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Muscle injury rates in professional football increase with fixture congestion: an 11-year follow-up of the UEFA Champions League injury study
  1. Håkan Bengtsson1,
  2. Jan Ekstrand1,2,3,
  3. Martin Hägglund1,4
  1. 1Football Research Group, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2UEFA Medical Committee, Nyon, Switzerland
  3. 3Division of Community Medicine, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  4. 4Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Håkan Bengtsson, Football Research Group, Linköping University, Stenbrötsgatan 33 582 47, Linköping SE-581 83, Sweden; Info.frg{at}telia.com/hakbe194{at}student.liu.se

Abstract

Background The influence of fixture congestion on injury rates and team performance has only been scarcely investigated.

Aim To study associations between recovery time and match load and injury rates and team performance in professional football.

Methods Exposure and time loss injuries were registered prospectively from 27 teams over 11 seasons. Matches were grouped according to recovery days before each match (≤3 vs >3 days, and ≤4 vs ≥6 days). Injury rates and team performance were compared between groups. Match load in match sequences containing five consecutive matches was determined by the number of days separating the first match and the last training session during that match sequence. Linear regression was used to study associations between match load and injury rates and team performance.

Results Team performance showed no association with match load, or recovery days prior to matches, except for Europa League matches that indicated more matches lost with short recovery (≤3 days) (p=0.048). Total injury rates and muscle injury rates were increased in league matches with ≤4 days compared with ≥6 days’ recovery (RR 1.09, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.18, and RR 1.32, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.51, respectively), specifically hamstring and quadriceps injuries. High match load was associated with increase in muscle injury rate in matches in the same match sequence (p=0.012), and increase in ligament injury rate in training in the subsequent match sequence (p=0.003).

Conclusions Fixture congestion was associated with increased muscle injury rates but had no, or very limited, influence on team performance.

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