today."
"You cannot be a policeman and give red and yellow cards all the time, you can reduce the fouls with communication," he said, referring to the foul-ridden quarter-final between Brazil and Colombia.
"When you have a game with 53 fouls it's because the players have decided not to play football," he said. "It's the players that decide to play."
Players had been accepting of referees' decisions, he added.
Busacca said that the vanishing spray, used to indicate the correct distance between the defensive wall and the ball at free kicks near the penalty area, had been a success.
"We did not have a single yellow card for not respecting the 9.15 metres," he said.